UFC on ESPN 35: Rob Font vs. Marlon Vera staff predictions, odds, preview 1

Rob Font and Marlon Vera will go head-to-head in this weekend’s UFC on ESPN 35 main event. The UFC fight card will take place at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday night.

The Font vs. Vera main event is now a catchweight bout now after Font weighed in over the bantamweight limit at 138.5 pounds. The betting odds have tightened in the last couple of days with Font now a -125 favorite after opening at -175. He’ll be looking to get back to winning ways following his most recent defeat to Jose Aldo in December.

Vera steps into the fight on a two-fight win streak after consecutive victories against Frankie Edgar and Davey Grant in 2021. He’s now ranked #8 in the division and will be looking to move up to in the rankings with a victory against Font who is currently ranked #5.

Read on for our staff predictions for the UFC on ESPN 35 main event and the latest betting odds.

Betting Odds

  • Rob Font: -125
  • Marlon Vera: +105

Staff Predictions

Braeden Arbour

Rob Font vs. Marlon Vera is a great match-up between two of the division’s best. One of the first aspects to this fight stylistically that sticks out is both men usually enjoy a reach advantage in their fights however neither will much in this one as the difference will be a mere single inch. That being said, Rob Font is the fighter who predominantly finds more success at the end of his straight punches while Marlon tends to do his best work with hooks and uppercuts. On the outside, Font has a wicked jab and sets almost everything up behind it. Mostly an orthodox fighter, Font will switch his stance up in order to angle off and cut off lateral exits when he is really trying to pour on the pressure. Of the two men he fights more like a boxer, standing heavy on the lead leg and using a very tight high guard, in a fight where both men are head hunting it’s difficult to match Font due to his reach, footwork, and defensive guard but Vera is extremely good at mixing between all possible targets. Compared to Font’s boxing approach, Vera stands moreso like a Muay Thai artist, he is often light on the lead leg and likes to use a lot of kicks mainly to the body and legs but these also set up the fewer but potentially fight-ending kicks to the head.

In general, Font has the better pace in his fights as he punches in combinations a bit better and he tends to get off earlier in the fight whereas Vera has a bit of a feeling-out process in round 1. That being said, the heaviest shots Font has taken in his career are when opponents follow his strikes back to him and counter behind Font’s combinations. Particularly, with such a high guard he sometimes leaves his midsection exposed, especially against those who are good at touching the guard and entering a clinch and knee very quickly. For Vera, knees down the middle, as well as leg kicked, will be key factors in looking for the win.

I believe that for the most part, this fight will be a stand-up affair but grappling exchanges will happen. Neither man has particularly strong takedown defense but are dangerous off of their back. Font stretches on shots leaving room to take him down should you be able to angle off and Vera tends to allow his stance to narrow as he fights so tall which also takes away from his base should he need to sprawl. On their backs, Font uses fundamentals but he is very active and is great at not settling whenever his opponent transitions. His best asset is consistently regarding and making any kind of progression difficult. Vera has a less active guard but the moment space is created he is using the opportunity to strike and he is one of the best in the UFC at landing upkicks.

Finally, one of the biggest elements of this fight is that neither man wants to fight moving backwards. Font wants to push his opponents back, circle around and pick them apart with lunging shots, but moving backwards, managing his advantageous range is harder. Vera also wants to walk his opponents down because his strikes come far more effectively when he is blasting ahead, especially onto the cage. Whoever can establish a greater presence and push forward likely already wins half of the battle. I also believe for the most part we will see Font winning on the outside and picking Vera apart but when Vera does land by either countering or intercepting Font’s lunges we will see the more damaging shots. Ultimately I think this can add up over the 5 rounds significantly.

Prediction: Marlon Vera to win

Michael Pounders

Rob Font, and the rest of the fighters in the New England Cartel, is an excellent boxer. He fights from a wide boxing stance but is able to move effortlessly in and out of range. At range, Font has one of the best, if not the best jab in the bantamweight division. The #5 ranked fighter has noticeably long arms and uses them, along with his expert footwork, to dictate and maintain his desired range in a fight. He is able to fire his jab like a piston at a high volume and with pinpoint accuracy. Beyond that one strike, Font throws in tight and technically superior combinations that pack real heat. His right cross and left hook combination is picture-perfect from a technical evaluation and it deals out real damage. While Font boxes as his primary attack, he is adept at landing leg kicks as well. They are few and far between compared to his high-volume punching; but, as with his jab, his leg kicks land with a snap. The other wrinkle to Font’s game, also a growing trademark of the New England Cartel fighters, is his ability to defensively sprawl and offensively wrestle. Because of Font’s naturally wide boxing base, he is able to pivot his hips to square up when an opponent shoots for a takedown. From here Font digs in underhooks and effectively stuffs the takedown or sprawls to force his opponent out of position. Then it’s back to the feet where Font is in his world.

Where Font is elite in one area and solid in others, Vera is the epitome of a “jack of all trades” fighter. He is incredibly tough, strikes with variety from range and in the pocket, can offensively and defensively wrestle, and has the striking power and submission game to end a fight anywhere it goes. The gaps in Vera’s game are that he can be passive, looking to return counters rather than engage first. That, because of his toughness and power, can struggle against pressure and volume as he eats a combination to return a single power shot. Finally, that he has never gone longer than 3 rounds. That is what makes him such an intriguing matchup. In the octagon, Vera will fight with a Muay-Thai stance where he stands tall and switch stances fluidly. From either stance, Vera lands chopping leg kicks and often follows them with counter strikes once his opponent tries to counter the original leg kick. After exchanging heavy shots, Vera will often look to clinch against the cage. He keeps excellent head position and can grind his opponent down to the mat. Once down, Vera has a solid submission game with an ability to not sacrifice position for submission. Ultimately, “Chito” has the talent and skillset to challenge anyone in the bantamweight rankings; but, his lower output and negative strike differential cause him to lose close decisions.

In every aspect of this fight, I foresee Font being a slight step ahead. He will have the quicker and crisper strikes, land with more accuracy and volume, and be equal in power. In the wrestling exchanges, I think Font’s growth will allow him to dictate if the fight remains on the feet or the mat. Vera is tough and dangerous; I anticipate him making this fight close but Font edging him out round after round in an exciting fight.

Prediction: Rob Font by Decision

Joe Pounders

Ron Font’s style resembles that of his close training partner, and title-contending featherweight, Calvin Kattar. Both he and Kattar are elite boxers that land beautiful, crisp combinations. Font’s separating fight attribute is working off an elite jab. This jab is thrown with quickness and without any telegraph whatsoever; moreover, the effectiveness of the jab is further achieved given Font often has the reach advantage over his opponent. Using his effective jab as the main weapon open’s up opportunities to land a secondary strike behind that jab, often a damaging body punch or an underrated calf kick. In total, the boxing game of Font is extremely high-level and effective, not necessarily in terms of damaging power, but rather, in out-striking his opponent to victory.

The main issue with employing a predominant boxing-style approach is having a heavy lead leg that is needed to land effective jabs and combinations. Often, having a heavy lead leg leaves one susceptible to wearing calf kicks which are quite damaging. This negative to the boxing style has proved to be an issue for Font in previous bouts, but, knowing his training partner – Calvin Kattar – just had incredible success in negating potential calf kicks from a renowned kickboxing opponent, I foresee Font learning from the performance and implement a similar approach in this upcoming matchup – likely a heavy-pressure, in-the-pocket tactic.

Lastly, Font, being a highly-ranked fighter in an incredibly deep division, does have underrated wrestling. His wrestling acumen is both for negating takedowns coupled with having the skills and comfort to land takedowns of his own. So, beyond the heavy lead leg and somewhat underwhelming power on the feet for being an elite boxer, Font has very few flaws in his game.

Vera is another fighter who is extremely well-rounded with sprinkles of elite attributes throughout his fight game. Perhaps his best attack is a combination of impressive calf strikes with a truly elite chin. This combination may seem odd to lump together, but, Vera has shown a willingness and effectiveness to throw close-range calf strikes from a range susceptible to danger, ultimately trusting his chin can take any counterstrike which may come – he has never been finished as a professional fighter. Also, while in range, working off his lower-level attacks, Vera has a solid Muay-Thai game where he throws effective knees and elbows alike.

Similar to Font, Vera can mix in a takedown attempt when he wants to mix up the tactics and direction of the fight. Albeit he has the skills to do so, he ultimately favors standing toe-to-toe with his opponent as he trusts that he has the better chin and power. This trust in attributes is perhaps explanatory to the only observed weakness of his – starting slowly. More specifically, Vera has shown a tendency to start slow, trusting his fight-ending power, and this choice has resulted in him losing razor-close decisions in the past. So, he will need to show better urgency in this fight if he desires to win what is likely to be very close rounds.

There is a common phrase used by fighters but rarely adhered to when forecasting outcomes: “there are levels to this game.” In this fight, I believe there is a level difference between Font and Vera. Specifically, I believe Font’s boxing is a level ahead of Vera’s Muay Thai; and, contrary to what some may say, I believe Font has the grappling edge in this particular matchup. So long as Font can show improvement in negating the calf strike – a strike which Vera has shown to throw quite well – I believe he will cruise to a decision win against the extremely tough and durable Vera.

Bet: Rob Font by Decision

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