The main event of UFC Vegas 32 features two top contenders in the bantamweight division as #2 Cory Sandhagen takes on the former champion, TJ Dillashaw. This fight, without doubt has title implications and should be a high level battle between two all round killers. With the belt situation at bantamweight up in the air, as well as an ageing top 10, the next title contender could be crowned on Saturday night.
‘The Sandman’, Cory Sandhagen returns to the octagon for his ninth UFC appearance in just three and a half years. In that time he’s gone 8-1, only losing to the current champion in what seemed like an off night for Sandhagen. Notching wins against top contenders including John Lineker, Raphael Assuncao and most recently former title challenger Marlon Moraes and former champion, Frankie Edgar.
Since being submitted by Aljamain Sterling back in June 2020, Sandhagen has bounced back in a big way. Going just 6:31 in total, the Colorado native has finished Moraes with a spinning heal kick and finished Edgar with a vicious flying knee. Both of these earned him performance of the night honours.
Other than the former champion Petr Yan, Sandhagen is certainly the most deserving of a title shot at 135lbs. His slick boxing, rangey, switch hitting style and decent ground game makes him a real problem for anyone at bantamweight. He lands an average of 6.85 significant strikes per minute, showing just how accurate and busy Sandhagen can be.
The jab of Sandhagen will likely play a big part in this one. He is able to flick it out there, keep his opponent guessing before landing something big behind it, like we saw in the Moraes fight.
If you only got into MMA within the last two and a half years, you’ll never have seen TJ Dillashaw fight live. The reason for this is that he got popped and most importantly admitted to taking EPO in order to aid his performance in the cage in the run up to his flyweight title bout against Henry Cejudo.
Prior to his suspension, however, TJ was a killer. He had two epic, bad blood battles with former teammate, Cody Garbrandt, finishing him twice. His ‘bang Ludwig’ style is unique and only has his footwork matched by former foe, Dominik Cruz. The former NCAA division 1 wrestler has a strong grappling base should things not be going his way on the feet. He boasts a crazy 86% takedown defence so he can certainly determine where the fight plays out. Dillashaw hasn’t recorded a submission since 2012, but holds a purple belt in BJJ so is more than capable should the fight hit the ground.
His unique stand-up style leads to him landing 5.37 significant strikes per round, with an accuracy of 41%. He uses a number of effective, unique feints in order to get his offence off. His style also leads to an impressive 65% striking defence and therefore has only suffered two knockout losses during his career (one in his debut, the TUF 14 final and one in his most recent fight).
All of his achievements of being a former champion as well as notching 12 UFC wins, all come with the caveat that he popped for EPO.
The Fight Itself
Cory Sandhagen’s scheduled will likely pay dividends in this one. He’s competed 5 times since TJ Dillashaw last competed. These five fights have been against some of the best to do it at 135lbs. He holds a three inch height advantage over Dillashaw as well as a five inch height advantage.
Dillashaw has been out of action since January of 2019 so could well suffer from ring rust. We also don’t know if he was on EPO for multiple fights, so it will be interesting to see if he has a dump in form. His unique style could cause the lineal Sandhagen some issues, however, all will be revealed on Saturday night.
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