After chasing the fight for the better part of a year, bantamweight contender Marlon Vera finally got a chance to throw down with Dominick Cruz in the main event of UFC San Diego after calling for the fight for the better part of the last year. The pair came into the bout off of Fight of the Night performances against fellow top-fifteen contenders in their last fight – Pedro Munhoz for Cruz and Rob Font for Vera – and a win here would put them within striking distance of the ultimate goal of all fighters, a title shot.
While it was Vera who had pursued the fight ahead of Saturday’s bantamweight clash, Dominick Cruz came out fired up, taking the fight to Vera. After an early attack on the feet, he would land a takedown about 90 seconds in; Vera bounced back from both, then rocked Cruz in an offensive foray of his own, knocking the ex-champ down care of a well-placed left hook.
Cruz shook that off, and the pair settled in, Cruz working his hands, and throwing numerous feints. Vera flashed a front kick, while Cruz kept his opponent guessing, miming knees that never delivered. In the final minute of the round, Cruz landed a takedown, smack dab in the center of the octagon. In a highly competitive round, that might have given Cruz the edge, but Vera nearly caught him in an arm-bar, forcing Cruz back to his feet.
Round two opened with Dominick Cruz finding a home for his right hand, and firing a front kick. He mixed things up, attacking Vera’s leg. Cruz showed impressive accuracy through several exchanges through the first half of the round, landing seemingly at will. Vera continued to walk forward, however — but to that point was unable to take advantage of his edge in power.
The movement of Cruz? As good as always. That allowed him to get in, rip the body, land one upstairs, and get out. Vera would land a right hand, but in terms of volume, he was slipping behind. Late in the round, Cruz changed levels for a takedown, but this time, Vera was ready with a sprawl and stuffed the attempt.
More quick exchanges awaited in round three. Cruz continued to create space with his front kick. Then, 90 seconds in, Vera landed a scorching right hand that dropped Cruz! Cruz looked to be in real trouble, but was able to keep Vera off him and return to his feet. Another takedown attempt by Cruz was stuffed at the two minute mark; Vera landed clean a moment later, but Cruz was able to shake that one off. It was an edge-of-your seat affair through the final two minutes however: could Vera catch Cruz and win the fight, or would the “Dominator” survive the round?
Another Cruz takedown was stuffed, and Cruz was rewarded for his efforts with an elbow to the head. They would head to the fourth round, however, with Vera holding the momentum.
Cruz would land early in round four with a right hand that had Vera falling back, more off-balance than rocked. But a left jab by Vera mere moments later dropped Cruz! Dominick got back up, and took a few big swings. The question before the court, how much had the knockdowns taken out of Dominick Cruz? We found out a moment later, with Vera ending the former champ’s night in violent fashion. A head kick connected clean, the sound reminiscent of a baseball bat connecting for a home run wing. Cruz had been ducking down as the kick connected, making it all the worse, and struggled to get back to his feet even after the fight had been called.
Official Result: Marlon Vera def. Dominick Cruz by KO (head kick), Round 4, 2:17