clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UFC San Diego: Vera vs. Cruz - Winners and Losers

The real winners and losers from UFC San Diego

Marlon Vera defeated Dominick Cruz at UFC San Diego.
Marlon Vera defeated Dominick Cruz at UFC San Diego.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

What is essentially a UFC bantamweight tournament began on Saturday night with Marlon Vera making an unscheduled and unwanted adjustment to the shape of Dominick Cruz’s nose via a head kick in the fourth round of their UFC San Diego main event.

The victory earned Vera his fourth straight win and fourth consecutive post-fight bonus. He now gets to sit and watch as the upcoming bouts between Merab Dvalishvili and Jose Aldo at UFC 278 and the pair of 135-pound fights at UFC 280 — champion Aljamain Sterling vs. T.J. Dillashaw and Petr Yan vs. Sean O’Malley — shake out before he knows his next assignment.

Exciting times are in full swing for the UFC’s bantamweight division.

And speaking of exhilarating moments, the UFC San Diego card, which took place at Pechanga Arena was full of those fantastic happenings. Read on for the winners and losers from UFC San Diego.

Winners:

Marlon Vera: According to my quick (and perhaps incorrect) research, Marlon Vera didn’t break into the official UFC bantamweight rankings until late October 2019. By that time, Vera had been with the UFC for nearly five years and had a record of 9-4. He dropped out of those rankings in June 2020 and didn’t return until he defeated Sean O’Malley in August. He briefly fell out of the top-15 again in early 2021, but by late February of that year, he secured his position as the No. 15 fighter.

Since locking himself into the top-15, Vera has done nothing but rise in the rankings, raise his profile in the UFC and climb closer to a bantamweight title fight. Vera extended his winning streak to four straight with his brutal head kick knockout of Dominick Cruz in the fourth round of their main event bout at UFC San Diego, where he entered the contest as the No. 5 ranked fighter in the 135-pound division.

Vera is as confident a fighter you will find in the UFC’s 135-pound division right now and a knockout win over the former champ will not diminish that self-assurance one bit.

Nate Landwehr: Nate Landwehr might not be a technically good fighter, but he is a fighter to the core. If the UFC wants to test the heart, resolve and toughness of a rising featherweight competitor, a fight against Landwehr will do that. Landwehr defeated David Onama on Saturday night and left us with a lot more questions about Onama than we had before this fight card.

Yazmin Jauregui vs. Iasmin Lucindo: These two young strawweights put on a fantastic 15-minute scrap at UFC San Diego. Jauregui (23) took the unanimous decision win to move to 9-0 as a pro. Lucindo (20), saw her seven-fight winning streak end in the bout.

It felt like these two wanted to take advantage of being on the main card for their UFC debuts and that they did, putting on a striking battle that brought UFC president Dana White to his feet at the end of Round 2 and saw the UFC boss pull the victorious fighter aside as she left the Octagon.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see both these women on another main card, perhaps a pay-per-view card, in their next outings.

Azamat Murzakanov: Azamat Murzakanov made body strikes a big focus of his approach against Devin Clark and by the time the third round rolled around, the payout of emphasizing the body as a target paid dividends as Clark dropped to the mat where Murzakanov finished the fight via ground strikes. With the stoppage, his second in two fights with the UFC, moved Murzakanov’s record to 11-0 with eight knockouts.

Priscila Cachoeira: Priscila Cachoeira moved to .500 in the UFC with her knockout win over Ariane Lipski at UFC San Diego. Three of Cachoeira’s victories, including Saturday’s triumph, have come via knockout.

Gerald Meerschaert: Gerald Meerschaert had a good game plan for Bruno Silva, mix up his striking, pursue takedowns and avoid the power of his foe. He did that for most of the fight and when the opening came in the third round to land a power punch, he did, dropping Silva and using that set up a guillotine choke submission. Meerschaert showed a veteran’s savvy in switching to the choke instead of pursuing the knockout finish.

Angela Hill: Fan favorite Angela Hill ended the first three-fight losing skid of her career on Saturday with a decision win over Lupita Godinez. I don’t know if Hill would have been released with a fourth straight loss because she is a fighter the UFC can count on to accept fights on short notice and deliver exciting scraps, but her win on Saturday allowed the UFC matchmakers to avoid pondering that question.

Lukasz Brzeski: Lukasz Brzeski was on the wrong end of a split decision against Martin Buday, but I liked his high output style and how he mixed up his striking targets. Brzeski’s lack of power hurt him in this matchup.

Nina Nunes: Nina Nunes retired after her win over Cynthia Calvillo at UFC San Diego. She said she is going to focus on coaching and the family she and her wife, two-division UFC champion Amanda Nunes, share. All fighters want to go out on a win. Nunes is doing that.

Gabriel Benitez: Gabriel Benitez was struggling with the length of his opponent, Charlie Ontiveros, in the early going of their bout. However, after opening a cut near the eye of Ontiveros and a break because of a knee to the groin from Benitez, the momentum changed. Benitez turned the tables and swarmed Ontiveros with strikes before dumping him to the mat and finishing the fight in a violent manner. The win ended a two-fight losing skid for Benitez.

Tyson Nam: Tyson Nam returned to action after more than a year out of the cage due to injury and while he didn’t spend much time in the cage, he made the most of that time. Nam, a professional fighter since 2006, easily avoided a jumping knee from Ode’ Osbourne and he perfectly timed a right hand that landed on the unprotected chin of Osbourne. A great return to action for the 38-year-old, who didn’t get the call from the UFC until 2019.

Also, props for coming to the mic with this phrase, “Bingo, Bango, Pickled Mango. I love you San Diego!”

Josh Quinlan: When Josh Quinlan earned his UFC contract on the DWCS via a nasty early knockout, UFC president Dana White said of Quinlan, “You couldn’t have a better debut, kid.” Daniel Cormier, who was working the commentary of that event, said, “My goodness, you want to make a statement, you do that.”

Well, Quinlan, in his first official UFC fight, topped that knockout in San Diego, sending an unconscious Jason Witt to the mat with a massive left hook.

I don’t know how many of Josh Quinlan’s future opponents will give him time, space and keep their hands down, but if they do, there’s a good chance they’ll end up on Quinlan’s highlight reel.

One item to keep an eye on with Quinlan is if he has issues with athletic commissions related to “pulsing” of the M3 metabolite of dehydrochloromethyltestosterone (DHCMT).

Losers:

Dominick Cruz: With an unquestionable knockout loss to Marlon Vera, ex-UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz is, at 37, likely out of the running for another shot at UFC gold. Cruz was the No. 8 ranked fighter ahead of this matchup and with the depth (and age) of the talent in front of him, it’s doubtful that he has the time left in his career to mount another run at the title.

With that, the question becomes, what’s next for Cruz?

David Onama: David Onama had a very good first round against Nate Landwehr, however Landwehr showed Onama that he’s built different and dragged Onama into deep and turbulent waters and seemed close to breaking Onama. At 28, Onama has been a pro since 2019. He is very much a work in progress. His fight with Landwehr could be a turning point in his career. The problem I have with that is that I don’t know which way Onama will turn. I think we’ll find out a lot more about Onama and his potential upside in his next outing if the UFC books him against a fighter with a similar style to Landwehr.

Don’t forget, Onama was a -340 favorite when this matchup began, which made him one of the biggest favorites on the card. I have no doubt the UFC matchmakers expected him to beat Landwehr and move on to bigger and better things.

James Krause: I saw a lot of praise on social media for how James Krause handled David Onama between the second and third round of his fight opposite Nate Landwehr. I disagree. Krause asked Onama if he wanted to keep fighting. Onama failed to answer. In response, Krause kept repeating the question - he asked five times. No reply from Onama was a response, and Krause ignored that before finally telling him, “you gotta keep fighting.” I don’t think that deserves praise.

Ariane Lipski: Priscila Cachoeira tagged Ariane Lipski with a counter. That punch hurt Lipski, but instead of retreating or defending, Lipski engaged in a slugfest, which resulted in Cachoeira getting a TKO victory in the first stanza. With three losses over her last four, the former KSW champion’s UFC career is in jeopardy.

Bruno Silva: I’m not saying Bruno Silva is a one-trick pony, but with 19 of his 22 career victories coming via knockout, it seems as if he might be an easy fighter to plan for. Silva seemed to get frustrated by his opponent in this fight, Gerald Meerschaert, and that frustration resulted in him over-throwing his strikes and putting himself out of position. Meerschaert submitted Silva in the third round. The loss put Silva on the first two-fight losing skid since 2012.

Jason Witt: Thirty-five year old Jason Witt has lost four times in the past two years. All those losses have come via knockout. That might be a sign to consider his mixed martial arts future.

Youssef Zalal: Youssef Zalal needed a win at UFC San Diego. He didn’t get it. With that, his record with the promotion fell to 0-3-1 since October 2020.

Zalal has skills, but a lack of urgency might have cost him in this contest. Had he been more aggressive in the first two rounds, he might have earned the win in his matchup opposite Da’Mon Blackshear, instead he settled for a draw.

Da’Mon Blackshear: Da’Mon Blackshear learned a lesson in his UFC debut: there are levels to MMA. Blackshear, a former Cage Fury bantamweight champion, took his bout against Youssef Zalal on short notice and while he showed some positives, he is a work in progress.

Blackshear has some skills, but he needs to show better situational awareness, make better decisions on what techniques to use and be more patient. He also needs to set a better pace because he ran out of gas in the third round and that nearly cost him the fight.

If Blackshear gets a full camp for his next outing, we should be able to get a better idea of just how good he is in the octagon.

UFC fighter pay: The UFC continues to have a starting pay rate of $10,000 for some fighters, which was the case for Brzeski and Quinlan. That’s despicable and indefensible.

Neither:

Martin Buday: Martin Buday picked up a split decision win over Lukasz Brzeski. Buday can take a punch and he has power, but he is a bit plodding, which is not a surprise since he weighed in at 266. and his tendency to focus on head strikes shows a somewhat limited game plan.