The UFC makes its long-anticipated return to San Antonio, Texas on Saturday evening for a Fight Night event headlined by a battle between bantamweight contenders Cory Sandhagen and Marlon Vera. Former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm and Yana Santos will take co-main event billing.
Fight fans can catch this weekend’s UFC Fight Night event streaming live on ESPN and ESPN+ beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT for the prelims, with the main card set to get underway at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT.
Main Event — Vera vs. Sandhagen
A bantamweight title shot could be on the line in Saturday’s main event when Sandhagen meets Vera in what should be a striker’s delight. Sandhagen is coming off a doctor’s stoppage TKO Song Yadong in the main event of a fight night card that took place last fall and showed further improvements to his game after dropping a close decision to Petr Yan for the interim bantamweight championship in Abu Dhabi.
Another win for Sandhagen could put him back in the title conversation in the UFC deepest, most talent-rich division, particularly against a dangerous opponent like “Chito” Vera. Sandhagen has lost previously to Aljamain Sterling, but a Henry Cejudo title victory in May could open the door for Sandhagen to accrue another title shot without having to win a third consecutive fight. Regardless of this weekend’s result, UFC President Dana White has said Sean O’Malley will fight the winner of Sterling and Cejudo after defeating Petr Yan back in October. Merab Dvalishvili, the training partner of the bantamweight champion Sterling, is also lurking and could be an option for Saturday’s winner.
Vera is not a man to be forgotten, however, as he has been on a tear as of late. He scored main event stoppages of Rob Font and Dominick Cruz in his last two fighters, the latter fighter of which boasts arguably the greatest championship resume in the history of the division. It will be tough to deny “Chito” if he can finish Sandhagen in a similar fashion, especially since he owns a win over O’Malley in their controversial fight from three years ago. Saturday’s fight will be a clash of striking styles, with Sandhagen utilizing volume, movement and angles from the opening bell, while Vera, typically a slow starter, throws every shot with reckless intent. Cruz did well with avoiding the power of Vera — until he didn’t — and Saturday’s fight could play out similarly, regardless of who is able to get their hand raised.
Rest of the Card
Former bantamweight champion Holm, who recently re-upped with the UFC for six more fights at 41-years-old, returns at 135 pounds against the newly-named Santos in the co-main event. Santos, formerly known as Yana Kunitskaya, married her husband, PFL light heavyweight Thiago Santos since the last time she fought in summer 2021. While both fighters are strikers by nature, each of their styles have evolved into that of cage grapplers, so fight fans should expect a physical affair out of this weekend’s co-main event.
After putting on one of the most exciting three-round fights of 2022, Nate Landwehr is set to return to another fight in front of a live crowd when he takes on the dangerous Austin Lingo in the featured fight. Women’s flyweight contenders Andrea Lee and Maycee Barber are also scheduled to face off in a matchup of technique vs. physicality, and Manel Kape, arguably the brightest Portuguese prospect of all time, will look to take another step towards a title shot at 125 pounds when he fights Alex Perez. The ever-exciting Chidi Njokuani, who has shed the journeyman label with must-see performances over the last two years, will open the main card against Albert Duraev.
The depth of this weekend’s card extends onto the prelims. Daniel Pineda will take on Tucker Lutz in the featured preliminary bout, with both fighters looking to right the ship. Three of Pineda’s last five fights have resulted in a no-contest, for one reason or another. Steven Peterson is also scheduled to make his return to the cage against Brazil’s Lucas Alexander in what floated around a pick ’em on the betting odds all week. Another pick ’em fight will precede Peterson vs. Alexander, as Trevin Giles is set to return at welterweight against Preston Parsons. Flyweights will open the show, with CJ Vergara taking on Daniel Da Silva and Victor Altamirano taking on Vinicius Salvador.
UFC on ESPN: Vera vs. Sandhagen Results
Corey Sandhagen def. Marlon Vera via Split Decision (50-45, 47-48, 49-46)
Holly Holm def. Yana Santos via Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Nate Landwehr def. Austin Lingo via Submission (RNC) at 4:11 of Round 2
Maycee Barber def. Andrea Lee via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
Albert Duraev def. Chidi Njokuani via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Daniel Pineda def. Tucker Lutz via Submission (Guillotine) at 2:50 of Round 2
Lucas Alexander def. Steven Peterson via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Trevin Giles def. Preston Parsons via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
CJ Vergara def. Daniel Da Silva via TKO (strikes) at 4:04 of Round 2
Victor Altamirano def. Vinicius Salvador via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)