As another weekend approaches, so does another interesting UFC main-event. Saturday night’s ‘Fight Night’ headliner between Bantamweight contenders Marlon Moraes and Cory Sandhagen on ‘Fight Island’ has all the makings of an instant classic.
Both men are looking to make a statement worthy of a potential title shot. Especially after Bantamweight Champion Petr Yan hinted that Aljamain Sterling may not be getting the next title shot as initially expected.
While the validity of Petr Yan’s comment remains to be seen, it is very possible that the winner of this fight could be next in line for a Championship showdown with Yan. So how do the two men match up?
Well, they’re both very well rounded fighters who are aggressive in their approaches inside the Octagon. The pair have combined for a total of 23 career stoppages. While demonstrating the ability to finish their opponents by both knockout (14 combined) and submission (9 combined).
Marlon Moraes is coming off a controversial split-decision victory over Jose Aldo. And has lost just once in his last six fights. That defeat occurred in his title fight against Henry Cejudo last June, in which ‘Magic’ started the bout strong, but was eventually beaten in the third round.
Many felt that an apparent lack of cardio was key to the Brazilian’s downfall that night, and questions about his fitness haven’t gone away. Ironically, his opponent this Saturday night has been accused of the complete opposite.
Cory Sandhagen won his first 5 UFC fights and solidified himself as a true Bantamweight contender, before losing his last fight to Aljamain Sterling. Sandhagen was submitted early in the first round and has also had rough starts in previous fights, most notably his second UFC appearance against Iuri Alcantara.
The general consensus regarding this fight is that the length of the fight will determine the winner. However, I believe it is too simplistic to suggest that Moraes wins a short fight and that a longer bout suits Sandhagen.
Both have won fights by stoppage in the early rounds, so it would be silly to suggest Sandhagen can’t finish a fight quickly. And more importantly, neither has ever experienced fighting in the championship rounds in the Octagon so we don’t really know how either man will truly react to a potential 5-round-war.
This fight will probably be won and lost in a single moment, with the small details playing a part. Interestingly both men have talked about “the night”, and how all that matters is what occurs in the cage with neither allowing past performances to impact their approach too much.
Both men will probably be happy enough to strike in the early goings, and I doubt either man will shoot in for a takedown from the get-go. Although the fight will probably hit the ground at some stage. The aggressiveness of both men will be a key thing to look out for, especially in regards to Marlon Moraes.
Will he come forward and swing bombs against an opponent that has started poorly in the past? Or will his experience from the Cejudo loss force him to pace himself over the full five rounds?
Sandhagen considers himself “a cerebral fighter”, but believes that Moraes’ gameplan is tough to predict. “Every fight I watched of his he’s looked different”, said Sandhagen on the Ariel Helwani Show. The unpredictability of both men, as well as the well-rounded nature of their skills, makes this main-event extremely difficult to predict.
I like both fighters and their styles, however, I’m picking Marlon Moraes to stop Cory Sandhagen in the first or second round. I feel that the power and explosiveness of Moraes will be too much, but I would not be surprised if the fight goes the other way. Regardless of the result, the fans will most likely be the winners on Saturday night.