Bantamweight contender Cory Sandhagen took another step forward in his march toward the UFC title with an impressive win over Marlon “Chito” Vera in the main event of Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 43 event in San Antonio, Texas.
While Sandhagen (16-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) used dominant clinch work and a clearly improved wrestling attack to control the fight from start to finish, he did have to sweat through a rather odd split-decision read, taking the fight with scores of 50–45 and 49–46 from respected veteran judges Sal D’Amato and Chris Lee, respectively, while Joel Ojeda inexplicably scored it 48–47 for Vera (22-8-1 MMA, 14-7 UFC).
MMADecisions.com, which tracks media scores for MMA contests, noted 24 scores in favor of Sandhagen, with not a single journalist leaning toward Vera.
UFCStats.com gave Sandhagen a striking edge of 128 significant strikes to his opponent’s 58 over the course of the 25-minute matchup, as well as three official takedowns to zero for Vera.
Following the win, Sandhagen, who entered the contest at No. in the UFC’s official bantamweight rankings, called for a matchup with current No. 1 contender Merab Dvalishvili. Should that fight materialize, it could conceivably determine who challenges for the title next following the upcoming matchup between reigning champion Aljamain Sterling and former titleholder Henry Cejudo.
Complete UFC on ESPN 43 results include:
MAIN CARD (ESPN, ESPN+)
Cory 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 (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 4:11
Maycee Barber def. Andrea Lee via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Albert Duraev def. Chidi Njokuani via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Daniel Pineda def. Tucker Lutz via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 2:50
PRELIMINARY CARD (ESPN, ESPN+)
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)
C.J. Vergara def. Daniel Lacerda via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:04
Victor Altamirano def. Vinicius Salvador via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)