Last weekend’s UFC Fight Night on April 30th had top bantamweight contenders Rob Font and Marlon Vera headline for what many fans of the sport expected to be a possible fight of the year contender, and a fight of the year contender it was. Marlon “Chito” Vera, who sat at the #8 spot in the rankings before the weekend, was set to face the #5 ranked Rob Font in a fight that would dictate the momentum for future title contention for both fighters.
Vera was coming off a two-fight win streak over Davey Grant and former lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar, after being on the end of two questionable decision losses in the three fights prior to his wins. Rob Font, who has become a main event fighter in his last two outings, has faced off against former bantamweight and featherweight champions, Cody Garbrandt and José Aldo. Font took the decision victory over Garbrandt, adding to his 3-fight win streak, but was unable to best José Aldo in a unanimous decision loss for Font. With Vera on a hot streak and Font coming off a loss to the #3 ranked fighter, the two would fight for Font’s #5 ranking.
Fans of both fighters knew that this would be an electric match-up and the matchmakers knew exactly what they were doing. Font’s boxing-heavy style and durability make him a nightmare match-up for opponents who are unable to deal with a stiff, lightning straight punches and boxing pressure. He has earned 5 out of 9 of his UFC victories via knockout. Vera’s tricky style, which adheres to his strength as a longer- ranged fighter, utilizes a barrage of unpredictable strikes, including long- distance kicks, knees, and vicious elbows. His underrated knockout power and submission game has seen him only go to decision 3 times in his 13 UFC fights. Vera has never been finished in a fight via knockout or submission, which is impressive as he has faced devastating power punchers in Song Yadong and John Lineker, albeit he did lose those fights via decision. Nonetheless, these two in the ring gave the fans the fight of the night.
In the first round, Font showed a relentless pace right at the bell as he was quick to establish his go-to jab and sought to push Vera back against the cage. Vera, in Vera fashion, started off slow, but did well to defend against the barrage of strikes thrown his way. Vera’s offensive response to Font was by way of calf-kick as he landed several that started to swell the leg of Font early on. Vera’s guard would also prove strong as he looked flustered initially with the bursts of strikes, but never hurt in a significant manner. Font would end the round with double the significant strikes landed as Vera along with double the accuracy with his 52 strikes at 57% accuracy to Vera’s 26 strikes at 28% accuracy. But when the final whistle blew, neither fighter was hurt, and Vera made the point to stare down Font as he left to his corner. The round would go to Font across all 3 scorecards.
The second round started and again Font picked up where he left off by establishing the first strikes and Vera continued with keeping his hands up. Known to be a notoriously slow starter, Vera knew he had to pick up the pace, and the second round was the place to do it. Vera would fill any empty space with long strikes, whether through a heavy jab of his own or through his front and roundhouse kicks. The round was looking even as both fighters were taking shots but delivering their own, only entering 50/50 exchanges for the most part. Font, again, landed nearly double the shots and at double the accuracy of Vera, but the round would be taken by Vera who backed Font up to the cage and landed a powerful left hook as Font tried to angle out to his right. Font got shaky legs and was swiftly on the canvas for the last 10 seconds of the round where Vera capitalized, landing punches and elbows on his downed opponent. Fortunately for Font, the bell rang, and Vera was taken off his back. The round would go 2/3 to Vera on the scorecards.
In a miraculous one-minute recovery, Font would start the third round just as he did the two rounds prior. Perhaps to dissuade Vera from pressuring him right away, Font made sure he started the exchanges behind his trusty jab right at the start. Font decided to change things up and attempted a takedown from which Vera quickly escaped. Font again was landing on Vera on his guard and flush on his face and body. Nothing seemed to phase Vera, who trudged on right through the pressure and punches that Font threw at him. Again, at the end of the round, Vera would drop Font. Vera connected with a sharp high knee on the jaw of Font as he ducked his head, turning Font’s legs into jelly as he fell to the canvas. Again, Font would be saved by the bell as he would endure through the last 15 seconds of the round and the barrage of ground strikes from Vera. The round went 3/3 to Vera even though Font landed 71 strikes to Vera’s 39.
The fourth round began and Font, Lord knows how, started the round strong again with his relentless boxing, but the round would end up exactly as the last two with Font looking promising and powerful until being dropped by Vera in tremendous fashion. This round’s knockdown came at range with Vera throwing a beautiful hook kick to the head of Font who was completely unprepared for the strike, likely expecting a roundhouse to the head. The strike landed and Font fell back onto the canvas. Vera pounced to put him out, but Font stayed alive somehow through the last two minutes, finding his way back to his feet. Again, all judges would score the round for Vera although Font landed more, this time only 44 strikes to Vera’s 39.
The last round came, and nobody could believe their eyes, as not only was Rob Font somehow still alive, but he came back with a much harder pace, landing to the head and body, but Vera’s guard was too strong to break through. Font landed 50 strikes to Vera’s 33, but it was clear to see that the output of Font had no true weight behind the strikes, whereas Vera’s were landing much harder, although not as much. Vera wobbled Font before the end of the round, but Font would end the fight on his feet as Vera took an early 5-second victory lap before the final bell. The round would go to Vera, just as it had the last 3 rounds.
All credit to Rob Font for showing the durability of a champion, but a stoppage likely would have been called sooner had the bell not intervened in rounds 2 and 3. He ended the fight looking unrecognizable and it was clear to see that despite his output, Vera was landing the harder shots on the night. There is no reason to believe that Rob Font has pillow hands, as his knockout record shows otherwise, but the fight was more of a testament to the amazing defense of Vera and his amazing chin. Vera took a whopping 273 total strikes over 25 minutes while he only delivered 167. As a testament to Font, he broke 6 UFC bantamweight records during the fight due to his immense output. Font broke the record for most significant strikes in a fight (273), most significant strikes attempted (516), distance strikes landed (256), significant head strikes landed (199), total strikes landed (271), and total strikes attempted (520).
With this performance, Vera has staked his claim as the #5 ranked bantamweight, moving Font to #7. Vera called out the top 3 in the division, with the likes of Petr Yan, TJ Dillashaw, and José Aldo within the sights of Vera for a future fight. With having taken minimal damage during the fight, it would not be surprising to see Vera in the cage again by the end of this year. Perhaps a rematch with José Aldo would be in the mind of the matchmakers, as it would set the winner up for a title shot as the next fight. As for Font, hopefully his face returns to normal, not looking like it was hit by a truck, and can find his footing back into the top 5. A possible opponent and an interesting matchup for Font would be Cory Sandhagen, who is sitting at #4 in the division. The bantamweight division is one to watch out for in the future and remember the name, Marlon “Chito” Vera.