Cory Sandhagen learned a valuable lesson about leaving it in the hands of the judges on Saturday night at UFC Vegas 32. Despite picking former champ T.J. Dillashaw apart with sniper-like counters, jabs, and hooks, the judges handed the victory to Dillashaw on a split (47–48, 48–47, 48–47) based on TJ’s relentless pressure and guts. Dillashaw fought like a demon to stay in the fight. Sandhagen by comparison looked almost lazy just popping him in the face again and again and again.
A dejected Sandhagen seemed at a loss for words in the cage after the defeat, but managed to formulate his disappointment a bit better backstage with Megan Olivi.
“I was picking him apart. I was landing some hard shots,” Sandhagen said. “I had him wobbled a number of times. I didn’t feel hurt at all, even the leg kicks. My leg is completely fine. There’s nothing wrong with my leg. I shut down most of his shots. I got off the cage. He grips hard and I was wearing on his grip and eventually it broke and I was getting off. So I don’t know.”
“I don’t think you get to be a zombie, march forward, eat a bunch of shots and then still win in MMA. I think that we’re past that. But like I said, I don’t want to be a little whiny baby. I’m going to take it. I’m going get better from it. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m still going to win the world championship. Hopefully still next year.”
Sandhagen bounced back and forth between frustration and acceptance through the interview.
Significant head strikes:
Sandhagen: 110/258 (43% acc)
Dillashaw: 59/208 (28% acc)
Significant body strikes:
Sandhagen: 10/14 (71% acc)
Dillashaw: 10/14 (71% acc)
Significant leg strikes:
Sandhagen: 8/9 (89% acc)
Dillashaw: 41/46 (89% acc)#UFCVegas32
— MMA By The Numbers (@NumbersMMA) July 25, 2021
“I know I had him hurt more times than me,” he said. “I think I was landing the way cleaner shots. I was picking him apart but I guess I should have done more. That’s on me.”
“I told myself I was winning the fifth round. I thought that I did. I don’t know. What can you do? I thought I made really good adjustments as the fight was going on. What can you do? I guess I’ll learn from it and I’ll still be world champ. I’ll still do all the things I said I was going to do, I’ve just got to learn and get better I guess.”
And the good news for Cory is that there are no losers in a fight like this (except when you’re talking about who gets paid their win purse, in which case Cory is definitely the loser). According to UFC brass, this loss isn’t going to drop Sandhagen down the bantamweight contender list very far.
“Sean Shelby just talked to me in the back, I made him pinky promise me that I’m still one fight away from winning the title,” Sandhagen said. “He came back, he said ‘There’s nothing I can do about that, but I promise you you’re still one fight away from the title.’ I said I’m going to make you pinky promise me and he did so that’s still what we’re looking at.”