Dominick Cruz has never lost a non-title fight, and the former champion will try to keep that streak alive on Saturday when he faces veteran contender Marlon Vera in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Cruz. The battle of ranked contenders, with a potential title shot in store for the winner, tops the main UFC fight card (7 p.m. ET) from Pechanga Arena in San Diego. Cruz's distinguished career includes twice holding the UFC bantamweight title and three losses in 17 years of mixed martial arts that all came with a belt on the line. He lost to Henry Cejudo and Cody Garbrandt for the UFC belt and fell to rival Uriah Faber in the WEC promotion in 2007. Now ranked No. 8, he could get another title shot with a win at UFC San Diego over the No. 5-ranked Vera, who could make his own case for his first title bid with a signature victory.
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 Gabriel Benitez (-350) vs. Charlie Ontiveros (+290) in a pairing of rugged lightweight sluggers.
Benitez (22-10) is an eight-year UFC veteran who won five of his first seven fights with the promotion before struggling against top-tier opponents. The 34-year-old Mexican fighter has dropped two straight and his last appearance resulted in a stoppage loss to David Onama, who will be featured in Saturday's co-main event. Benitez has 10 submissions and eight knockouts to his credit.
Ontiveros (11-8) is a power puncher who landed a UFC contract following a strong run through the Fury FC promotion. But the 31-year-old Texan has been stopped in his first two fights with the promotion, including a second-round loss to prospect Steve Garcia last October.
"Ontiveros is big for the weight class and dangerous early, but he is a defensive liability and has gas-tank issues. Benitez will have the grappling advantage, but I bet he will elect to strike instead. He likely gets Ontiveros out of there sooner or later," 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)