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UFC Vegas 53 preview: ‘Font vs Vera’ predictions

(Boston, MA 01/18/18) UFC bantamweight mixed martial artist Rob Font from Leominster, Massachusetts jokes around as he talks with the Herald at Fenway Park. Thursday, January 18, 2018. Staff photo by John Wilcox. Photo by John Wilcox/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is just one day away from the upcoming UFC Vegas 53 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, which is set to go down tomorrow night (Sat., April 30, 2022) from inside the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring a bantamweight main event between Top 10 title hopefuls Rob Font and Marlon Vera, a five-round headliner with serious title implications for late 2022 and beyond.

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 54 On ESPN+

Top Light Heavyweight Contenders Collide! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., May 14, 2022, with a meaningful Light Heavyweight contenders’ battle that will see former champion and current No. 1-ranked Jan Blachowicz take on surging No. 3-seeded Aleksandar Rakic. In UFC Vegas 54’s co-main event, No. 13-ranked Light Heavyweight, Ryan Spann, battles dangerous striker Ion Cutelaba.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes the heavyweight collision between Andrei Arlovski and Jake Collier, check out Patrick Stumberg’s breakdowns for the UFC Vegas 53 preliminary card (airing on ESPN2 and ESPN+) here and here. In addition, in-house pro fighter Andrew “The Pride” Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Vegas 53 main card right here.

For the latest “Font vs. Vera” odds and betting lines courtesy of our fiscal friends over at Draft Kings go here.

Let’s get to work.

135 lbs.: Rob Font vs. Marlon Vera

Rob Font

Record: 19-5 | Age: 34 | Betting line: -140
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 4 DEC
Height: 5’8“ | Reach: 71” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.64 | Striking accuracy: 44%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.55 | Striking Defense: 59%
Takedown Average: 1.10 (36% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 55%
Current Ranking: No. 5 | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Jose Aldo

Marlon “Chito” Vera

Record: 18-7 | Age: 29 | Betting line: +120
Wins: 7 KO/TKO, 8 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 7 DEC
Height: 5’8“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Switch
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.08 | Striking accuracy: 51%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.27 | Striking Defense: 50%
Takedown Average: 0.82 (42% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 69%
Current Ranking: No. 8 | Last fight: Knockout win over Frankie Edgar

Rob Font spent the majority of his UFC career flying well under the radar and quietly snuck his way into the division Top 5 after winning four straight over a span of two years (2018-20). The reason more fans aren’t rushing to board the Font train, aside from his decisive loss to Jose Aldo at UFC Vegas 44 last December, is because the biggest names on his resume like Cody Garbrandt and Marlon Moraes came after “No Love” and “Magic” were marked down and dumped in the 135-pound clearance bin. Beating a fighter like Garbrandt was a big deal back in 2016. These days it feels kinda icky. It’s also worth pointing out that Garbrandt lost five of his last six fights and the only person who couldn’t knock him out was Font, which is surprising when you consider Font came into that fight with eight KOs on his resume, including a first-rounder against Moraes. The (slightly long-winded) point I’m trying to make is that Font doesn’t hold a victory over anyone currently ranked in the Top 10 and the last two times he faced a ranked opponent (Aldo and Pedro Munhoz), he lost. That doesn’t leave me with a warm, fuzzy feeling as we head into tomorrow night’s main event, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s destined for the “L” column.

You can make similar arguments against Marlon Vera, who’s won eight of his last 10 but faltered in his two chances against Top 10 competition in the form of Aldo and Song Yadong, who currently occupy the No. 3 and No. 9 spots, respectively. How much weight you put into his technical knockout victory over bantamweight sensation Sean O’Malley likely depends on how you rate “Sugar” as a fighter: underutilized knockout artist or glorified can crusher? O’Malley apologists also insist Vera took advantage of an injured fighter because losing can be hard to accept, regardless of circumstance. Outside of that high-profile performance, Vera has spent the better portion of his career knocking around middling bantamweights like Frankie Saenz and Andre Ewell while piling on shopworn veterans like Davey Grant and Frankie Edgar. Similar to Font, there’s not a lot that Vera does that I would call exceptional; though you would be hard-pressed to find a more well-rounded fighter. “Chito” has 15 finishes in 18 wins split between seven knockouts and eight submissions. He also sports an oversized gas tank — not uncommon in the lower weight classes — and a level or durability that makes him a tough out for any level of competition at 135 pounds. If murderous power punchers like O’Malley and John Lineker couldn’t put Vera on his ass, don’t expect Font too, either.

This is one of those rare occasions where a fight lasting all five rounds would be a blessing instead of a curse. Combined, Font and Vera have double-digit performance bonuses (including “Fight of the Night”) and with so much at stake in the bantamweight division, it would be a complete shock if either fighter inexplicably mailed it in. I expect an exciting, back-and-forth brawl between two very tough combatants and a fight that could be decided by who lands a late takedown in the last few minutes of the final frame. This one’s a coin toss but I think Font fights a cleaner fight and edges out Vera by a score of three rounds to two.

Prediction: Font def. Vera by unanimous decision

265 lbs.: Andrei Arlovski vs. Jake Collier

Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski

Record: 33-20, 2 NC | Age: 43 | Betting line: -135
Wins: 17 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 13 DEC | Losses: 11 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 7 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 77” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.72 | Striking accuracy: 44%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.09 | Striking Defense: 57%
Takedown Average: 0.42 (36% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 78%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Split decision win over Jared Vanderaa

Jake “The Prototype” Collier

Record: 13-6 | Age: 33 | Betting line: +115
Wins: 5 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 78” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.59 | Striking accuracy: 42%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.43 | Striking Defense: 52%
Takedown Average: 0.62 (26% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 67%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Submission win over Chase Sherman

Assuming everything proceeds as planned, Andrei Arlovski will pass Donald Cerrone and take over the No. 2 spot for “most fights” on the promotion’s all-time list, registering a whopping 38 contests dating back to his Octagon debut in early 2000. No question Arlovski would have set the record — one that might have stood the test of time — had “The Pitbull” not toiled away on the local circuit for a decent chunk of his competitive prime. Now the 43 year-old Belarusian will attempt to keep Father Time at bay for just a little while longer against a very tough opponent in Jake Collier. There’s no way to put a positive spin on 20 professional losses, but we also can’t overlook the fact that Arlovski is the winner of three straight and five of his last six. The counter to that is all five of those wins have come by way of decision, including his split nod over Jared Vanderaa back in February. In fact, “The Pitbull” hasn’t knocked anyone out since he stopped Travis Browne at the UFC 187 pay-per-view (PPV) event nearly seven years back — a span of 20 professional fights. It’s also worth pointing out that every time Arlovski faces an opponent in the Top 10, he gets finished. Tom Aspinall choked him out at UFC Vegas 19, not long after Jairzinho Rozenstruik put him to sleep at UFC 244 in New York. Not surprisingly, Arlovski is unranked at 265 pounds.

Collier is also unranked in the heavyweight division, due largely in part to his inconsistency. In 10 fights under the UFC banner, “The Prototype” has yet to score back-to-back wins. It’s difficult to build momentum when you can’t string a couple of victories together and the wins Collier has scored have been ... nothing to write home about. Out of his five wins, only one of those opponents is still signed to UFC and that’s Chase Sherman, who was released earlier this month but then quickly re-signed after the promotion realized it needed a warm body for this weekend’s Alexandr Romanov fight. Collier has been competing as a pro for nearly 12 years and at 33 years old, I think we’ve seen the best the “Prototype” has to offer. I know people like to point to anomalies like Michael Bisping and Charles Oliveira — two late bloomers who persevered and won gold in the third act of their respective MMA careers, but those gritty veterans stand as the exception, not the rule. Collier has not proven himself as a legitimate threat at 265 pounds and only when paired with the cream of the crap does the Missourian find time to shine. Arlovski is not without his problems but he’s also been locked inside the cage with opponents who pose a much bigger threat than Collier and prevailed. This may not be pretty but heavyweight slugfests rarely are. Expect a few spirited exchanges sandwiched between long stretches of nothing. Despite his background in combat sambo, Arlovski prefers to keep the fight standing and since Collier sports a takedown average of just 0.62 (for 26% accuracy), there’s no reason it won’t stay there.

Prediction: Arlovski def. Collier by unanimous decision

Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 53 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 53 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN2/ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN/ESPN+ main card start time at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 53 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archives here and here. For the updated and finalized “Font vs. Vera” fight card and ESPN/ESPN+ lineup click here.