Dillashaw, who is a former two-time UFC Bantamweight Champion, was making his return to the Octagon after more than two years on the sidelines. The 35-year-old had tested positive for EPO following his defeat to Henry Cejudo in 2019. The failed drug test resulted in a lengthy suspension for Dillashaw.
But adding doubt to the existence of ring rust, the Californian looked close to his best against Sandhagen. Without taking a tune-up fight, Dillashaw jumped straight into the deep end against “The Sandman,” who was ranked #2 in the division at the time. After battling some early adversity in the form of a knee injury and a deep cut, Dillashaw found his rhythm and grinded out a split decision victory.
Despite some suggesting Sandhagen should have had his hand raised, most agreed that Dillashaw’s performance was worthy of praise. Sean O’Malley is the latest individual to marvel at his peer’s return display.
During a recent appearance on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour, “Suga” addressed the questions surrounding Dillashaw’s comeback. However, he suggested the 35-year-old answered them with one of the greatest performances he’s ever seen.
“Honestly, it was one of the sweetest performances I’ve seen, especially coming back, coming off so many question marks of, is he gonna have the cardio, is he gonna have the push, is he gonna have that same mindset with needles in his butt? He did. He was mentally there for 25 minutes, hurt his knee early on, was getting pieced up early on, and found a way to win. So that performance was actually very inspiring. It was really impressive, really good to watch.
“I was questioning. I didn’t know where he’d be. I was like, ‘We’ll see.’ I thought he wouldn’t have that same push, that same drive, that same cardio, and he did. So I was actually very impressed with that performance.”
Despite praising Dillashaw, O’Malley probably wouldn’t have been pleased to hear the former champ’s comments about him last month. While he may only be 26, Dillashaw suggested “Suga” has too many holes in his game to become a champion.
O’Malley will look to prove Dillashaw wrong, starting with his next appearance. Having defeated promotional newcomer Kris Moutinho at UFC 264 in July, the surging bantamweight star is on the hunt for an opponent for UFC 269 in December.
The Montana-born star was offered an intriguing clash with Frankie Edgar at UFC 268. However, the date clashed with a grappling tournament his coach Tim Welch is set to attend. Nevertheless, O’Malley looks set for one more fight before the close of this calendar year.
If he can rack up a few more wins, perhaps he can secure a meeting with Dillashaw inside the Octagon before the former champion calls time on his career.
What did you make of TJ Dillashaw’s return to action at UFC Vegas 32? Do you agree with Sean O’Malley?