UFC Fight Night 43 Review: Sandhagen vs Vera

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images.

In the UFC Fight Night 43 on ESPN Main event, Top-Five Bantamweight Contenders Cory Sandhagen and Marlon Vera went the distance in a mostly tactical striking battle. Sandhagen was able to outland Vera on the feet and also controlled the fight on the ground. Unfortunately, the judge’s scorecards again were in question this week as one inexperienced judge scored the contest in favor of Vera. Veteran judge Sal D’Amato scored the contest (50-45) for Sandhagen which was the consensus online globally. In the Co-Main event, Former UFC Bantamweight Champion Holly Holm got back in the win column with a unanimous decision victory over Yana Santos. Also on the UFC Fight Night 43 main card, Nate “The Train” Landwehr extended his win streak to three submitting Austin Lingo in the second round.

Sandhagen (16-4) Def. Vera (20-8):

Cory Sandhagen put on a dominant display Saturday night, out-landing Marlon Vera nearly three to one on the feet. Sandhagen also won the grappling exchanges, securing three takedowns for seven minutes of ground control. Sandhagen entered this contest as a slight betting favorite (-170) at online sportsbooks. Vera is a highly touted prospect with impressive knockout wins over former champions Frankie Edgar and Dominick Cruz on his resume but was unable to get much offense going throughout the fight. Sandhagen fought for the Bantamweight title in 2021 and will continue to rise back up the UFC rankings after this weekend.

In round one Sandhagen took control of the cage, using a stiff jab to back Vera up. Both fighters exchanged punches and leg kicks at distance but Sandhagen landed with more efficiency. Vera seemed to be waiting for the opportunity to land a fight-changing strike but Sandhagen was defensively sound on the feet. In round two Sandhagen again landed at a higher volume. To everyone’s surprise, Sandhagen threatened multiple takedown attempts. Sandhagen is known for his kickboxing but was able to catch Vera off guard and secure multiple takedowns throughout the fight. While on the ground in round two Sandhagen was cut open across the hairline by an elbow from Vera. Sandhagen began to bleed profusely but was unfazed and continued to march forward.

Final rounds and What’s Next?

In rounds three and four Sandhagen was able to distance himself and take a lead. On the feet, Sandhagen threw creative strikes like flying knees to keep Vera guessing. Vera loaded up multiple times for kicks or single punches but was unable to land effectively on Sandhagen. Sandhagen was able to control Vera on the ground in round four but was unable to find a submission or land heavy ground and pound.

Entering the fifth I had Sandhagen up four rounds to zero. Vera was able to put together his best round of the fight, defending takedown attempts and scrambling to his feet. Vera knew he needed a finish in the Final round but again was unable to land anything damaging. After five rounds the judges scored the contest in favor of Sandhagen (50-45, 47-48, 49-46).

This was officially a split decision win for Sandhagen, with one judge scoring the fight for Vera. I cannot explain how someone saw that fight for Vera but fortunately, the other two judges scored the fight correctly. Sandhagen is on the doorstep of a title shot but may still be one fight away. A potentially entertaining matchup with No.1 Merab Dvalishvili could be next for Sandhagen.

Holm (15-6) Def. Santos (14-7):

In the Co Main-event of UFC Fight Night 43 MMA pioneer and combat sports legend Holly Holm returned to the octagon after signing a new 6-fight deal. Holm is the former 135-pound women’s champion but had lost a decision to Ketlen Vieira in her last fight. Santos had won two of her last three coming into this contest and holds wins over respected contenders Lina Lansberg and Marion Reneau.

To the surprise of many, Holm utilized a grapple-heavy game plan and controlled the fight on the ground. Holm is a former professional boxer who is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and rarely goes for takedowns. Santos was able to compete well on the feet but had no answer for Holm’s wrestling. Holm secured four of six takedown attempts for nine minutes of ground control in a fifteen-minute fight. After three rounds Holm was awarded a Unanimous decision victory (30-26, 30-27, 30-27).

Landwehr (17-4) Def. Lingo (9-2):

To open up the main card, Nate “The Train” Landwehr and Austin Lingo put on the most entertaining fight of the night. Landwehr is extremely durable and a tough competitor at 145 pounds. Landwehr has power in his hands and also is an underrated grappler. Lingo normally utilizes a boxing-heavy approach and has three knockout wins on his resume. In round one Lingo pushed the pace early looking to back Landwehr to the cage and throw big right hands. Landwehr absorbed Lingo’s punches and kept circling the cage. Landwehr was then able to get inside Lingo and land a combination to the body before the end of the round.

Lingo seemed to have used a fair amount of his energy in round one and was no longer stalking Landwehr. Landwehr started to land power shots on Lingo who was now on the defensive. Landwehr was able to secure a takedown midway through round two. Once on the ground Landwehr transitioned to the back of Lingo and locked in a rear naked choke submission ending the fight. Landwehr has now won three in a row in the Featherweight division and may find himself in a high-profile fight next. A solid next opponent for Landwehr would be No.11 Bryce Mitchell. Mitchell is coming off a rather lopsided loss to No.9 Ilia Topuria and a fight with Landwher may be the perfect way to see where Mitchell is at after getting finished.

UFC Fight Night 43 prelims:

The UFC Fight Night 43 prelims contained a few noteworthy performances. At Featherweight UFC veteran and Texas native Daniel Pineda (28-14) defeated Tucker Lutz (12-3) by submission. Pineda cashed as a (+220) underdog at online sportsbooks, finishing Lutz in the second round. Also on the prelims, CJ Vergara knocked out Daniel Lacerda in a wild back-and-forth contest. Vergara was badly hurt in the first round, at one point running around the cage to avoid the charging Lacerda. In round two Vegara was able to find top position on the ground and landed 35+ unanswered punches that forced the referee to stop the fight.

The UFC will be off next week but returns April 8th with a massive Middleweight title rematch between (C) Alex Pereira and former champion Israel Adesanya on PPV.

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