As the main event began, 'The Dominator' looked to be in phenomenal shape and firing on all cylinders. He seemed fast, calculated, and hungry for a win. After leading the fight two rounds to one on the judges' scorecards, Dominick Cruz found himself faceplanted on the canvas in the fourth round following a thunderous head kick from 'Chito'.
The kick landed perfectly and dropped Cruz to the ground. His nose appeared to be bleeding after he came to.
This picture from the UFC shows exactly how flush Vera's kick landed:
Fans swarmed Twitter to express their concerns. Many are confident that 'The Dominator' has suffered a broken nose following the thunderous knockout.
"Dominick Cruz's nose just went inside his brain"
Journalist Damon Martin pointed out that on closer inspection, the damage to Cruz's nose is visible.
"When you watch the replay, you can literally see Dominick Cruz's nose get twisted and broken from that head kick. Chito Vera is a bad, bad man."
Pro MMA and boxing ringside physician Dr. David Abbasi noted that the former champion's nose is likely broken.
See more reactions from fans below:
Dominick Cruz was hoping to make his way to a title shot
Coming into this fight, No.8-ranked Cruz was looking to make his way to bantamweight gold. The former two-time champion won his last two successive bouts against Casey Kenney and Pedro Munhoz, and a win over No.5-ranked Marlon Vera would've made it three consecutive victories. This would've likely propelled Cruz into a title shot, or at the very least, a title eliminator.
The loss may see Cruz drop a spot in the rankings, but it will push 'Chito' ahead of the pile. Vera is on a four-fight winning streak and is the only person to beat Sean O'Malley, who faces No.1-ranked Petr Yan at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi on October 22. Former featherweight king Jose Aldo faces Merab Dvalishvili at UFC 278 on August 20.
It's unclear who will earn a title shot at this time. While Vera would be fair to ask for a shot at gold, the landscape could get complicated if O'Malley beats Yan or Jose Aldo beats the surging Dvalishvili. Either way, 'The Dominator' will likely return to the drawing board and assess his way forward. The 37-year-old doesn't have much time left in the game, so whether he continues pursuing his hunt for gold remains to be seen.