No. 4-ranked bantamweight contender Marlon Vera will collide with No. 5-ranked Cory Sandhagen atop the promotion’s upcoming UFC Vegas 69 fight card on ESPN+, recently made official for Sat., Feb. 18, 2023 inside the APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The outcome will go a long way in determining who fits into the crowded 135-pound title picture. Aljamain Sterling is expected to (eventually) defend his title against former champion Henry Cejudo, with No. 1-ranked Sean O’Malley waiting patiently in the wings.
“This is a great fight for the bantamweight division,” Cejudo said on his YouTube channel. (transcribed by Farah Hannoun). “Chito Vera is pretty diverse in some ways, but I still don’t know if he knows how to mix his fighting quite yet. If he does get taken down by Sandhagen, this is where he could shine because he has the ability to be able to hit from bottom and transition a lot of things from his back. Those are some of his greatest assets he does have. But he is going up against a guy like Cory Sandhagen, a guy with unpredictable striking that throws jumping knees, likes to go to the body, a guy who’s slowly getting better. But there is one thing Cory doesn’t have, and that is the missing piece which is called wrestling. If you can’t outwrestle Cory Sandhagen, you’re in trouble.”
“The Sandman” has been taken down 13 times in his UFC career.
The red-hot Vera (20-7-1) is the winner of four straight with two knockouts, including his fourth-round finish over former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz in the UFC San Diego main event last August. As for Sandhagen (15-4), he rebounded from consecutive decision losses to Petr Yan and TJ Dillashaw to stop bantamweight up-and-comer Yadong Song in the UFC Vegas 60 headliner back in September.
“When it comes to the grappling aspect of them being top and bottom, they’re both pretty even,” Cejudo continued. “But if you can’t outwrestle Cory Sandhagen, you’re in trouble. For Chito Vera, I think he’s just a journeyman. They’ve only reached a certain point. They can only take it to a certain point. If I had to bet my money somewhere, I have Cory Sandhagen by either stoppage or winning by unanimous decision. Chito Vera is a durable guy that can last for five rounds. He’s tough, and that’s his greatest asset, the fact that he does have that will. The only way you beat Cory Sandhagen is if you wrestle him or you out-will him. I just don’t think Vera’s skill set and his will is good enough for a guy like Cory.”
We’ll find out in just a few weeks.