I don’t think Marlon Vera wins that fight against Rob Font in the main event if it happened a few years ago. Not that he wouldn’t be capable, but he didn’t have the maturity or execution that he showed over five rounds at an earlier stage of his career.
Vera (19-7-1 MMA, 13-6 UFC) certainly does now, though. He showed it in his comeback win over Frankie Edgar in November that ended with a devastating front kick, and he showed it again vs. Font en route to a unanimous decision win.
If you look at the numbers, Vera should not have won this. He was outlanded 271 to 159 in significant strikes (the largest negative margin in UFC history for a fighter who won a decision). But in reality, it was very clear. The three knockdowns he landed were critical, and the damage he inflicted on Font’s face was impossible to ignore.
Two of Vera’s knockdowns came at the tail end of rounds he was arguably losing, but it swung the momentum in his favor. The timing of those moments showed the level of focus “Chito” has developed in his game, because he never panicked and simply waited for his moment. He’s a violent man when he’s in that zone, and now he deserves his credit as a top-five talent in the loaded bantamweight division.
Whether Vera can navigate through that top five and get his hands on UFC gold remains to be seen. He promises he will, but the 135-pound weight class is insane, and history shows it’s tough for anyone to keep that top spot for long. Vera might have his time, though, and with the most finishes in divisional history on his resume, he brings a level of danger to the octagon that can be an X factor in any fight.