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UFC Vegas 32: Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw

Cory Sandhagen vs TJ Dillashaw

Cory Sandhagen (14-2 in MMA; 7-1 in UFC) has emerged like a hurricane in the UFC's grimy bantamweight division.  After five victories in a row – always in fun and violent fights – he was paired in a title eliminator with Aljamain Sterling, but ended up easily submitted by the defending champion.  Then, he faced two of the most dangerous names in the division, Frankie Edgar and Marlon Moraes, and knocked them both out easily and spectacularly, putting himself once again in position to fight for the belt.

Cory Sandhagen vs TJ Dillashaw

Cory Sandhagen  is one of the most competent kickboxers in a class full of elite strikers and is arguably the most versatile striker, attacking with straight punches to the head and hooks to the body, kicks at all levels – including rounds – and flying knees or in the clinch.  He attacks with unstoppable volume and impressive fluidity, moving between striking, clinching and submission attempts with ease, always chasing opponents in search of interruption.  His resilience is indisputable, but constant aggression can be costly against opponents who know how to counterattack.  To date, Cory has only been stopped by wrestlers, as his standup game has yet to be deciphered.

One of the greatest bantamweights of all time, TJ Dillashaw (17-4 in MMA; 12-4 in the UFC) practically buried his career with a humiliating loss to Henry Cejudo, followed by a torrent of excuses and a positive test for EPO which put his entire trajectory in the UFC in check.

TJ faced the best bantamweights of his generation, beat Raphael Assunção, Renan Barão (2x), John Lineker and knocked out his biggest rival, Cody Garbrandt, also twice, in addition to losing a contestable decision to Dominick Cruz.  It's impossible to talk about Dillashaw without talking about Duane Ludwig.  “Bang” forged TJ, transforming him from a raw wrestler into one of the best strikers in the entire UFC.  His hands are incredibly fast, and the movement is only matched by the legendary Dominick Cruz.  TJ is still a master of angles inside the octagon and excels at transitions, using feints and base shifts to set up both takedowns and head kicks.  He's also very good with head movement and pocket counters, as well as the long hit combinations that earned him most of his interruption wins.

The point for this fight is that everything I've written so far is about a TJ from almost three years ago and possibly under the influence of EPO.  Now Cory, still very young in MMA, evolves before his eyes in every fight.  TJ, on CNTP, is practically unstoppable and has a perfect game to overcome Sandhagen, mixing high-level wrestling with elite striking.  However, it is impossible that all the downtime doesn't affect the former champion – and not being at his best never bodes well against the opponent at his peak, who should come at the end of the case, thirsting for his first chance at the title.

The mystery about Dillashaw's condition makes the fight unpredictable, but we'll bet on a victory for Cory Sandhagen, taking advantage of the rusty former champion to snatch the victory – always with the caveat that, if he's physically fit, the former champion has the technical quality to overcome the younger opponent.