UFC Shifts Vera vs. Sandhagen Headliner to UFC on ESPN 43 in San Antonio

The Ultimate Fighting Championship appears to have listened to the fans.

On Thursday night, Sports Illustrated first broke the news that Marlon Vera (20-7-1) vs. Cory Sandhagen (15-4) will no longer be taking place atop UFC Fight Night 219. That event booked at the UFC Apex will not keep Vera-Sandhagen on its billing anymore, as the five-round bantamweight bonanza has been moved to UFC on ESPN 43. This March 25 fight card will go down at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, rather than the confines of the Apex. It has not yet been determined which bout will serve as the headliner of the Feb. 18 show, but news of this shift has been confirmed by multiple outlets.

After Vera vs. Sandhagen was announced, fan and media sentiment reflected that a large audience should be treated to the potential violence that is their five-rounder. The specific reason for its relocation was not announced, but neither fighter appear to have suffered an injury that would require their match bumped back one month. At UFC Fight Night 219, the highest-billed fight remaining on the listing is Taila Santos vs. Erin Blanchfield at 125 pounds.

Vera will come into this match on a tear, as the winner of his last four bouts dating back to 2021. “Chito” has alternated decisions wins over Davey Grant and Rob Font with clean knockouts of Frankie Edgar and Dominick Cruz, with the last coming in August 2022 in the headliner against Cruz. The Ecuadorian with a stellar finish rate of 80% possesses an equal number of knockouts to submissions on his ledger, although knockouts do account for his last four stoppages. Vera holds the UFC’s bantamweight record with the most wins inside the distance (10) while trailing T.J. Dillashaw’s top knockout spot (seven) by one.

Former interim title challenger Sandhagen put an end to his first career losing streak – a split decision to Dillashaw and a five-round defeat to Petr Yan for the interim strap – by wrecking Yadong Song in September 2022. After 20 minutes of action, the doctor intervened to save Song from further damage, granting Sandhagen the fifth win of this type in Round 4 or later in company history. Before his pair of defeats, Sandhagen placed himself in top contendership by wiping out Marlon Moraes with a spinning wheel kick in 2021 and following it with a highlight-reel flying knee on Edgar in early 2021.

UFC on ESPN 43 will be the first UFC event to air on ESPN in 2023, and it will be held at San Antonio’s AT&T Center on March 25. It is currently unclear if the reported rematch between Raquel Pennington and Irene Aldana will remain on the card. Other key fights on this Texas-based show include a bantamweight battle pitting Holly Holm against Yana Kunitskaya, a flyweight scrap as Alex Perez takes on Manel Kape and a welterweight collision when Sean Brady meets Michel Pereira.

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