The top of the UFC Vegas 32 billing was the setting where the promotion’s #2 rated bantamweight, Cory Sandhagen, went to war with the former 135-pound champion, T.J. Dillashaw. The fight went the distance, with both men having their moments, but when the smoke cleared, it was Dillashaw who took home the split decision. Sandhagen had T.J. hurt early and busted up from a gash around his guy, but the heart of a champion shined through and Dillashaw fought his way back in it. Like it or not, Dillashaw ha snot lost a bantamweight bout since a split decision to Dominick Cruz way back in 2016.
Dillashaw was the aggressor early, going after Sandhagen with his usual volume. Sandhagen stuck him with a stiff straight, and then launched a crazy flying knee. Dillashaw caught the knee, and after escaping an inverted triangle attempt, he was able to land a little bit of ground and pound. T.J. then started grinding on Cory, using his wrestling to his advantage. They eventually broke apart, and exchanged back and forth in open space. Dillashaw found an opening for a takedown, and dropped punches to the body as Sandhagen attacked the legs.
The broadcast mentioned that Dillashaw may have injured his knee in the opening round. The fight resumed, and Dillashaw closed the distance right away, pressing Sandhagen against the cage. Cory got off the chain link, and a kickboxing bout broke out. Sandhagen then came up big with a left hand that dropped Dillashaw, which opened up a big gash over his left eyebrow. The referee brought the doctor in to look at the cut, and deemed that T.J. was fit to continue. The fight went on and Sandhagen landed one of his flying knees, but Dillashaw wasn’t bothered and kept pressing. The former champ grabbed a body lock and held Cory against the fence until the bell sounded.
Dillashaw showed up with haymakers in the third round, landing bombs on Sandhagen in the opening sequence. He then grabbed ahold of that body lock, and went back to grinding on Sandhagen against the fence. Cory escaped and started throwing his punching combos at Dillashaw, landing and keeping the range. A botched spinning attack from Sandhagen resulted in Dillashaw taking top position, but Cory didn’t stay on the floor for very long. Sandhagen then shot in for a takedown of his own, but got stuffed and caught up in another body lock. T.J. unleashed a barrage just before the bell, and Sandhagen responded with a punch that may, or may not, have been in time.
Dillashaw worked his leg kicks to open up the championship rounds. Sandhagen wasn’t checking them, and the former champ was getting into a rhythm. Approaching the midpoint of the fourth round, Sandhagen started to connect with his hands as Dillashaw would close the distance. It wasn’t long, though, before T.J. had another body lock. Sandhagen had to break free again, and was able to connect with a sweet spinning backfist that T.J. shook off.
The athletes exchanged leather immediately in the final round. It was anybody’s fight and both men were willing to bite down. Then, Dillashaw hit a short-lived takedown, followed by a little more grinding against the cage. Back in the middle, the former champ was coming forward while Sandhagen sat back countering with crisp punches. Down the stretch, they both poured on the volume, swinging and landing, and putting on a show.
T.J. Dillashaw def. Cory Sandhagen by split decision (48-47 x2, 47-48): Bantamweight
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