UFC Fight Night San Diego on Saturday gets an early start with preliminaries beginning at 1 p.m. PT. The 12-fight card gets a boost with two bouts originally scheduled for last week moved here.
Favorites continue to dominate as they went 6-2 (TUFF fights not included) last week and pushed the win percentage for the year to 66% based on a 186-90-6 record. That’s a pretty steep chalk hill to conquer, but selective handicapping of underdogs who are prepared to perform their best on fight night can be uncovered … and that’s what I’m here to do.
2022 profitability: 19-11 + 7.32 units based on Mayra Bueno Silva’s + 120 first-round submission of Stephanie Egger last week.
Marlon Vera (-225) vs. Dominick Cruz (+ 190)
Bantamweight (135 pounds) | Main event
The eighth-ranked Cruz is 9-2 in the UFC and is regarded by most as an elite talent since he arrived as the bantamweight division’s inaugural champion in 2010. He sports a solid wrestling base to go with his blue belt in BJJ, but his best qualities are his athleticism, legwork, discipline and fight IQ.
After earning the title, Cruz, 37, incurred injury upon injury, essentially robbing him of his prime. A win here would keep him relevant in the division, while a loss would dash his hopes for another title shot.
Cruz’s game is intelligence-based, movement-founded and executed from beguiling angles. He employs evasive defensive tactics and has complete control over space. Cruz has competed only twice since March of 2021. It’s fair to question his readiness to compete against Father Time as well as a motivated Ecuadorian eight years younger than him with reach advantages.
The fifth-ranked Vera is 13-5 in UFC, owns the record for most finishes in the history of the bantamweight division and, yes, has never been finished.
Take away an absolutely horrid decision loss to Song Yadong in 2020 and Vera would be 10-1 in his last 11 bouts with victories over fighters including Sean O’Malley, Rob Font, Frankie Edgar and Davey Grant.
Vera’s a black belt in BJJ and his application of the art increases as he measures the timing of opponents early in bouts. He usually starts slowly until he finds the rhythm. Vera’s striking is effective through volume and diversity of attack as opposed to one-punch power.
Cruz’s legwork and cardio will be greatly tested by a forward-pressing Vera throwing elbows and leg kicks. Vera must back Cruz up, press him into the cage, then tee off with knees, elbows, strikes and kicks. Vera can’t allow Cruz room to maneuver and dance.
Cruz is a true warrior as he steps into the octagon knowing Vera has the chance to ring his bell. He’ll need to use every ounce of experience and every trick in his bag to keep Vera off rhythm and hesitant to engage.
A 37-year-old heavyweight or light heavyweight can manage, but movement and cardio are vital in the lighter weight classes. Now add a couple of major knee surgeries and other injuries and it’s no wonder Cruz is a firm underdog in this five-round affair.
Total in this fight: 4.5 rounds Over -200 after opening -175
Azamat Murzakanov (-160) vs. Devin Clark (+ 140)
Light heavyweight (205 pounds)
Murzakarov faces a stiff test in this, his sophomore fight in the UFC. He’s primarily a striker who has shown little if any Russian sambo base, but it must be there. Murzakanov likes to stand and bang. In his UFC debut, he stood, threw and almost got iced.
The Russian is undefeated at 11-0, but he’s also 35 and was dealt a two-year suspension for violating anti-doping policy in 2019. I only mention this because activity level, along with UFC experience and caliber of opponent faced are all critical components of this fight.
Devon Clark is a South Dakotan, so we know he grew up around the wrestling mat. His 7-6 UFC record appears to be ordinary until we dig into whom Clark has faced. He has been in the octagon with Aleksandar Rakic, Anthony Smith, Alonzo Menifield and the explosive William Knight, who Clark finished in his last bout.
Clark leaving his usual gym to travel to Colorado for an eight-week camp at Team Elevation with Curtis Blaydes, Justin Gaethje, Kamaru Usman and the clan seems like a terrific decision. He has advantages in elite wrestling base, depth of experience and level of competition. On top of changing camps, Clark enters this bout brimming with confidence.
I released Clark + 150 Monday and the number is compressing, so take Clark + 140 now! He is in great position to award the undefeated Murzakanov his PhD in MMA.
Total in this fight: No total available as of Tuesday afternoon.
"Gamblou’s ‘Bout Business Podcast" will post Friday afternoon with UFC San Diego’s final fight releases. Catch it across all podcast platforms.