UFC San Antonio: Cory Sandhagen Puts On Clinic Against Marlon Vera

Marlon Vera and Cory Sandhagen, UFC San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - MARCH 24: (L-R) Marlon Vera of Ecuador and Cory Sandhagen face off during the UFC Fight Night ceremonial weigh-in at AT&T Center on March 24, 2023 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Cory Sandhagen was superb for 25 minutes against Marlon Vera in the main event of UFC San Antonio, mixing in wrestling and great striking defense.

Marlon Vera looked to push further into the title picture at Saturday’s UFC San Antonio, paired up with fellow top-five bantamweight Cory Sandhagen.

“Chito” Vera, ranked third in the division, and Sandhagen, ranked fifth, might have secured a shot at gold with a win — were they competing in any other weight class. But in the crowded 135lb ranks, Henry Cejudo and Sean O’Malley both sat above them, with Cejudo getting the next shot at champ Aljamain Sterling in May.

Sandhagen started as the lead fighter on the feet, mixing in combinations with body punches. Vera was limited in output for the first two minutes of the fight, as per usual when Chito fights. Sandhagen, however, was taking advantage of that and pushing the pace. He threw a flying knee and then took Vera down. Sandhagen stacked Vera in half guard and began landing blows. Vera was pushed up against the cage in an uncomfortable position and Sandhagen was in full control until the bell.

Sandhagen shot for an early takedown and Vera tried applying a guillotine but could not get control of the body. Sandhagen popped out into half guard. Sandhagen cleared the guard and moved into side control. Vera was able to get to his feet with just over a minute remaining in the round, but he did not have an answer for Sandhagen’s wrestling. Vera nearly landed a single-leg of his own, but Sandhagen stayed on his feet and connected with a flying knee.

Vera started opening up in the third round with his striking. Punches were beginning to land as did a solid leg kick. A left hand connected for Sandhagen after a caught kick followed by a feinted takedown. Sandhagen then capped off a one-two combination with a body kick, but was then drilled by a one-two. He pushed forward with a body shot but came up empty on a takedown effort. Long punches landed for Sandhagen as Vera’s volume still left a bit to be desired. A smooth combination got through the guard of Vera, who had yet to find his range.

Sandhagen started the fourth round with a few takedown attempts, with Vera defending all of them. Sandhagen then shot through with a flying knee. Vera seemed just out of range to land the strikes he wanted. Vera even stuck his arms out at one point in frustration. The movement of Sandhagen kept him out of range, with Vera landing a left straight to break the cold streak. Vera stared down Sandhagen after the round concluded, down four rounds to none.

Sandhagen started the fifth round with an early takedown, sucking the air out of a potential Vera comeback. Vera did get back to his feet, but the push for a finish only came with 30 seconds left. A dominant win for Sandhagen.

Cory Sandhagen def. Marlon Vera by Split Decision (50-45, 49-46, 47-48)