Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight knockout artists Marlon Moraes and Cory Sandhagen will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Oct. 3, 2020) inside Flash Forum on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Moraes officially enters this bout following a split-decision win over Jose Aldo, but since the promotion largely acted like he lost, this feels something like a rebound fight for each man. Regardless of the technicalities, Moraes is hands-down one of the most dangerous men at 135 pounds, a ball of fast-twitch muscle looking to kick his opponents into unconsciousness. There’s no such ambiguity with Sandhagen’s most recent result. His excellent win streak was unceremoniously ended by Aljamain Sterling, who wasted zero time in jumping on Sandhagen’s back and strangling him (recap). Now, the Colorado-native will attempt to return to the win column in a major way.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Aljamain Sterling (UFC Fight Night 123), Jose Aldo (UFC 245), Raphael Assuncao (UFC Fight Night 144), Jimmie Rivera (UFC Fight Night 131), John Dodson (UFC Fight Night 120), Josh Hill (WSOF 32, WSOF 18)
Key Losses: Henry Cejudo (UFC 238), Raphael Assuncao (UFC 212)
Keys to Victory: Moraes is one of the nastiest kickers in the sport. His shin simply flashes from the floor to the liver or skull in the blink of eye, and even the most skilled fights can be caught off-guard. Combine that explosiveness with a technically sound mixed martial arts (MMA) game, and it’s not hard to see why many expected Moraes to capture the crown.
Against Sandhagen, Moraes is going to be the faster man by a considerable margin. In the early rounds, it’s unlikely he’ll have much difficulty hitting Sandhagen, who forces the fight to a pretty extreme degree. There’s a real chance “Magic” catches Sandhagen and puts him down in the opening 10 minutes.
However, it’s equally important to remember that Sandhagen is tough as nails, and his volume does not drop off. If Moraes is not careful in managing his own output, he may find himself growing tired as his foe only ups the pressure (the Henry Cejudo situation).
As such, I’d like to see patience from Moraes. He has to be willing to circle rather than plant and counter at every opportunity. In addition, it may be time to return to his previous, World Series of Fighting (WSOF) era gameplan: destroy the legs early, then coast as necessary.
Key Wins: Raphael Assuncao (UFC 241), John Lineker (UFC Fight Night 150), Yuri Alcantara (UFC Fight Night 135)
Key Losses: Aljamain Sterling (UFC 250), Jammal Emmers (LFA 5)
Keys to Victory: Sandhagen announced himself as a major talent to watch in his debut, and he pretty quickly dove into the deep end of the 135-pound division. Sterling proved to be too much too soon, but otherwise, Sandhagen’s rise into the Top 5 has been pretty incredible to watch.
The former professional kickboxer is still just 28 years old.
Just as Moraes’ speed advantage is obvious, Sandhagen’s path to victory involves extending this contest into the later rounds and taking advantage of his pace. There’s a cost to being so damn fast, as it’s nearly impossible to maintain that level of explosion in the latter half of a five-round contest.
Of course, if Sandhagen is knocked out or pulverized by that point, he’ll hardly be able to take advantage. To avoid such a fate, Sandhagen may have to dial down the relentless pressure. He jumped straight into the pocket against a fearsome puncher in John Lineker — which was bold! — but doing the same here would be unnecessarily risky.
Instead, Sandhagen has to move forward while remaining in position to check/block kicks. If Sandhagen can get his jab going and force Moraes to bite on his jab feint, that would be huge. The Brazilian likes to plant and fire counter hooks, so if Sandhagen can bait him into doing so without actually committing to his own punches, he’ll be in great position to land.
Bantamweight is awesome.
Both men are fighting with the title in mind. For Moraes, a win here makes it two-straight victories, and he already has a victory over the current next-in-line challenger in Sterling. There’s obvious rematch potential there were “Funkmaster” to win the title, and even if he doesn’t, who wouldn’t want to watch Moraes and Petr Yan throw down?
The timeline is tricky, but Moraes likely secures a title shot with a win.
Sandhagen is perhaps more than one victory away from a shot. Defeating the current top-ranked contender would be huge, definitive proof that Sandhagen is going to be a title threat for years to come. However, that Sterling defeat is still quite recent, so Sandhagen is unlikely to earn a rematch with him off a single victory, no matter how impressive.
If Yan successfully defends, however, the opportunity is there.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Island 5 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance at 8 p.m. ET (also on ESPN+).
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Island 5: “Moraes vs. Sandhagen” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
At UFC Fight Island 5, Marlon Moraes and Cory Sandhagen will throw down in pivotal Bantamweight bout. Which man will earn the victory?