Cory Sandhagen played the matador to John Lineker’s bull for three rounds, overcoming a fight-closing guillotine as blood poured from his face, to earn a split decision win (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) and stay unbeaten in the UFC.
“Yeah, it was tight for a second, I felt the blood running out of my nose,” said Sandhagen (11-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC), who was drowned out during the post-fight interview by boos from the BT&T Center crowd who felt that Lineker did enough to win.
After a back-and-forth first round that saw both fighters have moments, the second round saw Lineker (31-9 MMA, 12-4 UFC) get a brief takedown and take the back, where he locked in a face crank that Sandhagen was able to twist out of.
Lineker ate a big knee as he came forward at the 3-minute mark of the third round, and the two fighters continued to exchange.
The closing moments saw Lineker drop Sandhagen with a punch and lock in a tight guillotine for the final 30 seconds until the bell sounded to end the fight.
The story of the fight was the long, lanky Sandhagen using his length, a variety of kick attacks and stance switches to keep the onrushing Lineker at bay.
“It was his hometown more or less. It sucks to get booed, but I got the win. If it was in Colorado, everyone would cheer, but it was here. It is what it is. I know it was a close fight too. I didn’t honestly know if I had won either. I know that nothing was landing crazy clean, except for a few shots of course, but I thought I was scoring the cleaner shots and controlling the fight much more than he did.
“I think after a performance like that, I’m in the title talk,” Sandhagen said. “Everyone is tied up. I’m not sure, but I’m out there though. Maybe one or two fights away from the belt, if I play my cards right. I don’t have any opponent in mind, I’ll fight anyone. I believe that I’m the best, I’m proving that every time. I’m getting more experienced. I’ve got to just go through war, which is very important to have underneath my belt, with some of these next fighters that are going to fight me. I faced a lot of adversity in there, I’m proving stuff to myself and everyone. I think one or two more fights and I’m there.
“I would be lying if I said [the choke] didn’t get me nervous. I’m hard to choke though. My coach has the best chokes I’ve ever seen, so I’m very hard to choke. It did make me a little bit nervous. I was glad it was towards the end of the fight. It was choking but then I felt his grip give a little bit and I figured I would be ok.”