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'UFC on ESPN 35: Font vs. Vera' fight-by-fight preview, Main Card

We break down this weekend's entire card for UFC on ESPN 35, top to bottom, ahead of Saturday's event in Las Vegas.

The action in the UFC Apex continues this weekend as bantamweights looking to move into top contender status collide.

Rob Font and Marlon "Chito" Vera will meet each other in the main event this weekend with plenty on the line. The UFC bantamweight division has some clarity after Aljamain Sterling unified the belt with a win over Petr Yan and it's the perfect time for Font or Vera to make a statement.

Preview that high-octane matchip along with the other great fights from "UFC Fight on ESPN 35: Font vs Vera." Here's the main card.

Rob Font vs. Marlon Vera

Font (19-5 MMA, 9-4 UFC) and Vera (20-7-1 MMA, 12-6 UFC) look to cement their positions in the bantamweight hierarchy as they clash here in the final main event of the month.

Font competed twice in 2021, opening the year with a dominant unanimous decision win over Cody Garbrandt in his first main event assignment in May. A little over six months later, he was back on the marquee, but this time, the 34-year-old New England Cartel member landed on the opposite side of the results, dropping a decision to former featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo.

After closing out his 2020 campaign with a loss to Aldo, Vera posted a pair of victories in 2021, claiming a unanimous decision in over Davey Grant in a "Fight of the Night"-winning tussle in June before collecting a third-round stoppage win over Frankie Edgar at UFC 268 in November. The constantly improving Ecuadorian is now 8-2 over his last 10 fights and climbed into the top 10 for the first time with his win over Edgar at Madison Square Garden.

With things at the top of the division getting resolved earlier in the month, we should be in for an action-packed second half of the year in the 135-pound weight class, and the winner of this one will certainly be in the championship mix.

Andrei Arlovski vs. Jake Collier

Heavyweights man the co-main event position on this week’s card as veteran Andrei Arlovski (33-20 MMA, 22-14 UFC) steps up to square off with Jake Collier (13-6 MMA, 5-5 UFC) on Saturday night.

The ageless Arlovski pushed his winning streak to three earlier this year with a split decision win over Jared Vanderaa at UFC 271 and jumped at the opportunity to replace Justin Tafa and make his second start of 2022 here. Now 43 years old, the former champion has shown no real signs of slowing down and enters this fight having only been bested by surging British contender Tom Aspinall in his last six outings.

Collier was the first to stand in Aspinall's way and be turned aside two summers back, but the former middleweight and light heavyweight has settled into life at heavyweight since then, going 15 hard minutes with Gian Villante and Carlos Felipe in his next two outings. Back in January, the Missouri native registered his first stoppage win since May 2016, scoring a first-round submission over Chase Sherman to push his record to 13-6 overall.

Arlovski remains the litmus test for heavyweight hopefuls, and he's done a tremendous job of turning back anyone not ready to hold down a spot in the top 15. Collier finally feels comfortable competing at this weight class and is coming off his best performance yet, so it will be interesting to see if the former prospect can topple the venerable veteran this weekend.

Andre Fili vs. Joanderson Brito

Team Alpha Male staple Andre Fili (21-8 MMA, 9-7 UFC) makes his first appearance in nearly a year this weekend, returning to take on Dana White’s Contender Series grad Joanderson Brito (12-3-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) on Saturday's main card.

It's been a rough couple of years results-wise for Fili, who entered 2020 having officially won four of five, and with most feeling he was on a five-fight winning streak. A loss to Sodiq Yusuff halted that run before he rebounded with a victory over Charles Jourdain, but a loss to Bryce Mitchell and an inadvertent eye poke in a fight he was dominating against Daniel Pineda left him winless in 2021. Now the 31-year-old steps in with Brito looking to bounce back and prove he’s still a threat in the 145-pound ranks.

An eye poke ended Brito’s fight with Diego Lopes on the Contender Series last year, but the Brazilian was dominating and earned a contract nonetheless. He debuted in January opposite seasoned veteran Bill Algeo, dropping a unanimous decision and now looks to rebound in a second consecutive difficult test opposite Fili on Saturday.

Will the man who fights for the outcasts and underdogs get back in the win column or can Brito register his first UFC victory?

Jared Gordon vs. Grant Dawson

Back in the lightweight division full time, Jared Gordon (18-4 MMA, 6-3 UFC) goes in search of his fourth straight victory this weekend. In order to get it, he’ll have to get through once-beaten rising star Grant Dawson (17-1-1 MMA, 5-0-1 UFC).

The 33-year-old Gordon often felt torn between two weight classes – a little undersized for lightweight, but a little too big for the 145-pound ranks. After missing weight for his 2021 debut against Danny Chavez, the Sanford MMA representative committed to a return to lightweight, and continued his winning ways with a hard-fought split decision win over Joe Solecki to move to 18-4 overall.

Dawson enters Saturday’s contest with a stellar 17-1-1 record and is unbeaten in the UFC, yet facing some questions after a change in camps. He too has only recently moved up to lightweight after a long run at featherweight, and last time out, he slowed down the stretch en route to a majority draw result opposite Ricky Glenn.

Gordon is one of the more experienced and battle-tested hands in the 155-pound weight class, while Dawson has shown flashes of having top-15 potential. This is a perfect matchup at the perfect time for each of these competitors, and should produce an exciting contest once they’re locked in the octagon together this weekend in Las Vegas.

Darren Elkins vs. Tristan Connelly

Veteran grapplers Darren Elkins (26-10 MMA, 16-9 UFC) and Tristan Connelly (14-7 MMA, 1-1 UFC) collide here, with each looking to get back into the win column and show they still have plenty to offer in the UFC featherweight division.

The indefatigable Elkins was not his usual self last time out, suffering a first-round stoppage loss at the hands (and feet) of fellow tenured featherweight Cub Swanson on the final fight card of 2021. Now 37 years old and 36 fights deep into his career, it raised questions about whether the years of grimy battles were starting to catch up to "The Damage" or if it was a one-time hiccup for the inhumanly tough Midwest grinder?

Connelly had a fairytale start to his UFC career, debuting on short notice, at home in Vancouver, and collecting a victory over Michel Pereira, along with both halves of the "Fight of the Night" bonus the duo earned that evening because the Brazilian missed weight. He was out of action for all of 2020 and dropped two divisions in his return last year, landing on the wrong side of the results against Pat Sabatini before undergoing neck surgery.

Each of these men have something to prove on Saturday night, so be prepared for a scramble-heavy, entertaining scrap from the long-time pros with 57 appearances between them.

Krzysztof Jotko vs. Gerald Meerschaert

The main card kicks off in the middleweight division as Polish staple Krzysztof Jotko (23-5 MMA, 10-5 UFC) looks to slow the momentum of surging veteran Gerald Meerschaert (34-14 MMA, 9-6 UFC) in what promises to be an intriguing clash of styles.

A fixture on the roster since the end of 2013, Jotko got back into the win column with a split decision victory over Misha Cirkunov in October. The 32-year-old has amassed a 10-5 record inside the octagon and is 4-1 in his last five fights, with his only loss coming against ascending contender Sean Strickland last May following a year on the sidelines.

The amiable Meerschaert has rebounded exceptionally well since his oft-replayed knockout loss to Khamzat Chimaev, posting three straight submission wins heading into this one. Now 48 fights deep into his career, "GM3" remains one of the most consistently entertaining competitors on the middleweight roster, with all but two of his 15 UFC appearances ending inside the distance.

Can Jotko secure a second straight victory and inch closer to reclaiming a place in the top 15 or will Meerschaert keep things rolling and collect a fourth straight win this weekend?

This story first published at UFC.com.