UFC on ESPN 41 results: Marlon Vera head kicks Dominick Cruz for knockout win, stakes claim to title shot

SAN DIEGO – For three-plus rounds, the UFC on ESPN 41 main event was a Dominick Cruz fight. Then Marlon Vera put an end to that.

Vera (22-7-1 MMA, 14-6 UFC) landed a vicious head kick late in the fourth round to defeat Cruz (24-4 MMA, 7-3 UFC) by knockout Saturday night at Pechanga Arena for what could be considered another “biggest win of his career” as he inches closer to a bantamweight title shot.

Cruz was on the attack early, but Vera had a big moment in the first round when he dropped Cruz with a left hand. Cruz was back up quickly, though, a responded with a three-punch combo. That type of onslaught continued from Cruz in the first frame as his punches came in bunches. He managed to finish the frame with a takedown.

In Round 2, Vera threw a high kick that was blocked in the opening moments, which set the tone for a furious pace. Cruz’s attack was diverse as he landed punches up high and to the body. The round ended with both men staring each other down and Vera winking at Cruz.

Cruz continued with a hot start to the third round with more flurries that landed, but Vera held his own and eventually dropped Cruz with a right hand roughly 90 seconds into the round. “Chito! Chito!” chants rained down, as they had earlier in the fight, despite Cruz fighting in his hometown.

Round 4 opened as the previous three did, with Cruz successfully landing. He even knocked down Vera in the first 30 seconds after he caught a body kick and threw a right hand that knocked Vera to the mat. It continued that way, with Cruz continuing with his attack until the moment the fight ended at the 2:17 mark. That’s when Cruz closed distance to throw and on the way out got caught with a head kick to the face that instantly dropped him to the canvas. Vera pounced for follow-up punches, and referee Herb Dean stopped the fight seconds later.

The victory puts Vera, who’s ranked No. 7 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie bantamweight rankings, on a four-fight winning streak and in line for an even bigger fight – if not a title shot after champion Aljamain Sterling and T.J. Dillashaw fight in October.

Cruz, meanwhile, had a two-fight winning streak snapped. The former WEC and UFC 135-pound champion had hoped to get past Vera to insert himself in the title picture.

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For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 41.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie