Rob Font had issues with the scale this week. Then he had issues with a relentless Marlon Vera on Saturday.
Font looked great for the first 10 minutes and landed a near-record amount of significant strikes for a UFC bantamweight fight. But Vera came on strong in the later rounds and got his hand raised thanks to four big moments, a lot more visible damage inflicted, and the ability to walk through Font’s constant pressure.
Font’s output was some of the best in UFC bantamweight history in terms of significant strikes. He landed more than 200 in that department. But Vera wasn’t that far behind and landed at a higher percentage. In addition, by the time 25 minutes were through, Font’s face looked like it had been put through a meat grinder – and Vera’s was reasonably clean.
Vera (21-7-1 MMA, 11-6 UFC) beat Font (19-6 MMA, 9-5 UFC), who missed the bantamweight limit on the scale Friday, with a pair of 49-46 scores and a 48-47. The catchweight bout was the UFC on ESPN 35 main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. It aired on ESPN.
Vera worked calf kicks early, but Font fired back with a body kick and a left hand. Just 45 seconds in, Font was on the money with a 1-2 punch. His combinations were on point early, and Vera had to continue to look for low kicks to try to keep Font at bay.
But Font pressed forward unencumbered by the kicks and threw punches and elbows. The left jab was there for him, as was a right uppercut. Font peppered in punches to the body, as well, to keep Vera unsure of where to keep his hands.
Vera tried to turn things around in the second by pushing forward with jabs and kicks. But Font made sure that surge didn’t lead to momentum. Font got moving again and kept Vera guessing with a regular stance change. With two minutes left, Vera landed a heavy body kick, but it didn’t seem to slow Font down much. And while Vera had more output in the second, Font continued to throw at will – and to be first with the majority of his strikes.
But with 25 seconds left in the round, Vera landed a left hook that hurt Font and put him on the canvas. He went for a single-leg takedown, purely in defensive mode, and Vera drilled him with hammer fists and punches while he covered up. If the second round was close with the judges, Vera’s late surge likely gave him the frame.
In the third, Font abandoned his striking early and went for a takedown. He couldn’t get Vera to the canvas, though, and the fight went back to the middle. Font worked kicks to the body, and even though his output was high, Vera continued to walk through the offense.
Late in the third, Vera landed a jumping knee that wobbled Font. And after a couple seconds of dizziness, Font fell to the canvas. With less than 10 seconds left, Vera landed a few short elbows, but not enough to get referee Jason Herzog to stop the fight. Still, it may have been enough to sway the judges in Vera’s favor.
This output is just absurd. #UFCVegas53 pic.twitter.com/8cUNzEcxQC
— UFC (@ufc) May 1, 2022
Vera was light on his feet in the fourth and looked much fresher than Font. He also looked a lot less damaged than Font, whose face was beat up and cut up.
But with two minutes left in the fourth, Vera landed a kick to the face. Font’s reaction was delayed, but after a couple seconds he fell to the canvas. Instead of a big piece of offense with just a few seconds left, Vera had plenty of time to work with his best land of the night. Vera worked kicks to Font’s legs, but didn’t drop to the canvas with him. It may have given Font time to recover, and after a minute, Herzog let Font back to his feet for the rest of the round.
Font kept coming forward in the fifth, but Vera had the energy and continued to land punches of his own. And while Font may have landed more in the round, Vera landed the harder shots. With a minute left, Vera showed his confidence with a little dance and showboating.
With 20 seconds left, Vera did what he had done several times previously in the fight. He landed a kick that wobbled Font – and once again may have stolen the round.
Hard work pays off 💪[ @ChitoVeraUFC | #UFCVegas53 ] pic.twitter.com/9MA8sKiFhb
— UFC (@ufc) May 1, 2022
Vera, from Ecuador, won for the third straight time. That streak is on the heels of a loss to former champion Jose Aldo. After his own decision loss to Aldo this past December, Font lost for the second straight time. Before that, he had four straight wins.
Up-to-the-minute UFC on ESPN 35 results include:
- Marlon Vera def. Rob Font via unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46 49-46)
- Andrei Arlovski def. Jake Collier via split decision (27-30, 29-28, 29-28)
- Joanderson Brito def. Andre Fili via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 0:41
- Grant Dawson def. Jared Gordon via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 3, 4:11
- Darren Elkins def. Tristan Connelly via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Krzysztof Jotko def. Gerald Meerschaert via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Alexandr Romanov def. Chase Sherman via submission (Americana) – Round 1, 2:11
- Francisco Figueiredo def. Daniel da Silva via submission (kneebar) – Round 1, 1:18
- Gabe Green def. Yohan Lainesse via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:02
- Natan Levy def. Mike Breeden via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Shanna Young def. Gina Mazany via TKO (strikes) – Round 2, 3:11