Saturday’s card will see Dillashaw in action for the first time since his flyweight title fight defeat to Henry Cejudo at UFC Fight Night 143 in 2019. Sandhagen, meanwhile, has fought four times since. Consecutive highlight reel knockouts against Marlon Moraes and Frankie Edgar have left him within touching distance of a title shot.
But all eyes will no doubt be on Dillashaw this weekend as he hopes to return to championship contention following a two-year suspension after he tested positive for EPO. Despite claiming dealing with the suspension has been “easy,” Sandhagen will look to ensure his opponent’s Octagon return will be far from the same..
Dillashaw is clearly confident heading into the headlining fight, perhaps owing to his experience training with his upcoming opponent many years ago.
While speaking with ESPN MMA’s Brett Okamoto, Dillashaw revealed he had used Sandhagen in his camp while training for his fight against Dominick Cruz at UFC Fight Night 81. The 35-year-old suggested that “The Sandman” is better in some aspects than Cruz.
“I used Cory a lot for my Cruz fight because of his footwork and his motion and stuff. I was in Colorado at the time, so I used him a lot for that camp as much as I could with him wanting to show up. He’s in a different mindset now. He’s a little tougher now, but I’d say he uses his footwork well. He’s actually better at it. I think he’s got better, more effective footwork than Cruz. Cruz has just got footwork to have footwork. Cruz has got good timing, and he’s got good, unorthodox movement, but Cory’s got movement with purpose. He’s got a lot more purpose behind his movement, so you gotta be aware of that.”
But despite coming off such a long layoff and entering the Octagon with a man in red-hot form, Dillashaw is not only expecting the victory on Saturday night, but he’s expecting a finish.
“Yeah, I’m gonna finish him for sure. With Cruz, Cruz was one of those fighters that I would say he’s not as technically sound, but he’s more well-rounded, where Cruz took me down three times in the fight. I think they were actually split second, but maybe I got a little overly aggressive and let him time a shot on me, where that’s not going to be the case (with Sandhagen). I hope it isn’t the case. (Laughs) That’d be hilarious. But that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about. So when you talk about game-planning, I think Cruz is probably harder to game plan for because he is gonna switch up his timing, he is gonna switch up his levels. He might try to take me down.”
While Dillashaw prepares for his highly anticipated return to the sport, a number of other exciting names are also preparing to make the walk to the Octagon inside the Apex this Saturday. The likes of Mickey Gall, Kyler Phillips and Aspen Ladd are all set to be in action on the event’s main card.
The prelims are also set to offer some fireworks. In the featured bout, two middleweight prospects will go toe-to-toe as Brendan Allen and Punahele Soriano look to leap further up the 185-pound ladder. With Ian Heinisch, Adrian Yanez, and Andre Ewell also scheduled for bouts, the event promises to continue the momentum from UFC 264 and last week’s exciting Fight Night.
Do you think T.J. Dillashaw will be successful when he returns to face Cory Sandhagen at UFC Vegas 32?