Bantamweight contender Cory Sandhagen and former champion TJ Dillashaw met in the main event of UFC on ESPN 27. This fight marked of course, the long-awaited return of Dillashaw after more than two years away from the sport. Dillashaw put all the doubts and questions to rest with a hard fought, razor thin split decision win over the number 1 contender.
The fight was a close one, with many fans debating the outcome later on social media. Sandhagen was very effective at range, using his reach advantage quite effectively. He even managed to land two flying knees, very similar to one he used to put Frankie Edgar away. He used an educated jab to do a lot of damage to the former champion, even opening a massive cut on TJ’s eyebrow.
TJ on the other hand, took a more blitzing approach to the fight. His winging, quick combinations made up for his disadvantage in size quite effectively. He also used leg kicks as a great way to limit his opponent’s movement. TJ also displayed a commendable fight IQ, initiating clinches to nullify Sandhagen’s advantages at range. While he was not too successful at completing takedowns, it turned out to be a great way of maintaining pressure.
Two of the three judges scored the contests 48-47in favor of Sandhagen while the third scored the same in favor of TJ. Many fans seemed to agree that rounds 1 and 3 were TJ’s and 2 and 4 went to Sandhagen. Debates and arguments broke out over the 5th, which truly was a close one. Cory seemed to be more effective at range for sure. However, TJ was initiating clinches frequently and maintaining solid pressure with his leg kicks and blitzes.
TJ was ecstatic post fight and appreciative of his opponent. He was critical of himself for being a little sloppy but happy that he pushed the pace. TJ proceeded to call for a title fight saying that it would be “easy money”. He stated that he would also take anyone in the top 5 if Yan and Sterling didn’t sort their situation out quick enough.