UFC Fight Night from San Antonio: Kligman picks Marlon Vera vs Cory Sandhagen, Holly Holm vs Yana Santos
A bantamweight blockbuster awaits in San Antonio at the AT&T Center, where two title contenders look to take the next step in their treacherous journey for the title this Saturday, Mar. 25.
Former title challenger Cory Sandhagen headlines a thrilling card for the first UFC event this year in Texas. Everything is bigger in Texas, including the main card, with six fights scheduled.
Keep reading for more insight about UFC Fight Night San Antonio, with picks and a preview of this talented card. Throughout 2023, my picks are 24-11-2.
UFC Fight Night San Antonio Main Card
Bantamweight: Marlon Vera vs. Cory Sandhagen
Bantamweight: Holly Holm vs. Yana Santos
Featherweight: Nate Landwehr vs. Austin Lingo
Flyweight: Andrea Lee vs. Maycee Barber
Flyweight: Alex Perez vs. Manel Kape
Middleweight: Chidi Njokuani vs. Albert Duraev
UFC Fight Night San Antonio Prelims
Featherweight: Daniel Pineda vs. Tucker Lutz
Featherweight: Steven Peterson vs. Lucas Alexander
Welterweight: Trevin Giles vs. Preston Parsons
Flyweight: CJ Vergara vs. Daniel Da Silva
Lightweight: Manuel Torres vs. Trey Ogden
Flyweight: Victor Altamirano vs. Vinicius Salvador
Bantamweight: Hailey Cowan vs. Tamires Vidal
Marlon Vera (20-7-1) vs. Cory Sandhagen (15-4)
Two fighters peaking at the same time square off in what should be an explosive main event between Marlon “Chito” Vera and Cory Sandhagen.
Vera has as inspiring a story as any UFC fighter on the roster. After moving from Ecuador to the United States to fight in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), Vera has incrementally climbed the rankings. Chito is on a roll, defeating former champions Frankie Edgar and Dominick Cruz during his four-fight win streak. Vera is still the only fighter to hand the number two contender in the division, Sean O’Malley, a loss.
Sandhagen has proved he can stand with anyone in the division, only losing to former champions in the UFC. Sandhagen is coming off a much-needed dominant stoppage win in September after losing two in a row, making Song Yadong unrecognizable after being battered with an array of punches. His patented flying knee is also something to always keep an eye on. Sandhagen is a finisher, too, forcing a stoppage in six of his eight victories.
This fight should be as advertised and will undoubtedly be a war between two fighters eyeing championship gold.
My pick: Marlon Vera
Holly Holm (14-6) vs. Yana Santos (14-6)
The co-main event features former champion Holly Holm, pitted against her former training partner Yana Santos.
Holm, now 41, just signed a new six-fight contract with the UFC, guaranteeing a few more appearances in the octagon. Holm is a historic fighter and the first woman to finish Ronda Rousey, but has had mixed reviews since then. Since her fight with Rousey, Holm is just 4-6 in the UFC, failing to defend the belt once.
Santos started her career fighting in the now-nonexistent women’s featherweight division, ultimately losing the title shot in her first UFC appearance against Cristiane Justino. Santos has recovered, though, bouncing back and going 4-2 in her last six appearances. Now a matchup with Holm is her toughest task to date. Something to note about Santos is that all her losses have come via knockout, while all of her wins have gone to the scorecards.
Holm is dangerous on her feet and looking to make a statement after her new contract extension, but her age is still a concern.
My pick: Holly Holm
Nate Landwehr (16-4) vs. Austin Lingo (9-1)
Rising featherweights collide in Nate Landwehr and Austin Lingo for a spot in the top 15.
Landwehr was originally scheduled to fight Alex Caceres, but Caceres pulled out weeks before the event forcing Lingo in as a replacement. While in the UFC, Landwehr has shown he’s a willing and capable striker and showed some wrestling prowess, taking down David Onama three times in his last fight.
Lingo is making his fourth appearance in the UFC. Lingo has just one loss to his name in his professional career - a loss that came during his debut for the organization against Youssef Zalal. Zalal constantly exposed Lingo’s wrestling game, taking him down six times, resulting in a unanimous decision win. Lingo’s three fights in the UFC have all come down to the judges, with three unanimous decisions.
Landwehr’s stand-up game might be too much for Lingo, and if he can mix in a few takedowns, Lingo will have his hands full. That said, Lingo could connect at any moment and stagger Landwehr on his feet.
My pick: Nate Landwehr
Andrea Lee (13-6) vs. Maycee Barber (11-2)
Before Holm and Santos take the stage for the co-main event, Andrea Lee and Maycee Barber welcome us to a clash between two top 15 flyweights.
Lee started her UFC career on a blistering three-fight win streak before losing her next three. Since dropping three in a row, Lee is 2-1, with finishes coming by knockout and submission – but she lost her last fight. Now looking to recover and develop consistency, Lee is tasked with defeating a streaking Barber. Lee will have the advantage in the reach department, with nearly five-inches on Barber.
Barber, a Dana White Contender Series (DWCS) alum, is a winner of six of her first eight UFC fights, looking to add to her current win streak. Barber comes in on a three-fight win streak after losing to decision twice in a row, once to now champion Alexa Grasso. Barber is a good boxer, knocking out half of her opponents in her wins, but has failed to put someone on the mat in nearly four years.
This would be a huge win for Lee looking to regain stability, but Barber could be more than she can handle.
My pick: Maycee Barber
Alex Perez (24-7) vs. Manel Kape (18-6)
This fight has the potential for a freaky fast finish between Alex Perez and Manel Kape.
Perez hasn’t seen a second round in his last four fights, and of his nine fights in the UFC, six have finished in the first round. Perez isn’t afraid to start fast, as seen by his track record, but has been submitted in his last two fights showing susceptibility to going to the ground. Thankfully for Perez, Kape is not a wrestler. Perez has lost his last two fights after compiling six wins in his first seven fights and needs to get back in the win column.
It took Kape three fights before earning a victory in the UFC, where his record is now 3-2 for the company, currently riding a three-fight win streak. Kape has only two takedowns to his name, both coming in his UFC debut loss to Alexandre Pantoja. Look for Kape to stay true to his game and try to outstrike Perez.
Although ranked three spots lower than Perez, Kape enters the fight as the betting favorite at -180 on DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook of the UFC. Fighting somebody is one thing, but when they’re desperate like Perez is - anything can happen.
My pick: Alex Perez
Chidi Njokuani (22-8) vs. Albert Duraev (15-4)
Both fighters enter this contest off a loss, with both Chidi Njokuani and Albert Duraev eager to reign victorious.
Njokuani, a DWCS alum, is yet to see a third round, with all of his fights coming by knockout. Last time out, he was finished by Gregory Rodrigues but was only outstruck four times. In this fight against Duraev, Njokuani holds a four-inch height advantage and a five-inch reach advantage. Njokuani is an explosive fighter always looking for the finish who wants to stay upright and throw punches.
Duraev hails from a wrestling background but is keen to show his striking game. In this case, it might not be the best option against Njokuani, but Duraev is looking to make a point. If he can’t do damage on his feet, look for Duraev to level change and rely on his wrestling skills.
If this fight stays upright, either fighter can win, but if the fight hits the canvas, Duraev should have the upper hand.
My pick: Albert Duraev
You can watch the prelims (4 PM EST) and main card (7 PM EST) on ESPN and ESPN+.