UFC 250 was populated by bantamweight fights. The main card started with Sean O’Malley. The Sugar Show continued to dominate. This time he put away Eddie Wineland without much effort and made it seem easy. In the co-main event, once bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt picked up the win. It was Cody’s first win since 2016. And it was a spectacular win.
However, it was the fight just before the co-main event that was dubbed the people’s main event. Sterling and Sandhagen have both been on a tear through the bantamweight division. But it would Sterling who would come through on the night. Sterling made it look easy.
But us fans should not make the same mistake that we did with Garbrandt and O’Malley. Recency bias should not cloud our judgment.
Cory Sandhagen has an arsenal
Cory Sandhagen is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the bantamweight division. What’s more surprising is that you don’t realize exactly how skilled he is at all aspects of the fight game when watching him. For instance, after about five seconds of looking at Garbrandt you can tell that he’s a terrific boxer. Similarly, O’Malley also has a very distinct style of striking which makes it hard to compare him to anyone and perhaps hard to train for as well. Sterling’s speed and athleticism alone are strong enough to make an impression within minutes of watching him. It was probably most on display during the UFC 250 bout.
Cory Sandhagen has everything. He’s a decorated kick boxer. Sandhagen holds multiple World Kickboxing Academy (WKA) titles. But his transition to mixed martial arts has seen Sandhagen pick up skills along the ground as well.
The best testament to this was the fight with Iuri Alcantara. At one point it looked like Sandhagen would leave the octagon without his arm. But Sandhagen showed incredible flexibility and powered his way out of the submission. He would eventually pick up the victory with a second round knockout.
In the fight against Mario Bautista, Sandhagen opened with a series of mixed-up kicks while moving consistently. He switched stances repeatedly. Sandhagen repeated a combination of left jab, left bodyshop and outside kick (Thank you for spotting that DC!). Soon enough a flying knee would knock Bautista to the ground. Sandhagen would then attempt an array of submissions. Finally the armbar stuck.
Sandhagen then faced veteran Assuncao at UFC 241. This time he would not get the finish but picked up the win nevertheless in a workmanlike manner.
Truth be told I fully expected Sandhagen to pick up the upset victory at UFC 250. That was not meant to be. Despite that the future looks bright for the young bantamweight. I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of him around.