In the words of Albert Hammond, “t never rains in Southern California… It pours, man. It pours.” In that vein, the UFC drops into San Diego, Calif. on Saturday, Aug. 13. UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Cruz is flooded with rising stars, as well as a former champion looking to march back towards the top of his division.
In the main event, longtime bantamweight king Dominick Cruz takes on surging contender Marlon Vera. Cruz has notched back-to-back wins, and Vera is coming off the biggest win of his career – a unanimous decision victory over Rob Font in his first main-event performance.
In the co-main event, Nate Landwehr will try to notch consecutive wins for the first time since signing with the UFC. His opponent will be David Onama, a James-Krause-trained fighter with only one blemish on his record. Also on the card is Devin Clark, who snapped a two-fight losing skid his last time in the cage by defeating William Knight with a TKO. Clark takes on Azamat Murzakanov, an undefeated prospect who has gone the distance just twice in his 11 professional fights. Angela Hill is looking to get back on track after failing to secure a win in any of her last three outings. Standing in the way of Hill is Lupita “Loopy” Godinez, who has somewhat taken up Hill’s mantle as the most active female fighter, as she makes her sixth appearance in just under 16 months.
The card airs in its entirety ESPN+ and ESPN with the prelims starting at 4 p.m. ET and the main card at 7 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Dominick Cruz has won two straight fights after a pair of losses in title fights; can he make it three in a row against the surging Marlon Vera?
Sumian: No. Marlon Vera is surging, and the surge will not end due to Dominick Cruz. Cruz is one of the most versatile and well-rounded fighters in UFC history. However, Marlon Vera poses a different challenge. The Ecuador native is one of the most vicious and hungry contenders currently competing in the bantamweight division. Cruz is elite talent, but Vera is ready to continue his rise in the bantamweight division.
There is not much to say about how this fight will go. Cruz is predominantly the more talented fighter but Vera is ready to rise to occasion. He will dominate Cruz for five straight rounds and continuously drop the former champion round after round and win a unanimous decision.
Vera is one of the top contenders at 135 pounds and will prove so on Saturday with a spectacular win. Vera should find himself in a title-eliminator bout for this appearance once he gets past Cruz.
Petela: There is certainly a case to be made for Marlon Vera in this fight. His last performance against Rob Font was particularly impressive. He rallied at the end of each round after getting out-landed for the majority of each frame. Vera landed devastating shots and nearly finished Font on multiple occasions. There are plenty of reasons why my colleague would think that “Chito” has the skills needed to defeat the former champion. However, Dominick Cruz is no ordinary bantamweight.
Cruz is perhaps the most intelligent fighter the sport has ever seen, regardless of weight class. He won’t get caught by the big punches that Font caught at the end of each round. He will use his elite footwork to avoid those power punches and keep Vera frustrated throughout the contest. The longer the fight goes, the more labored Vera’s punches will be, and they will, therefore, miss by a larger margin.
At the end of five rounds, it will be Cruz who gets his hand raised. There won’t be a ton of damage on either fighter, but Cruz will have dictated the pace throughout the bout and landed the cleaner shots to steal four out of the five rounds from Vera. He may have lost half a step physically, but, mentally, Cruz is still at the top of his game, and that will be enough to get him the victory this weekend.
Angela Hill hasn’t won a fight since defeating Ashley Yoder over a year ago; can she stop her three-fight skid by defeating Loopy Godinez?
Petela: Yes. All of Hill’s last three losses have come by decision, including a split-decision loss to Amanda Lemos. Her most recent bout was a unanimous-decision loss to Virna Jandiroba, who largely controlled Hill on the ground for the majority of the 15 minutes. That won’t be the case this weekend against Godinez.
These two fighters will remain standing for nearly the entirety of the bout, as neither one of them is a grappling or wrestling specialist. Godinez may look for the takedown a few times, but Hill’s takedown defense will hold up, and she will be able to use her footwork to keep the fight where she wants it. Expect Hill to have Godinez following her around the cage, like a matador with a bull. There may not be fireworks in this fight, but it will be exactly the type of win that Hill needs to regain some momentum and reassert herself as a stiff test for anyone in the strawweight division.
Sumian: Agreed with my colleague. Hill is very talented and has found herself on the wrong side of several split decisions. She is the superior fighter in this particular matchup and will defeat Loopy Godinez by unanimous decision.
Yasmin Jauregui, Iasmin Lucindo, Łukasz Brzeski, Da’Mon Blackshear — do we need to know these names?
Sumian: I am certainly intrigued by both female fighters. Yasmin Jauregui and Iasmin Lucindo are formidable fighters and the winner should find themselves in positions to succeed with a win. The other two names are more difficult. Both have respectable records but it will take a win in the UFC to ensure they are ready for top-tier competition. Only time will tell.
Petela: These four fighters are really all wait-and-see prospects, in my opinion. Da’Mon Blackshear is probably the closest to a sure thing in my opinion, as he comes out of Cage Fury Fighting Championships, and is riding a four-fight winning streak. He has a tricky debut against Youssef Zalal, but even if he loses, the ceiling could be very high for Blackshear.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Petela: Youssef Zalal. After a hot start in the UFC, “The Moroccan Devil” has lost three fights in a row heading into his clash with Da’Mon Blackshear. His overall record in the UFC is now 3-3, and if he falls to 3-4 with four losses in a row, it will probably be time for him to regroup back on the regional scene for a little while. Zalal is a talented prospect who could one day make waves in the UFC, but he has shown that he is still a little raw and needs to tighten up his game before he can become a contender.
Sumian: This is truly a make-or-break fight for Cynthia Calvillo. The once highly-touted prospect has disappointed to say the least. Weight-cut issues and a three-fight losing streak are not easy things to overcome. A loss to Nina Nunes will likely lead to the release of Calvillo.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Sumian: Gerald Meerschaert and Bruno Silva should provide fireworks for fans. Both are great entertainers, who are capable of putting on a show.
Petela: Ode Osbourne vs. Tyson Nam. It took Tyson Nam years to get into the UFC for reasons outside of his control, and, despite having just a 2-3 record in the organization, he has delivered some spectacular performances and is always in exciting fights. With a dance partner like Osbourne, this fight is as close to a can’t miss affair as they come.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Petela: Gabriel Benitez. He has lost two straight fights but is a very dangerous fighter, especially with his back against the wall. He meets Charlie Ontiveros this weekend and “Moggly” will deliver a standout performance. Benitez has eight career wins by knockout and Ontiveros has eight losses via knockout so this is the perfect remedy for Benitez to get back on track with an emphatic win.
Sumian: Bruno Silva by first-round knockout. He will get back to the win column by finishing Gerald Meerschaert and earn himself a well deserved 50-thousand-dollar bonus.
Pair this card with…
Sumian: Phil’s BBQ, San Diego’s flagship, has one of the best BBQ spots on earth. Pair that with a dominant win for Vera, and the night is set. Cruz is awesome and one of the best fighters in UFC history. However, Vera will shine and pull off one of the most convincing wins in UFC history.
Petela: This is another fight card that is going to be full of finishes, so I’d have to say avoid the BBQ, because it will end up all over the floor and your clothes as you leap out of your seat. But even if you go with my colleague’s suggestion, add a jalapeno margarita, because this event will be spicy from start to finish.
Main Card (ESPN/ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)
BW: Marlon Vera vs. Dominick Cruz
FW: David Onama vs. Nate Landwehr
Women’s StrawW: Yazmin Jauregui vs. Iasmin Lucindo
LHW: Devin Clark vs. Azamat Murzakanov
Women’s BW: Ariane Lipski vs. Priscila Cachoeira
MW: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Bruno Silva
Preliminary Card (ESPN+/ESPN, 4 p.m. ET)
CatchW (120 lbs.): Angela Hill vs. Loopy Godinez
HW: Lukasz Brzeski vs. Martin Buday
Women’s FlyW: Nina Nunes vs. Cynthia Cavillo
LW:Gabriel Benitez vs. Charlie Ontiveros
FlyW: Ode Osbourne vs. Tyson Nam
WW: Jason Witt vs. Josh Quinlan
BW: Youssef Zalal vs. Da’Mon Blackshear
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