Vera (18-6-1 MMA, 10-5 UFC) bounced O’Malley (12-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) out of the ranks of the unbeaten in Saturday’s co-main event at the UFC Apex, thanks to a first-round TKO finish.
It was an unfortunate ending for O’Malley, who appeared to roll his ankle badly, which visibly affected his movement. Vera immediately recognized it and started pressuring O’Malley, who eventually stumbled to the ground. Vera followed him to the mat and dropped a succession of elbows that prompted referee Herb Dean to stop the fight with just seconds remaining in the round.
Vera, who had attacked O’Malley’s legs early, thinks his opponent’s injury came in part as a result of his gameplan.
“I see myself as a very good kicker,” Vera told reporters, including MMA Junkie, post-fight at UFC 252. “That’s how I started my career, I was throwing a lot of kicks back in the day. Now I’m putting it together, my boxing and everything.
“But now, watching the video, I threw a hard calf kick and, after I threw a calf kick, his nerve just – (expletive) happens, the same way Chandler got with Primus, my boy Alex Perez beat Formiga. He kicked me really hard in the leg, but my shin is stronger than his.”
The stoppage of the fight was also questioned by some, who suggested that Dean perhaps jumped in a little too early to wave the fight off. Vera doesn’t give their view any credibility, and said the official’s call was the right one.
“When I landed the second elbow, he was making noises,” Vera said. “He was out and then when Herb Dean got in the middle, you can see his head bounce back. I saw his corner saying ‘no that was too early,’ we made eye contact, and I said you know that ‘expletive’ wasn’t early and the guy was pretty quiet all of a sudden. That guy was talking (expletive) while we were getting ready to walk to the cage.”
Vera’s performance put the Ecuadorian back in the win column, but he refuses to consider his last razor-thin decision loss to Song Yadong in May as a blemish on his record. Instead, he sees himself riding with plenty of momentum at 135 pounds and wants people to start putting some respect on his name.
“I believe I’m a solid top 10 (fighter),” Vera said. “I’ve been making damage in the division. What happened in the last fight (Yadong) got me pretty upset, pretty angry and actually made me do what I did tonight. I wasn’t happy, I was pushing myself a little harder. I was being hard on myself. I wasn’t giving myself a vacation, more cheat days. I was like, ‘It’s time to dig deep,’ and that’s when I find myself even better, and I came to this fight with a mission.”