Dominick Cruz says he’s convinced he can become a UFC champion one more time. He can take a major step towards that goal on Saturday when he meets rising veteran Marlon Vera in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Cruz. The matchup of ranked contenders will close the main UFC fight card (7 p.m. ET) from Pechanga Arena in San Diego. The No. 8-ranked Cruz is a two-time UFC champion who has seen his career derailed by two multi-year layoffs because of persistent injuries. He returned in 2020 after nearly four years away from the cage and has gone 2-1 in three appearances. The No. 5-ranked Vera has surged into contention behind wins in four of his past five, and the winner of Saturday’s UFC San Diego main event could be fighting for the belt in his next bout.
Vera is a -250 favorite (risk $250 to win $100), while Cruz is a +210 underdog in the latest UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Cruz odds from Caesars Sportsbook. The co-main event showcases featherweight prospects as David Onama (-290) meets Nate Landwehr (+245). Before locking in any UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Cruz picks, make sure you check out the MMA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine expert Andrew Gombas.
Gombas is a former NCAA wrestler who taps into his experience on the mat to help understand and dissect the X’s and O’s of MMA matchups in a manner that sets him apart from other MMA analysts. He started the MMA handicapping service MMA Knockout Bets in 2018 and has shown a profit every year since.
With more than 1,400 selections tracked by the third-party monitoring service Bet MMA, he has shown a 6 percent return on investment for his followers. Over the past two years, his followers have netted a profit of more than $10,000.
At UFC 275 in June, Gombas swept the board with his main-card picks and the five-fight sweep included telling SportsLine members to back Jake Matthews (+125) against Andre Fialho (-145) in a matchup of welterweight prospects. Matthews dominated and scored a second-round stoppage to give Gombas’ backers another easy winner. Anyone who has followed Gombas already has seen massive returns.
Now, with UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Cruz approaching, Gombas has studied the card from every angle and released his top MMA picks. Gombas’ UFC Fight Night picks are only available at SportsLine.
UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Cruz preview
The main event will help create clarity at the top of a cluttered bantamweight division. Champion Aljamain Sterling is scheduled to face No. 2-ranked T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 280 in October. Either Cruz or Vera could be in line for the winner because all the contenders ranked above them have come up short in title fights or eliminators.
Cruz (24-3) is a popular and proven veteran who also has found success as a UFC analyst, a pursuit he discovered while shelved from fighting because of numerous lingering injuries. The 36-year-old San Diego native believes he has one more title run left in him, and an impressive win Saturday could provide that opportunity.
The former champion faces a major litmus test in Vera (19-7-1), an eight-year UFC veteran whose resume includes several quality wins but who is still just 29 years old.
The sinister Ecuadorian brawler has seen his profile and ranking rise behind a 9-2 run in the past four years and a recent 4-1 stretch that includes numerous standout victories. Two years ago, he knocked out ultra-hyped prospect Sean O’Malley in the first round and is coming off a dominant five-round decision against rising contender Rob Font in April. Vera has earned three consecutive performance bonuses. You can only see who to pick at UFC Fight Night here.
UFC Fight Night predictions
We’ll share one of Gombas’ UFC Fight Night picks here: He is siding with Devin Clark (+135) to get the better of Azamat Murzakanov (-155) in a battle of light heavyweight prospects.
Murzakanov (11-0) is a power striker who has eight knockouts on his record and gained recognition among MMA observers with a stoppage victory on “Dana White’s Contender Series” last August. The 35-year-old Russian fighter followed up that performance with a flying-knee knockout of fellow prospect Tafon Nchukwi in his UFC debut in March.
Clark (13-6) is a six-year UFC veteran who has spent time in the top 15 of the UFC rankings but has seen his profile slide amid losses in two of his past three outings. The 32-year-old South Dakota native regained momentum with a knockout of powerful prospect William Knight in their April fight.
“Murzakanov is dangerous early, but I think his cardio is suspect. Clark has his flaws too, but I trust his cardio, wrestling and level of competition much more,” Gombas told SportsLine. See who else to pick here.
How to make UFC Fight Night picks
Gombas also has strong picks for Vera vs. Cruz and other fights on the UFC Fight Night card. He’s also backing a fighter who has “power and an exciting style” to emerge with a dominant victory. Those UFC Fight Night picks are only available at SportsLine.
Who wins Vera vs. Cruz? And which fighter is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed top picks on UFC Fight Night, all from the insider who’s up more than $10,000 on MMA picks the past two years, and find out.
UFC Fight Night odds, fight card
Marlon Vera (-250) vs. Dominick Cruz (+210)
Cynthia Calvillo (-160) vs. Nina Nunes (+140)
Gabriel Benitez (-350) vs. Charlie Ontiveros (+290)
David Onama (-290) vs. Nate Landwehr (+245)
Ariane Lipski (-170) vs. Priscila Cachoeira (+150)
Ode Osbourne (-230) vs. Tyson Nam (+195)
Yazmin Jauregui (-190) vs. Iasmin Lucindo (+170)
Martin Buday (-250) vs. Lukasz Brzeski (+210)
Bruno Silva (-310) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (+255)
Youssef Zalal (-125) vs. Da’Mon Blackshear (+105)
Azamat Murzakanov (-155) vs. Devin Clark (+135)