Former ONE heavyweight champion Brandon Vera returned to action on Saturday, with the former UFC star paired up with Iranian wrestling standout Amir Aliakbari.
For Vera, one of ONE Championship’s early stars, it was his first walk to the cage (or circle, if you prefer) since losing his title to Arjan Bhullar last year. As it turns out, it would also be his last.
The early going in Saturday’s heavyweight showdown saw Vera successful in fending off the first takedown attempt from the wrestler Aliakbari. Vera worked his jab, pressing forward slowly, with Aliakbari looking hesitant before throwing a few wild hooks. The Iranian kept his guard high, ate a kick to the ribs, and swung a bit wild again, missing Vera as the pair circled and occasionally exchanged fire.
Vera, with just under two minutes in the round to go, surged forward, landing a short combo, a jab and hook. But moments later, Aliakbari finally took the fight to the ground, piling on with ground n’ pound, including some hard elbows, as Vera moved to his knees, only to be forced to cover up. Punches rained down, and before long, ref Herb Dean had no choice but to wave things off.
The stoppage came at 3:37 of the opening round, with Vera appearing to hurt his hand late in the fight.
Following the bout, Vera announced his retirement, saying fans could catch him on the big screen as he’d recently signed a “10-picture” movie deal. He also revealed that he had broken his hand during the bout, an injury he was no stranger to.
For Vera, 45, a career spanning twenty years came to a close on Saturday. Once considered a title threat in two weight classes in the UFC, Vera stumbled, but redeemed himself in ONE, claiming the promotion’s heavyweight title in 2015 and defending it twice.
Official Result: Amir Aliakbari def. Brandon Vera by TKO, Round 1, 3:37