What do we know about Brad Pickett’s last opponent?

This evening we say a fond farewell to Brad ‘One Punch’ Pickett as he makes his UFC swansong in his hometown. Starting his professional career in London back in 2004, Pickett’s slot on this card was pretty much guaranteed when he announced his retirement and it’s somewhat fitting that One Punch will have his last dance in a packed O2 this evening.

Originally matched against Henry Briones, a new opponent in Marlon Vera was announced when Briones pulled out with a nasty eye injury sustained in sparring last week. But what do we know about Marlon Vera?

Hailing from Chone, Ecuador, 24 year old Vera has been fighting professionally since February 2012 and has been with the UFC since November 2014. With a professional record of 8-3-1 (2-2 in the UFC), Vera has a background in BJJ and wrestling but hasn’t really set the UFC world alight, just yet. Although his UFC stats are pretty average when it comes to striking and grappling, Vera has a strong takedown defence and will prove a tough opponent for Pickett. With 5 of his wins coming via submission, Vera will be no push over for Pickett if this one goes to the ground.

Competing for Team Werdum in the Latin American version of The Ultimate Fighter, Vera made his UFC debut with a unanimous decision defeat against Marco Beltrán. With a POTN win over Roman Salazar, Vera’s next two fights again went the distance with a unanimous defeat against David Grant, on the Silva v Bisping London card, followed by a unanimous win over Ning Guangyou in Melbourne on the Whittaker v Brunson card.

Ultimately, Vera is a young fighter still finding his feet in the world of the UFC and as such this has potential to be a very dangerous fight for Pickett. However, Pickett will settle for nothing less than a win in his last fight. Buoyed by a vociferous home crowd, I can’t envisage anything other than a One Punch win but Pickett will have to approach with caution when it comes to Marlon Vera.

Whatever happens, tonight will be an emotional farewell for the always likeable Pickett and regardless of the outcome it will be a last dance to remember for a true pioneer in the world of British MMA.

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