On Saturday, Apr. 30, the UFC Apex will be home to UFC Fight Night: Font vs. Vera, as the promotion utilizes the facility for the 60th live event. Headlining the card will be a bantamweight clash between top-10 bantamweight contenders Rob Font and Marlon “Chito” Vera.
Font, who made both his bantamweight and promotion debuts at UFC 175 almost eight years ago, was on a four-fight winning streak before dropping his last fight against Jose Aldo in Dec. 2021 by unanimous decision. Currently sitting at fifth in the rankings, he will need a win over Vera to remain in title contention. However, that will be no easy task.
The eighth-ranked Vera also joined the UFC in 2014, and he has seven performance bonuses in 18 fights. He lost to Aldo in Dec. 2020, but has since racked up back-to-back wins with a decision over Davey Grant and a third-round knockout of Frankie Edgar last November. Both men are finishers, and this is a non-title fight that is certainly worthy of a main event.
Also on the main card will be a heavyweight battle between Andrei Arlovski and Jake Collier, the return of Team Alpha Male’s Andre Fili as he takes on Joanderson Brito, and a pivotal lightweight clash between Jared Gordon and Grant Dawson. To round out the main card, Darren Elkins will take on Tristan Connelly and Gerald Meerschaert faces Krzysztof Jotko
The event airs live in it’s entirety on ESPN+ starting at 4 p.m. ET. In addition, the preliminary card airs live on ESPN 2 starting at 4:30 p.m ET with the main card following at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Rob Font’s four-fight winning streak came to a halt in his last outing; does he get back on track this weekend by defeating Marlon Vera?
Sumian: This is one of the more intriguing matchups we have seen put together in the month of April. Both Rob Front and Marlon Vera are top-10 ranked bantamweights who possess a very different set of skills. A second loss for Font undoubtedly puts him out of the title-shot discussion while a loss for Vera ultimately keeps him right where he is as of today.
Font is a tactician, in and out. He approaches all of his fights methodically and utilizes a calculated game plan for every opponent he comes across. His four-fight winning streak showed the world that Font had evolved into a top-tier fighter who was just outside the elite of the division. Although he may not admit it, Font definitely underestimated how good Aldo still is and fell victim to the legend’s equally impressive ability to game plan and execute. If the 34-year-old hopes to ever realize a title shot before exiting his prime, a win over Vera is essential.
There have been times when Marlon Vera has looked like the most terrifying bantamweight in the UFC. There have also been times where he has looked lost and unprepared when it has been time to showcase his undeniable skills. Despite this, Chito is a devastating finisher who is capable of knocking out many, if not all, of the top bantamweights who dare stand across from him. Vera has compiled an 8-2 record since Aug. 2018, but is still missing that signature win necessary to be considered a title contender. While defeating Sean O’Malley and Frankie Edgar is impressive, neither is considered a threat to the bantamweight throne. Font represents the opportunity for Vera to make a statement and officially announce himself as a legitimate threat at 135 pounds.
The path to victory is vastly different for both combatants. If Font emerges victorious on Saturday, it will happen via a one-sided unanimous decision. Font is capable of fighting at an accelerated rate for five fight straight rounds and slowly picking apart his opponent using his clean and effective stand up. The only way that Vera will be able to defeat Font is if he can finish him within the first three rounds. Font has never been finished on the feet and is as durable as they come. Unfortunately for Vera, Font will be able to utilize a clean, and somewhat boring, game plan to earn a decision victory. Neither combatant’s standing in the division will change after Saturday, but it will allow Font to keep his title aspirations alive for another few months.
Petela: As my colleague said, the path to victory for Marlon Vera is to get this fight over early, so that he doesn’t get picked apart by the superior boxing of Rob Font. I expect both men to be hesitant to throw a lot of low kicks, fearing return fire from their opponent, so this will come down to the dynamic ability of Vera to stop Font in his tracks, or Font methodically boxing his way to victory over 25 minutes.
I just don’t see Font avoiding the big strike over the course of the entire fight. He may look impressive the first couple rounds, but, like it did against Frankie Edgar, eventually Vera’s power will get the better of Font, and he will wind up with his second straight loss. And, Vera will be fully anointed as a bantamweight contender.
Andrei Arlovski steps into the cage for his 56th professional fight, and has won 5 of his last 6 fights; how does he fare against Jake Collier?
Petela: This is the perfect fight for Andrei Arlovski to win at this point in his career. Jake Collier is a good fighter but hasn’t shown the same type of fight-ending, one-punch power that many heavyweights possess. Collier is more of a methodical, grinding fighter who collects his finishes by cumulative strikes or submission. Unfortunately for him, the current iteration of Arlovski is well-designed to defeat such a fighter.
This will be the fourth straight win for Andrei Arlovski, an incredible feat for the 43-year-old former champion. It has been over a decade and a half since Arlovski was the UFC heavyweight champion. He has gone through more highs and lows than perhaps any other fighter and has done it across several promotions. The days of him contending for a title are well in the rearview mirror, but it is incredible to see him stay at the same, slightly off-peak, level for so long. This fight with Collier will be another example that the ageless wonder Arlovski still has some fuel left in the tank.
Sumian: Agreed with my colleague. Collier does not pose a threat to snapping Arlovski’s streak, and the former champion will pick up a methodical unanimous decision victory to make it four in a row. Enjoy Arlovski while he is still here.
Yohan Lainesse, Carlos Candelario, and Tatsuro Taira – do we need to know these names?
Sumian: Carlos Candelario and Tatsuro Taira are making their UFC debuts against one another. If either of them is able to pull off a statement victory in their first UFC appearance, perhaps there is reason to start paying attention. Until then, expectations should be kept in check, even if they combine for an 18-1 record.
The attention should be shifted to Yohan Lainesse of Quebec who has compiled an 8-0 record outside the UFC. He is coming off an impressive first-round finish in the Dana White’s Contender Series last November and was very active in 2021. He takes on Gabriel Green who is 1-1 in his UFC campaign. Lainesse and Green are both finishers, so this one should be fun for as long as it lasts. Green has suffered two knockout losses in his career and may fall victim to Lainesse’s power. Only time will tell if the newcomer is capable of establishing himself as a legitimate welterweight.
Petela: The UFC is adding new fighters to the roster seemingly exponentially faster than they did even a few years ago. While that may be due to increased competition for top talent with promotions like Bellator and PFL, it waters down some of the incoming classes. My opinion on these newcomers is that they are all wait-and-see prospects. None of them will be on the fast track to title contention but it’s hard to say that any of them will be flops either.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Petela: Shanna Young. She is only 1-3 in her last four fights and 0-2 since joining the UFC. Her only win in that stretch came in Invicta FC via unanimous decision over Maiju Suotama, a fighter with an 8-6 overall record who hasn’t won a fight since 2017. She badly needs to defeat Gina Mazany if she wants to remain on the UFC roster.
Sumian: It has to be Chase Sherman. Props to him for stepping up to face the surging Alexander Romanov on short notice, but he has compiled a 3-8 record as a UFC competitor. He was cut from the promotion for the second time on Apr. 12, but was re-signed on short notice only four days later to dill in for Tanner Boser. That fight was then moved to Apr. 30 from Apr. 23. If he falls victim to a quick submission loss courtesy of Romanov, it will likely be the last of him.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Sumian: Something about the lightweight matchup between Mike Breeden and Natan Levy is intriguing. Both were defeated in their UFC debuts, but will be eager to return to their winning ways in their sophomore appearance. Breeden is a knockout finisher while Levy has three wins by submission. Expect a back-and-forth affair when these two get locked up during the preliminary portion of the card.
Petela: The flyweight tilt between Francisco Figueiredo and Daniel Lacerda. These two Brazilians keep a heavy pace, even for their division. The first round of this fight will steal the show leading into the main card, as even the commentary team will be exhausted watching the frenetic nature of this fight.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Petela: Andre Fili. He comes into this fight after a no-contest against Daniel Pineda when an accidental eye poke ended the fight. Prior to inadvertently poking Pineda in the eye, Fili looked incredible. It may have been his most impressive performance to date, and I expect him to pick up right where he left off this weekend against Joanderson Brito. Expect a finish in the second or third round for Fili, as he continues to improve and remains a real threat to anyone in the featherweight division.
Sumian: Alexander Romanov. Yes, his opponent is stepping up on short notice, but he will shine yet again with a dominant first-round submission victory. The UFC needs to get this man a step-up in competition once he walks away virtually untouched on Saturday.
Pair this card with…
Sumian: The movie King Kong. Alexander Romanov will make a devastating statement when he finishes Chase Sherman within the first three minutes of the first round. Romanov (a.k.a “King Kong”) is one of the most impressive heavyweight prospects in the UFC today. The undefeated native of Moldova is a force to be reckoned with and will have everyone talking about his Octagon appearance after he makes it 5-0 in his UFC campaign.
Petela: A fine wine. After a few rocky stretches throughout his career, Andrei Arlovski has entered this stage of his career with poise. He has aged gracefully, so, in his honor, pair this fight card with a drink of similar stature.
Main Card (ESPN+ and ESPN, 7 p.m. ET)
BW: Rob Font vs. Marlon Vera
HW: Andrei Arlovski vs. Jake Collier
FW: Andre Fili vs. Joanderson Brito
LW: Jared Gordon vs. Grant Dawson
FW: Darren Elkins vs. Tristan Connelly
MW: Krzysztof Jotko vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Preliminary Card (ESPN+ and ESPN 2, 4 p.m. ET)
FlyW: Daniel Lacerda vs. Francisco Figueiredo
HW: Alexander Romanov vs. Chase Sherman
WW: Gabriel Green vs. Yohan Lainesse
LW: Natan Levy vs. Mike Breeden
Women’s FlyW: Gina Mazany vs. Shanna Young
FlyW: Tatsuro Taira vs. Carlos Candelario
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