TJ Dillashaw versus Cory Sandhagen at UFC Vegas 32 was an elite-level tactical battle between the two best strikers in the UFC bantamweight division. In the end, the former two-time champion did just enough to eek out a split-decision victory.
TJ Dillashaw and Cory Sandhagen go to war at UFC Vegas 32
Right from the start, these two were up close and personal, and looking to inflict damage on the other. In the opening frame, Dillashaw played the bull and Sandhagen the matador. As the 35-year-old pushed forward with his patented pressure style. Throughout the round, and the fight for that matter, Sandhagen handled it well and was able to potshot Dillashaw on the way in with consistency. However, while Dillashaw landed just two punches less in the round, he was able to take advantage of certain situations and control moments in the grappling. It was close, but likely a Dillashaw round.
The second was the biggest and best for Sandhagen as he landed several stiff shots on his opponent. One that sat the Californian down on his butt, and another that opened up a nasty cut over his right eye and would be an issue that affected Dillashaw throughout the fight. Round two was a Sanhagen round.
In the third frame, Dillashaw made some key adjustments by finding a consistent points scorer in leg kicks and pushed harder to force grappling exchanges with his foe. Dillashaw was rarely able to do much with the two takedowns he landed in the fight, but he controlled for key moments against the cage. Landing knees and getting Sandhagen’s back. That mixed with his pressure likely helped him in the judge’s eyes.
Early in the fourth, the momentum still seemed to be in Dillashaws corner, however, midway through he started to slow, and his 29-year-old opponent showed his fantastic gas tank and landed some good strikes, and managed the pressure well. Likely evening the fight heading into the final round.
The fifth and final round was a perfect summation of the fight and likely evidence for what the judges preferred. Dillashaw pressured, grappled where he could, and racked up solid control time on the cage. While Sandhagen used great footwork to stick and move and defended himself from ever being in a dangerous spot when the two battled against the cage. The fight ended with it being a difficult one to score after five highly competitive rounds.
The two-time champ rises again
When the scorecards were read Dillashaw was awarded the victory by split-decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47). The man who had returned from a two-year suspension and was an underdog to the second-ranked fighter in the division came back to the Octagon and earned a meaningful win in a tactician’s delight of a fight. Dillashaw now seems in line for the winner of the championship rematch between Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan.
The loss is a difficult setback for Sandhagen and ends a two-fight win streak, but his stock leaving the fight is as high as ever. The bout was closely contested, in a battle against one of the best fighters in UFC bantamweight history. In defeat, he bloodied and beat up the former champion. The only reason he drops a spot in the rankings next week is that Dillashaw returns to the rankings for the first time since 2019.