Vera has dominated the heavyweight ranks as the inaugural and only king of the division since its inception, but Bhullar is determined to make history by becoming the first-ever Indian Mixed Martial Arts World Champion.
Both men will bring a wealth of skill and experience into the contest, which airs this Saturday, 15 May, and the result could easily swing either way.
Ahead of the monumental showdown at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, we break down the keys to victory for “The Truth” and “Singh.”
Bhullar Turning Boxing Into Wrestling
For “Singh” to leave Singapore with the gold, he will have to bring the fight to the World Champion – and that means going on the front foot to close the distance with his boxing.
While Bhullar’s hands are slick, it’s unlikely that he’ll want to exclusively stand and trade with the hard-hitting king. Instead, he can use his seamless mix of striking and wrestling to force “The Truth” into a tough battle between ranges.
The Canadian-Indian is skilled at using head movement to stay out of danger as he enters behind his sharp, powerful jab. When he connects with his lead hand, Bhullar then capitalizes by unleashing his thumping overhand right over the top.
If he can rock his opponent, get them to raise their hands high to defend, or push them to the Circle Wall, “Singh” will often close the distance to clinch. From there, he utilizes his dirty boxing well, and he can switch gears to score with a single-leg or double-leg takedown.
If he can drag Vera to the mat — something no other opponent has done during the king’s reign — then Bhullar can negate “The Truth’s” biggest threat and look to dominate on the canvas with ground-and-pound.
Vera’s Concussive Counters
With Bhullar likely trying to close the distance, Vera will be patiently waiting for the right time to strike with his thunderous counters.
In his four knockout wins on the global stage so far, “The Truth” has usually taken advantage of his opponents’ desire to press forward, bringing their momentum into his own firing line.
Mauro “The Hammer” Cerilli, Igor Subora, and Paul Cheng all walked into crushing left hands, which signaled the beginning of the end in their respective World Title challenges.
Cerilli and Cheng lunged in and left their chins in the path of the Sanford MMA man’s accurate left hook, while Subora had his right hand countered by a rocket of a straight left from the southpaw stance.
If Bhullar either gets too frustrated or too confident, he could overreach and leave himself open – and that only needs to happen once for Vera to make him pay.
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Bhullar’s Proven Ability To Push The Pace
Vera’s first-round wrecking streak through the heavyweight division has been sensational, but things could get interesting if Bhullar can push him outside of his comfort zone.
“The Truth” hasn’t gone to a decision in 10 years, whereas the surging Indian has proven his ability to go the distance and still push the pace in recent contests.
Overall, Bhullar has gone to the judges’ scorecards seven times — and won all seven of those decisions. In his ONE debut against Cerilli, “Singh” grew in strength and output as the match wore on, and he landed more significant strikes each round.
If he can grind on Vera early and tax his energy with a blend of striking and wrestling, Bhullar could put himself in a strong position to take over in the championship rounds.
However, Vera has rejuvenated himself alongside elite training partners at Sanford MMA, and that fight camp may have prepared him to push back if the American Kickboxing Academy representative starts to tighten the screw.
Vera’s Low Kicks
Though the reigning king has blasted through his recent opponents, he’ll need a plan to deal with Bhullar’s excellent conditioning.
Vera was well-known for demolishing legs earlier in his career, and he’s stopped multiple opponents with those lower-limb attacks. He still has them in his locker, and they would be a great asset to break down “Singh” if their matchup turns into a drawn-out battle.
Bhullar’s thrusting jab sees him step heavy on his lead leg a lot, and that should give the Manila man plenty of opportunities to connect while “Singh’s” ability to check is diminished.
A few well-timed shots could make Bhullar reluctant to work his way in behind his jab. They could also rack up damage that would limit the challenger’s mobility and ability to penetrate explosively with takedown attempts.
With many of Bhullar’s tools compromised, Vera would have more freedom to pick his rival apart in the open with the rest of his arsenal — including powerful punches and high kicks.