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UFC San Diego preview, ‘Vera vs. Cruz’ predictions

UFC on Versus 6: Open Workouts Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

Streaking UFC bantamweight contender Marlon Vera looks to continue his improbable run up the 135-pound ladder when he collides with former division champion Dominick Cruz atop the UFC San Diego MMA event, scheduled for this Sat. night (Aug. 13, 2022) on both ESPN and ESPN+ from inside Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California. Vera is currently ranked No. 5 in the promotion’s “official” rankings against No. 8 for Cruz, so it’s not unreasonable to think a win for “Chito” — marking his fourth straight — would put him on a very short list of eligible title contenders. Conversely, shutting down the red-hot Vera could be “The Dominator’s” ticket back into the bantamweight Top 5 (and title contention).

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 61 On ESPN+

STRAWWEIGHT SHOWDOWN! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., Oct. 1, 2022, with an exciting women’s sStrawweight contenders’ bout that will see No. 5-ranked Mackenzie Dern clash with No. 6-seeded Yan Xiaonan. In UFC Vegas 61’s action-packed co-main event, exciting Welterweight veterans Randy Brown and Francisco Trinaldo will hook ‘em up inside the Octagon.

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

Before we preview and predict winners for the main and co-main event, which includes the featherweight collision between Nate Landwehr and David Onama, check out Patrick Stumberg’s comprehensive, two-part breakdowns for the UFC San Diego “Prelims” card on ESPN and ESPN+ by clicking here and here. In addition, in-house pro fighter Andrew Richardson deconstructed the rest of the UFC San Diego main card fights right here.

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

Let’s talk shop.

135 lbs.: Marlon Vera vs. Dominick Cruz

Marlon “Chito” Vera

Record: 19-7 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -215
Wins: 7 KO/TKO, 8 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 6 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 7 DEC
Height: 5’8“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Switch
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.33 | Striking accuracy: 52%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.99 | Striking Defense: 50%
Takedown Average: 0.73 (42% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 68%
Current Ranking: No. 5 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Rob Font

Dominick “The Dominator” Cruz

Record: 24-3 | Age: 36 | Betting line: +185
Wins: 7 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 16 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’8“ | Reach: 68” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.82 | Striking accuracy: 33%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.56 | Striking Defense: 71%
Takedown Average: 2.88 (43% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 83%
Current Ranking: No. 8 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Pedro Munhoz

Dominick Cruz has two big chunks missing from his UFC career thanks to a plethora of debilitating injuries and when you add both together, “The Dominator” missed roughly seven years of his competitive prime. He’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last “What if?” athlete to fall short of his potential for reasons that may or may not have been within his control, but there was a time in the not-too-distant past when Cruz was not just the UFC bantamweight champion, but also the consensus No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Then came a unanimous decision loss to Cody Garbrandt — long before “No Love” imploded (in what could be the greatest collapse in the history of the 135-pound division) — followed by an “alcohol and cigarettes”-assisted knockout loss at the hands (and knees) of Henry Cejudo. To be fair, his “Triple C” fight came after more than three years on the bench and “The Dominator” has since rebounded with consecutive wins over Casey Kenney and Pedro Munhoz. The Sportsbooks, along with the UFC rankings panel, have both lost their confidence in the former champion despite his well-rounded skill set and proven track record, particularly in title fights. Are we ready to hang him from the same clearance rack as this former champion? That may depend on how you gauge his durability at age 36, which is not that old when you consider that Kamaru Usman is 35 and sitting on top of the MMA world.

Cruz was pretty vocal about his desire to fight anyone other than Marlon Vera and had a couple of flimsy excuses on standby. To wit, “The Dominator” tried to paint the Ecuadorian as a hot-and-cold journeyman who was too far beneath him but oddly enough, didn’t seem to mind fighting the unheralded Kenney. I think the real story is that Vera was too dangerous to fight at this stage of the Cruz comeback tour. If that sounds fantastical then consider that Vera currently holds the record for most finishes in the UFC bantamweight division at nine, as well as the most submission attempts at 15. He’s also tied for third place in most wins at 135 pounds with 11. It’s hard to believe “Chito” has been plugging away for nearly eight years under the UFC banner, racking up a staggering 19 fights during that span. Vera is 9-2 dating back to early 2018 but didn’t get people’s attention until he derailed the Sean O’Malley hype train at UFC 252. Unfortunately he was unable to capitalize on that victory after going down on points to MMA legend Jose Aldo at UFC Vegas 14 but has since rebounded with three straight wins, including his “fucked up” knockout shot of former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. With seven knockouts and eight submissions, “Chito” is a legitimate threat wherever this fight goes.

Cruz has always been known for his bouncy, unorthodox striking that has easily befuddled non-strikers like Uriah Faber, but his accuracy is a putrid 33 percent. He would need to increase that by 20 percentage points to surpass Vera, who sits at No. 7 all time. “The Dominator” is far better on defense (No. 9 all time) and has also cracked the Top 10 list with takedowns landed at 26. That’s probably going to be the difference maker in this fight. Vera is too gritty and too in-your-face to play paddy cake with Cruz on the feet and will no doubt look to make this a dog fight. I think my only concern with that gameplan is how often Cruz will use that forward momentum against “Chito” to snag a few well-timed takedowns to steal the round. I don’t believe Cruz is ready to be put out to pasture just yet and we have to assume going into this fight that he’s healthy and operating at his peak. If that’s the case, I think he does just enough — at just the right times — to steal this one on the judges’ scorecards.

Prediction: Cruz def. Vera by unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Nate Landwehr vs. David Onama

Nate “The Train” Landwehr

Record: 15-4 | Age: 34 | Betting line: +210
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’9“ | Reach: 72” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 6.51 | Striking accuracy: 52%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 5.96 | Striking Defense: 51%
Takedown Average: 0.48 (50% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 87%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Submission win over Ludovit Klein

David “Silent Assassin” Onama

Record: 10-1 | Age: 28 | Betting line: -250
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 0 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 74” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.61 | Striking accuracy: 48%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 5.58 | Striking Defense: 52%
Takedown Average: 1.09 (22% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 50%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Submission win over Garrett Armfield

Nate Landwehr will coast into this featherweight co-main event as the 2-to-1 underdog which probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise for a fighter who’s registered four fights under the UFC banner and been spectacularly knocked out in two of them. At age 34, I think we’ve seen the best “The Train” has to offer and this feels like one of those fights that was booked to elevate an up-and-coming talent; in this case, the 28 year-old David Onama. After a violent 8-0 run on the regional circuit, with all eight contests ending by way of knockout or submission (five of them in the first round) — Onama dropped a unanimous decision to fellow featherweight wunderkind Mason Jones in “The Silent Assassin’s” Octagon debut. Undeterred, Onama rebounded with back-to-back wins over Gabriel Benitez and Garrett Armfield, putting his finishing power on display in the process. Benitez was stiffened late in the first round while Armfield was forced to surrender by way of second-round arm-triangle choke. Interestingly enough, Landwehr is coming off his own sneaky submission, sinking in an anaconda choke on Ludovit Klein to emerge victorious at UFC Vegas 40 last October. For that reason alone, Onama would be making a tactical error by coming into this fight with the expectation that Landwehr will just roll over simply because the script calls for it.

Here’s an interesting side-by-side look at their stats:

Landwehr and Onama have inflated stats in both offense and defense while maintaining strong accuracy percentages, which is not uncommon for action fighters who get up close and personal right out of the gate. It’s not great for longevity ... but who needs brain cells when you can rack up $50,000 performance bonuses?!? It would be foolish to discount Landwehr in this bout because he’ll be going for broke, but when push comes to shove, Onama is faster, more dynamic, and will likely beat “The Train” to the punch.


Prediction: Onama def. Landwehr via knockout

For the remaining UFC San Diego main card preview and predictions go HERE. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC San Diego fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN/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 San Diego news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archives here and here. For the updated and finalized “Vera vs. Cruz” fight card and ESPN/ESPN+ lineup click here.

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