The biggest stories to follow during UFC San Antonio.
The UFC will make its third appearance ever in San Antonio this Saturday, March 25, live from the AT&T Center and it promises to be a huge return to the Alamo City. A pair of bantamweight contenders look to claim a spot in the next title fight when Marlon 'Chito' Vera (20-7-1) squares off against former interim title challenger Cory Sandhagen (15-4) in the main event.
That's far from it though. Former UFC women's bantamweight champion Holly Holm (14-6) aims to snap her one fight losing streak against the no. 6-ranked bantamweight Yana Santos (14-6) in the co-main event, along with a number of ranked vs. ranked matchups that are sure to shake up their respective divisions.
They say everything is bigger in Texas and it sure looks like UFC San Antonio will prove just that.
1. The UFC returns to San Antonio with a point to prove
It appears that we are now moving away from the UFC APEX when it comes to Fight Night events, and honestly, good riddance. The APEX was not a very popular arena amongst fighters and even less so with fans, as the small venue in Las Vegas made each event seem less electrifying than it should have been and it deprived many great cities across America and the world of hosting a UFC event.
This will be the UFC's first event in San Antonio since 2019, and while many fans in the city are sure to be fired up, it is worth remembering what happened the last time the UFC went to the historic Texan city.
The main event involved current UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards, who defeated Rafael dos Anjos by unanimous decision to close out the 13-fight card. From the 13, a then UFC record 10 went to the distance and the show began with nine straight decisions, another UFC record that is yet to be broken.
Although lots of finishes in a fight card does not guarantee that it is an all-timer, the San Antonio crowd will be hoping to see more than just three fights finish inside the distance in a stacked card. The UFC has a point to prove this time around to show the San Antonio crowd why they are considered MMA's premiere organization. Hopefully the stellar matchmaking helps.
2. Alex Perez vs. Manel Kape: A sneaky Fight of the Night contender
All eyes will undoubtedly be on Saturday's huge main event. Not only have both Vera and Sandhagen become fan-favorites due to their exhilarating fighting styles but the prospect of seeing these two match up almost guarantees we will see a fight of the night war between two of the best bantamweights in the world.
Not if Alex Perez (24-7) and Manel Kape (18-6) have anything to say about it. This fight will be second on the main card and could prove to be even better than the main event given how explosive both these fighters have proven to be. Half of Perez's wins have come via finish and a ridiculous 89 percent of Kape's wins have been inside the distance. Both men will be doing anything in their power to make sure that their opponent is the one that goes out before the final bell sounds.
They also both come into this fight with a point to prove, given that they have both lost to the top contenders of the weight class before. A win for either men, with Perez ranked at no. 6 and Kape at no. 9, will help their ascend into a flyweight division that has been revived with fresh talent, especially if the victory comes before the 15 minutes are up.
3. Marlon Vera vs. Cory Sandhagen for the Sean O'Malley sweepstakes
This has to be probably one of the best matchups we could've had from the shark-infested waters that is the UFC's bantamweight division. Two of the most fluid, unorthodox and violent strikers in recent years will look to solidify their spot at the top of the division and it is almost certain that the winner will be heavily in contention to face whoever walks away as the 135 pound champion at UFC 288, when champion Aljamain Sterling faces Henry Cejudo. However, things are never so straight forward in the UFC.
Not only is the fate of the title still up for grabs but there is a plethora of contenders vying for a title shot. Merab Dvalishvili is probably the most deserving given he just dominated former champion Petr Yan but his friendship with Sterling makes it difficult to see when or even if they would face off for the title, especially if Sterling remains the champion. T.J. Dillashaw is still a top contender and even though Yan has lost his last three in a row, there are many fans that would argue he is still the best bantamweight in the whole roster.
In comes Sean O'Malley. The man who also defeated Yan to put himself into the top five of the rankings (he currently sits at number two) is well within range of fighting for the title next given his exciting fighting style and immense popularity outside the octagon but will likely need another win to solidify his place amongst the best 135ers. The potential storylines, as well as the fight itself, just make too much sense.
If Vera were to win, he would face O'Malley for the second time after defeating him at UFC 252 in 2020, however, that win has many question marks surrounding it. O'Malley suffered a foot injury which disallowed him from engaging in a stand up fight and he's gone everywhere and anywhere to claim he is still undefeated, making it a gigantic rematch. A win for Sandhagen would probably mean he needs one more fight before fighting for the undisputed title given he has losses to both Yan and T.J. Dillashaw in recent years.
Stylistically, these matchups make too much sense. Given how easily Dvalishvili dominated Yan with his grappling, it's unlikely any of the three would want to take a fight against him since their strength lies on their kickboxing rather than their ground game. A fight with O'Malley could easily headline any UFC Fight Night and would certainly guarantee the winner a title shot, regardless of who the champion is.