Marlon Vera and Dominick Cruz, UFC San Diego
Marlon Vera and Dominick Cruz, UFC San Diego ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

In a battle of contrasting personalities and styles, Dominick Cruz and Marlon “Chito” Vera will battle to move within striking distance of the title at UFC San Diego.

Marlon “Chito” Vera could care less for the analysis and resume of the former champion.  The Ecuadorian contender blazed an 8-1-1 trail to earn a breakout spot on The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America back in 2014.  Though an infection pulled him from the competition, he has responded by becoming one of the most successful contenders in the long history of the program.  Vera’s first several years in the UFC saw the 21 year-old endure the growing pains of a young athlete as he had his share of ups-and-downs as he made his way up the rankings.

Going into 2018, Vera had a rather unheralded 4-4 record in the UFC that did not leap off the page as that of a future champion.   However, that year he kicked off a five fight win-streak.  Though it was snapped by a controversial decision loss to rising contender Yadong Song, the UFC carried him upward to his biggest career victory as he took home the win against the popular Sean O’Malley.  After coming up short in a competitive effort with living legend José Aldo, he responded with a trio of impressive victories in beating Davey Grant, Frankie Edgar, and Rob Font.

The day Dominick Cruz falls from the elite level, it will indeed be a shocking day.  After an astounding run from his days in the WEC 14 years ago, to overcoming a litany of knee and shoulder injuries to return from long layoffs and regain his UFC title, it feels as if the cerebral “Dominator” could be the man to crack the code for the most longstanding longevity as a top five fighter.  So impressive is he in his recent performances, that it has raised the question of just how high he may be regarded in the question of the greatest of all time had he been able to continue his run without the long pauses that plagued it.

This iteration of Cruz has worked his way back up the ladder in order to regain his position in what is easily the most competitive era that the bantamweight division has ever seen.  After coming up short in a bid to reclaim the title against Henry Cejudo in 2020, he has turned back up-and-comer Casey Kinney and durable veteran Pedro Munhoz to set up his latest bout.  With a victory, he could make the case for a shot at the title or at the very least a title eliminator as the division has a pair of high stakes bouts already on the calendar after him.

The more heavy-hitting Vera will need to use effective shot-selection and movement if he is to cut off the cage and reach the mobile Cruz across all five rounds.  Targeting the legs and body are the most obvious approaches to take for Vera, as is initiating the clinch for a takedown when Cruz backs up towards the fence.  For Cruz, volume will be the key as any direct hit from “Chito” is expected to cause noticeably more damage and could put him at a deficit if he finds himself on the defensive against Vera.  That said, he is expected to approach the fight with his signature strategy of getting in-and-out.

The winner of this fight would be on the short list for a title shot, but the will likely face stern competition.  The winner of the upcoming title fight between Aljamain Sterling and TJ Dillashaw is likely to face either the winner of the scheduled bout between Petr Yan and Sean O’Malley or the returning former two-division champion Henry Cejudo who is expected to have a fight booked in early 2023.  That would leave the Cruz vs. Vera winner to likely face the winner of the upcoming fight between José Aldo and Merab Dvalishvili or the winner of the upcoming fight between Yadong Song and Cory Sandhagen.





Source link