Taking main event honors at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas – a bantamweight division title-eliminator between the surging #3 ranked division challenger, Marlon Vera, and one-time interim championship challenger, the #5 rated, Cory Sandhagen closes the curtain on the organization’s return to the United States.
With the Octagon returning stateside for the first time in a week, the UFC most recently touched down in London, England for UFC 286 – with undisputed welterweight champion, Leon Edwards successfully defending his championship in a trilogy rubber match win over former gold holder, Kamaru Usman.
And this weekend, bantamweight division striking aces, Vera, and Sandhagen share the battlefield in search of weight class supremacy – and potentially, their first respective opportunities at undisputed spoils.
Headlining once again, last time out, Vera managed to stop former two-time undisputed bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz with a stunning fourth round high kick KO back in August in the main event of UFC Fight Night San Diego.
For Sandhagen, the Eliot Marshall trainee returned to the winner’s enclosure with an impressive fourth round win of his own back in September – taking out Song Yadong with a doctor’s stoppage TKO victory at the UFC Apex facility.
And at the time of publication, surging Chone native, Vera (+140) is sat as a betting underdog, albeit short, to defeat Colorado native, Sandhagen (-160) – per BetWay, with the due facing a pivotal matchup to determine the potential next title challenger at the bantamweight limit.
4-0 in his last four Octagon walks, Vera, a trainee under the renowned Jason Parillo – managed to add the above-mentioned Cruz to a winning streak which includes a win over Davey Grant, and Rob Font – as well as a front kick KO win over former undisputed lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar.
Challenging for interim bantamweight spoils on short notice in October 2021, Sandhagen dropped a decision loss to Petr Yan, which followed a close, debated summer defeat against former two-time bantamweight champion, T.J. Dillashaw.
Himself holding impressive knockout victories over the likes of Marlon Moraes, Iuri Alcantara, and common-foe, Edgar – Sandhagen may stick out at the moment as the outright betting favorite, however, the top-5 contender is a +500 underdog to hand Vera his first knockout loss. The Ecuadorian, on the other hand, has drawn lines himself – quite high, as -375 to finish Sandhagen with strikes.
Two of the most poised and cerebral strikers the bantamweight division currently has to offer, Vera, and Sandhagen are not currently expected to not just get each other out of their – but neither are backed to do so in timely fashion, with a stoppage between the two inside 60 seconds coming in as high as +5,000.
Unbeaten in the last thee years, RVCA mainstay, Vera dropped a close decision loss to former undisputed featherweight champion, Jose Aldo back in 2020 – which returned him to the losing circle after an eye-catching first round knockout win over the current #2 ranked contender, Sean O’Malley.
Vera and Sandhagen’s showdown this weekend comes ahead of a busy schedule at 135lbs, with undisputed bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling slated to defend his crown against former two-weight best, Henry Cejudo at UFC 288 in May.