UFC on ESPN 43 results: Cory Sandhagen too tricky for Marlon Vera in puzzling split decision

Cory Sandhagen turned in a masterful performance, and Texas judging almost ruined it.

The bantamweight main event of UFC on ESPN 43 at AT&T Center certainly didn’t lack action, as Sandhagen (17-4 MMA, 10-3 UFC) was too elusive and varied in his attacks for Vera (20-8-1 MMA, 14-7 UFC). Somehow, the judges were split in their decision after five rounds, as scores of 50-45 and 49-46 were read in Sandhagen’s favor, with a dissenting judge turning in a card of 48-47 for Vera.

Sandhagen was active early, offering combinations of punches to the body and head. Vera remained patient as he studied his opponent’s movement, but the forward pressure was heavy. Midway through the round, Sandhagen took the fight to the mat nicely with a trip takedown, and began looking for ground-and-pound strikes. Vera remained defensively sound, and snuck in an elbow of his own from the bottom that opened a cut on Sandhagen. Despite the blood, Sandhagen continued to land heavy shots until the round ended.

Sandhagen went right back to the heavy-pressure attack in the second, leading to an early takedown. Vera caught the neck for a guillotine attempt, and although it appeared deep for a moment, Sandhagen slipped out. From there, more punches from the top rained down. Vera eventually worked his way back up with about 90 seconds remaining, but didn’t muster much offense as Sandhagen continued to fire first.

After receiving impassioned feedback from his corner between rounds, Vera came out with more aggression in the third, which made for some intense striking exchanges. Sandhagen looked for the takedown, but Vera stuffed it, and the bantamweights traded on the feet for the entirety of Round 3.

Vera stopped three takedown attempts early in Round 4, including a beautiful sprawl of the last try. Much like the previous round, Sandhagen won a majority of the exchanges by darting in and out, causing Vera to chase in order to land his share of punches and kicks.

Sandhagen didn’t let off the gas in the final round. He went back to the takedown game, and this time got the fight to the ground. Vera threatened with upkicks and got back to his feet, but Sandhagen’s movement continued to give Vera problems. “Chito” emptied the tank in the final moments, but was unable to find the finishing blow he needed to win the fight.

After 25 minutes of what appeared to be a clear fight in Sandhagen’s favor, the Texas judges had their say. Judge Sal D’Amato scored every round for Sandhagen, while Chris Lee only saw Round 3 in Vera’s direction. Judge Joel Ojeda’s scorecard was a puzzling one, as he scored the final three rounds for Vera.

With the win, Sandhagen makes it back-to-back victories. The 30-year-old entered with a fourth-round TKO win over Song Yadong in September.

During his post-fight interview, Sandhagen called for a fight against Merab Dvalishvili, who holds the No. 2 spot in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie bantamweight rankings. Dvalishvili, who was in attendance, appeared up for the idea when shown on the broadcast.

For Vera, his four-fight win streak comes to an end. “Chito” entered with consecutive wins over Davey Grant, Frankie Edgar, Rob Font, and Dominick Cruz.

Complete UFC on ESPN 43 results include:

  • Cory Sandhagen def. Marlon Vera via split decision (47-48, 50-45, 49-46)

  • Holly Holm def. Yana Santos via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)

  • Nate Landwehr def. Austin Lingo via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 4:11

  • Maycee Barber def. Andrea Lee via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)

  • Albert Duraev def. Chidi Njokuani via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

  • Daniel Pineda def. Tucker Lutz via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 2:50

  • Lucas Alexander def. Steven Peterson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

  • Trevin Giles def. Preston Parsons via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

  • CJ Vergara def. Daniel Lacerda via TKO (strikes) – Round 2, 4:04

  • Victor Altamirano def. Vinicius Salvador via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 43.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie