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Sports Illustrated Notebook: Rob Font, Marlon Vera highlight upcoming UFC on ESPN 35

Justin Barrosso takes you through a list of news and notes ahead of the weekend's action.

UFC has this weekend to itself, and Saturday's UFC on ESPN 35 should set the table for next week's massive UFC 274 pay-per-view.

The spotlight will be on Marlon "Chito" Vera and Rob Font, two bantamweights with title aspirations.

Font is coming off a disappointing loss to Jose Aldo but can regain his lost momentum if he delivers a convincing win against Vera. And this is Vera's shot to take one step closer to breaking into the top five of the division. That bout, which should be extremely hard-hitting, is the top story taking us into the weekend.


• Font (19-5 MMA, 9-4 UFC) is currently the fifth-ranked bantamweight, but he needs a victory to hold onto that position. His opponent, Vera (20-7-1 MMA, 12-6 UFC), is ranked eighth in the division, and he is seeking to capitalize on his first-ever UFC main event.

"I have been waiting my whole life for this moment," Vera said. "I respect Font as a hard fighter, but I am going to get in there and knock him out. I need to win first, and I'm focused on that, and then I want a title shot."

Font is also chasing the bantamweight title. He found it peculiar that Vera believes he can bypass so many other contenders with a win–and, of course, Font also plans on winning.

"His comments don't make sense," Font said. "How do you jump to No. 1 all the way from (No. 8)? But I hope he brings that energy to the fight. He has a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence coming off his last fight, and I get it. I'm looking to knock him out, too."

Coming off a harrowing unanimous decision loss to Aldo in December, Font has a lot to prove against Vera.

"The last one was a rough night," said Font, who paid the price for standing still in front of Aldo for too long and ate some ferocious shots, which caused left orbital and nasal fractures. "It would have been really nice to have that one in the win column, but it is what it is. Once I recovered from my eye injury, I got right back to the gym."

Vera only sees opportunity. After winning eight of his last 10, this is his chance to pounce on a top-five ranked opponent and finally stake his claim in the division.

"Before, I was still trying to figure it out," Vera said. "I am peaking at the right time. I've done everything possible to get ready, and I'll do anything to win this fight. I can't wait for the next step."

This fight marks Font's second main event, and the experience should help him as he prepares to step in the cage for a fight he desperately needs to win.

"I'm looking to get that finish anyway I can," Font said. "I'll knock him out, but I have a ground game, too. The last time I lost, I went on a four-fight win streak. I'm positive that I can get back in there and do what I was doing before."

• ONE Championship broke massive news this week with the announcement of their new deal with Amazon Prime. The next fight card is ONE 157 on May 20, which will be an opportunity for fighters to prove they belong in the bright spotlight that is undoubtedly forthcoming.

It will be fascinating to see who from the ONE talent roster will rise to popularity in the United States. A few possibilities exist on this upcoming card, with Marcus "Buchecha" Almeida, Rodtang Jitmuangnon, Shinya Aoki, and brothers Kade and Tye Ruotolo.

After the disappointing late withdrawal of his opponent at last week's event, Almeida has signed on to compete at ONE 157 against promotional newcomer Hugo Cunha, Sports Illustrated has learned. The card also sees the quick turnaround of both Rodtang and Aoki, both of whom are looking to avenge their losses at last month's ONE X.


Rodtang is entering the flyweight muay Thai grand prix to cement his domination of the division, where the rest of the field hopes to earn a shot at his world title.

Aoki will compete in submission grappling against Kade Ruotolo, while Kade's brother Tye competes against Garry Tonon. The 19-year-old Ruotolo twins make their debut in ONE's growing submission grappling division, where the teenage phenoms look to reach uncharted territory in ONE.

• In a line that is bound to increase, Michael Chandler is currently a -425 favorite in his UFC 274 fight next weekend against Tony Ferguson.

Chandler is coming off losses to Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje, who are the reigning lightweight champion and the No. 1-ranked contender, respectively. Ferguson, once the most feared fighter in all of MMA, has lost three in a row. There is no doubt that he has faced elite competition in Gaethje, Oliveira, and Beneil Dariush, but he has looked worse in each fight and it almost appears his elite skill level is deteriorating by the round.

Bettors may love a long shot, but Ferguson is an underdog here for a reason. If he is a shell of his former self against Chandler, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that Ferguson could be cut. He will put himself in a real precarious position if this is a one-sided loss.

• The new Lord of the Streets film features a star-studded MMA cast, including Anderson Silva, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, A.J. McKee, Cheick Kongo, and Khalil Rountree Jr.

Hollywood-renowned actor Richard Grieco plays Detective Kayes in Lord of the Streets, a fascinating film about a successful MMA fighter, his death at the hands of a coldblooded murderer, and a saga around whether his daughter will survive that murderer's wrath.

"This movie is like a runaway train," Grieco said. "Once it gets started, it really takes off. Anderson and Quinton, all of the MMA guys were fantastic. They really had some acting chops.

"I have so much respect for these guys, and I think Anderson is the greatest of all-time. They stepped into this movie and our director, Jared Cohn, gave them what they needed to bring this film to life."

Lord of the Streets is available for free on the Tubi streaming service, and the presence of Grieco adds a well-seasoned actor to the mix. After first breaking into the scene with If Looks Could Kill in 1991, Grieco has starred on-screen in all different genres, spanning from Mobsters to Night at the Roxbury. He also played a detective–Dennis Booker–on 21 Jump Street, a character that shares some connective tissue with his portrayal of Detective Kayes in Lord of the Streets.

"Dennis Booker was always a character on the edge of becoming a criminal or a cop," Grieco said. "He always walked that fine line. That's similar in Lord of the Streets. Detective Kayes thinks he's above the law, so he can arrest people that have broken the law. So there's that fine line, like there is with any good cop. You can't play by the rules all the time."

Grieco also touched on A Night at the Roxbury, a classic that brought a timeless quality to Haddaway's "What Is Love".

"I've always loved challenging myself in different roles, whether I'm playing a detective or a pilot or even myself," Grieco said. "Playing myself in Night at the Roxbury is one of the hardest roles I've ever had. Will and Chris and Molly, that whole group, they're all hilarious.

"I gained 24 pounds for that role. If I'm really out there partying every night, then that's how I would have looked. All these years later, people still quote it to me. I was in Vegas, and someone said, ‘Hey Grieco, can you touch my ass?' or ‘Grieco, I just don't want to be sued.' Almost every day, I still hear something from that movie."

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