The days of Cory Sandhagen flying under the radar are long gone.
“The Sandman” has fought eight times inside the UFC octagon so far, losing just once – against current champ Aljamain Sterling at UFC 250.
But since that defeat in June 2020, Sandhagen has levelled up and produced his two best performances in the octagon.
A spinning wheel-kick finish of perennial contender and former WSOF champ Marlon Moraes saw him bounce back in style four months after his loss to “Funk Master.”
And his stunning 28-second flying-knee knockout of former lightweight champ and future Hall of Famer Frankie Edgar in February this year made clear that Sandhagen was on an express train to the top.
Now he’s set to face a former champion looking to repair his reputation and re-establish himself as a contender.
T.J. Dillashaw was one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world in his pomp, but his bid to become a simultaneous two-division champion against flyweight champion Henry Cejudo ended in a 32-second TKO defeat.
But much worse was to follow, as Dillashaw was revealed to have tested positive for banned blood-booster EPO. It resulted in a two-year suspension from the sport as one of the most talented fighters in MMA had his bantamweight title stripped from him as he was kicked to the curb in disgrace.
Now Dillashaw is back and looking to prove his worth, both as a contender and a clean athlete, by defeating Sandhagen this weekend.
It’s a matchup that may well decide the identity of the next challenger for the bantamweight title.
Sterling and Yan are set to face off in a title rematch after their first meeting ended in somewhat controversial circumstances with Yan’s disqualification for illegal knees at UFC 259 in March.
And Saturday night’s main event will likely lock in the next contender to face the winner. But will it be the the surging contender, or the returning former champion?
On paper, it looks like one of the best non-title main events of the year so far.