UFC betting, odds: Marlon Vera vs. Cory Sandhagen is a fight fan's dream

Prepare for violence this Saturday night when the UFC heads to San Antonio. The five-round main event between Marlon "Chito" Vera and Cory Sandhagen has very significant title implications. The current bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling, is slated to defend his belt against Henry Cejudo in early May, with "Sugar" Sean O'Malley waiting for the winner.

Vera, currently ranked third, has an opportunity to position himself to fight No. 1-ranked Merab Dvalishvili in a title eliminator later this year. There are a lot of moving parts that will bring the top of the division more into focus. But one thing is for sure: A loss for Vera would be devastating to his title aspirations.

If you think that puts all the pressure on the Vera side, think again. His opponent, the fifth-ranked Sandhagen, is widely regarded as one of the top bantamweights but has lost two of his last three fights. Losing three of four would end any chance of him fighting his way through the logjam at the top of the division in the near future.

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Sandhagen is currently the betting favorite (-175) at BetMGM despite being slotted two spots behind Vera in the rankings. Does that create value on Vera as a +135 underdog? Let's break down one of the most exciting free main events in recent memory.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 13: Marlon Vera of Ecuador reacts after his knockout victory over Dominick Cruz in a bantamweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Pechanga Arena on August 13, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Marlon Vera keeps improving and has some paths to victory against Cory Sandhagen. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Marlon Vera (+135) vs. Cory Sandhagen (-165)

Sandhagen is going to outland Vera. That's probably the easiest thing to predict regarding Saturday night's main event. In his last three fights, Sandhagen has outstruck each of his opponents by a combined 78 strikes. That's very impressive, considering the opponents were T.J. Dillashaw, Petr Yan and Song Yadong. However, he lost two of three, and both losses ended up in the hands of the judges. Quite simply, the volume hasn't equated to victory when fighting the top of the food chain.

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Now he faces Vera, who holds the unique ability to consistently win fights, whether by stoppage or decision while absorbing more shots than he delivers. Vera is not a minute winner, but he wins rounds with an assault of powerful kicks, elbows and punches. He is an artist, painting his opponents' face with damage in a way that's impossible for the judges to ignore. In a three-round fight, I could probably get comfortable with Sandhangen as a favorite of this size, but the five rounds give Chito much more time to accumulate damage on his opponent.

This is a rare fight where the cardio advantage is not with Sandhagen. I believe Cory will have the stamina to survive Vera's attack, but the inevitable accumulation of damage will leave a lasting impression on the judges. I think this fight is won in the championship rounds, where "Chito" takes over and carves him up. It's going to be a phenomenal fight, but Vera has yet to reach his peak as a fighter, and the San Antonio crowd will see the best version of him yet.

The bet: Marlon Vera (+135)

Fight to go the distance (-150)

A bantamweight banger between two elite strikers doesn't typically have me running to place a bet on the fight hitting the scorecards. However, we are in for five full rounds of sweet carnage with this one. Both fighters are very durable and have been in there with the best. Sandhagen was finished for the first and only time in his career by Sterling, the current champ, in 2020. Vera has been fighting in the UFC for eight years and has never been knocked out or submitted. Despite the offensive onslaught coming our way and finishing potential each fighter carries, the high stakes have me convinced both fighters will last.

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The over at 3.5 rounds is a bit expensive (-200), and I'd rather play the -150 for the fight to go the distance considering the 60% implied probability. If you agree with my position that the damage Vera delivers will win over the judges in most scenarios, then the best prop bet you can make is Vera by decision at +600.

The bet: Marlon Vera by decision (+600)

Stats provided by Richard Mann and ufcstats.com.