Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight talents Dominick Cruz and Marlon Vera will square off TONIGHT (Sat., Aug. 13, 2022) at UFC San Diego inside Pechanga Arena in southern California.
By and large, Cruz was written off as a title threat after getting trounced by Henry Cejudo. Older, former champions don’t usually bounce back from dominant consecutive losses, after all. Cruz, ever the contrarian, proved otherwise by winning two important fights in 2021, regaining the Top 10 and earning this high-profile slot. When Vera joined the roster off a little-watched international season of The Ultimate Fighter, few pegged him as a future elite Bantamweight — he didn’t even win TUF: Latin America! Then, he lost his debut! Someone in the UFC knew something, fortunately, because Vera was kept around and slowly started putting it all together. Now, he’s riding a great win streak and is firmly entrenched in the title mix.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Victories: TJ Dillashaw (UFC Fight Night 81), Urijah Faber (UFC 132, UFC 199), Demetrious Johnson (UFC on Versus 6), Pedro Munhoz (UFC 269), Casey Kenney (UFC 259)
Key Losses: Cody Garbrandt (UFC 207), Henry Cejudo (UFC 249) Urijah Faber (WEC 26)
Keys to Victory: Cruz became champion due to a style all his own. Emphasizing movements and feints over raw power and damage, even recently Cruz has managed to frustrate more traditionally minded opponents. Of course, it helps that he’s an incredible wrestler too!
Cruz doesn’t have the option of diverting from his usual game plan here; Vera is not the man to start trading with. However, it’s also going to be more difficult than usual to win the range battle, because the Ecuadorian athlete is positively brutal at distance with his varied kicking game.
Wrestling seems to be the answer.
Vera is difficult but not impossible to take down. Cruz, meanwhile, has some of the best timing and setup on his shots in the division. The problem for Vera foes often comes as fatigue sets in, because “Chito” is quite difficult to hold down and will make his opponent work hard.
Historically, Cruz can wrestle hard for five rounds. If that’s still the case, it’s his best path to victory. If not, Cruz isn’t regaining the belt either way.
Key Wins: Sean O’Malley (UFC 252), Rob Font (UFC Vegas 53), Frankie Edgar (UFC 268), Davey Grant (UFC Vegas 29), Brian Kelleher (UFC on FOX 25)
Key Losses: Jose Aldo (UFC Vegas 17), Song Yadong (UFC on ESPN 8), Douglas Silva de Andrade (UFC Fight Night 125), John Lineker (UFC Fight Night 119)
Keys to Victory: Vera is first and foremost a strong kicker. He’s developed the rest of his striking offense wonderfully, sharpening his hands with Jason Parillo and growing downright mean in the clinch. When fits hit the canvas, Vera is a longtime jiu-jitsu black belt.
Patience and range work are Vera’s primary keys to victory this evening. Most of Cruz’s opponents really struggle because they focus so hard on trying to punch him in the face. Vera is not so limited — he can chop kicks at any level, stab with front kicks, and throw hands to the body to great effect. Vera has to focus on landing kicks at distance and target the lower half of his opponent, trusting that Cruz’s feet will slow over time.
This bout will also require a mix of Vera’s usual pressure fighting and the slick counters he showed off against Rob Font. Ideally, Vera will be methodically stalking Cruz, targeting his legs and backing him into the fence when possible. When Cruz does attack out in the open, Vera will remain in position to counter then go right back on his forward movement.
Vera has five rounds to work, so attritional damage is the name of the game.
The victor is likely one more win away from a title shot. Jose Aldo would seemingly be next if victorious over Merab Dvalishvili, but the next slot open is available.
For Cruz, his current title run is his last. “The Dominator” either keeps winning en route to his third UFC title, or he’s effectively done as a challenger. That’s simply the nature of being a 36-year-old Bantamweight with a lot of mileage.
Vera is younger and certainly entering his prime, but a loss hurts him too. If Cruz wins, it means that Vera still has trouble with tracking down mobile opponents, high-level wrestling, or both. Both of those traits are common among the Bantamweight elite, so if Vera cannot deal with them now after all his growth and experience, it looks less likely that he ever will.
At UFC San Diego, Dominick Cruz and Marlon Vera will duel in the main event. Which man will earn the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com 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+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.
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