UFC San Antonio: Cory Sandhagen picks apart Marlon Vera in main event

UFC Fight Night Overeem v Volkov:  Weigh-Ins
UFC Fight Night Overeem v Volkov: Weigh-Ins / Handout/GettyImages

UFC San Antonio: Cory Sandhagen defeated Marlon Vera.

Cody Sandhagen defeated Marlon Vera via split decision (47-48, 50, 45, 49-48), at UFC San Antonio on Saturday, March 25, 2023, live from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX.

"Marlon is a tough guy to hit. I'm a tough guy to hit... The dude is hard to hit. Win the early rounds and then he is going to come after me. So I knew I had to win the first couple of rounds and keep going at him. I would feel so slimy if I asked for a title shot before Mareb (Dvalishvili). I want the No. 1 spot," said Sandhagen.

"Thank you for everyone who came to support me. No excuses, this one is on me," said Vera.

The crowd was electric as the fight got started. The fans were chanting for Vera. The two trade punches in the middle of the Octagon with Sandhagen looking sharp. Vera answered back with a powerful low outside leg kick. Sandhagen continued to push forward, landing a hook to the body. Sandhagen landed a pair of kicks to Vera's thighs and continued to push the action forward. Vera was able to just avoid a head kick but Sandhagen continued to come forward, pushing Vera back and landing a flying knee. Sandhagen took Vera down and started landing several punches before Vera could get into guard. After moving out of guard, Sandhagen started dropping elbows on Vera, who was stuck up against the fence. Vera would survive but the first round was very one-sided.

The second round opened with Sandhagen again pressuring Vera. Sandhagen landed a powerful right hand and a second to the body. Sandhagen landed his second takedown of the fight. Vera grabbed a guillotine but Sandhagen was eventually able to get his head out of danger. Sandhagen continued with his ground and pound as Vera struggled to defend himself. Vera was able to get back to his feet after defending Sandhagen's armbar attempt. Vera caught a kick and then blocked a flying knee.

Vera was aggressive to start the thrid round but Sandhagen fought right back. The two fighters traded combinations and kicks in the middle of the Octagon. Vera landed a body kick but Sandhagen replied with a snapping punch to Vera's head. Vera landed a combination, finishing with a powershot. Sandhagen answered right back with his own power punch. Vera defended a takedown. Sandhagen landed a powerful combination and continued to land with his right uppercut that split Vera's defense.

Sandhagen opened the fourth round with an uppercut and a takedown attempt. Vera defended the attempt and landed knees to the body. Sandhagen went for a second takedown but Vera again stuffed it. The fourth round was fought at a much slower pace than the first three rounds. Vera was clearly getting frustrated with Sandhagen's constant movement and stance changes. Vera landed a three-punch combo but Sandhagen came back with a counter.

The final round opened with both fighters trading punches. Vera landing a big right hand. Sandhagen tried to change levels but had his takedown defended. Following a knee to the body, Sandhagen landed another takedown. Vera was able to get back to his feet after largely avoiding to take much damage. Sandhagen continued to be the more aggressive fighter, coming forward and applying the pressure on Vera.

By pushing forward, moving and changing stances, Sandhagen was able to keep Vera off-balance and made him uncomfortable. Vera attempted a spinning back kick but Sandhagen blocked it. Vera caught a kick from Sandhagen and took the back. Sandhagen was able to escape with seconds remaining. Knowing he was running out of time, Vera started unloading punches until the bell.

Vera and Sandhagen entered as top contenders in the UFC's bantamweight division. The third-ranked Vera entered Saturday's fight on a four-fight winning streak. In his previous fight, Vera scored one of the most significant victories of his career, knocking out former champion Dominick Cruz. Sandhagen knocked out Song Yadong in his last fight and sat fifth in the UFC rankings. The knockout snapped a two-fight losing streak for Sandgaen, who had lost to former champions Petr Yan and T.J. Dillashaw.

With his victory, Sandhagen improved to 16-4. Sandhagen's call out of Dvalishvili makes a lot of sense for the UFC to book. Dvalishvili is coming off of a dominate victory over Petr Yan two weeks ago. Vera dropped to 20-8-1 with the loss. Vera could be matched up with Petr Yan in his next fight. Another option for UFC matchmakers would be to book a rematch between Vera and Sean O'Malley. Vera remains the only fighter to beat O'Malley.

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UFC San Antonio: Marlon Vera vs. Cory Sandhagen took place on Saturday, March 25, 2023, live from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX. Follow along with FanSided MMA for all your news and highlights.