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UFC Vegas 18 card: Cory Sandhagen vs Frankie Edgar full fight preview

UFC Fight Night: Munhoz v Edgar Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight contenders Cory Sandhagen and Frankie Edgar will collide this weekend (Sat., Feb. 6, 2021) at UFC Vegas 18 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Sandhagen looks very much like the future of the Bantamweight division. The 28-year-old kickboxer has risen to the top of the ranks quickly, defeating several divisional mainstays in the process. He’s closing in on a title shot, but one more decorated veteran stands in front of him. Count me among those who somewhat wrote off Edgar’s Bantamweight move as too late, but “The Answer” pulled through with a pivotal victory in his 135-pound debut last time out. The odds may still be stacked against him and his final run at gold, but that’s seldom bothered Edgar in the past.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:

Cory Sandhagen

Record: 13-2
Key Wins: Marlon Moraes (UFC Fight Island 5), 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 is a rare combination of volume, precision and violence. The former professional kickboxer can overwhelm his foe with combinations and put them down with a single well-placed liver shot, and he can more than handle himself in scrambles, too.

Opposite Edgar, the takedown is the primary threat. Edgar is certainly capable on the feet, but Sandhagen’s smart lead hand and kicks should prove a sizable enough advantage. The trick will be throwing all those strikes without giving up takedowns in the process, because Edgar is quite good at keeping foes contained on the mat.

In this case, Max Holloway is a good fighter to study, as the Hawaiian jabbed up Edgar without ever truly struggling with the takedown attempts. Holloway took the initiative, patiently stalking Edgar behind the jab, which helped force Edgar into less effective reactive shots.

Sandhagen has the skill to do the same.

Otherwise, Sandhagen’s feints are a huge benefit here. If he can draw out offense from Edgar without actually committing, he should be able to safely land counter strikes with little fear of the takedown.

Frankie Edgar

Record: 24-8-1
Key Wins: Pedro Munhoz (UFC on ESPN 15), B.J. Penn (TUF 19 Finale, UFC 118, UFC 112), Chad Mendes (TUF 22 Finale), Gray Maynard (UFC 136), Jeremy Stephens (UFC 205), Cub Swanson (UFC Fight Night 128, UFC Fight Night 57), Urijah Faber (UFC Fight Night 66)
Key Losses: Jose Aldo (UFC 200, UFC 156), Max Holloway (UFC 240), Brian Ortega (UFC 222), Chan Sung Jung (UFC Fight Night 165)
Keys to Victory: Edgar has been the smaller man inside the Octagon for the vast majority of his career, succeeding anyway on the strength of his conditioning, heart, and smarts. Edgar blends boxing and wrestling far better than most, allowing him to keep opponents unsettled and less prepared to handle either.

Edgar has pulled off some strong striking performances over the years, but it seems very unlikely he can handle a lanky and dynamic kickboxer like Sandhagen without some takedown assistance. “The Answer” has to score at least a couple takedowns to win, simply because his game flows much better when the takedowns are a credible threat.

If Sandhagen is to copy Holloway, I’d like to see Edgar inspired by Aljamain Sterling. Sterling wasted absolutely zero time in moving Sandhagen to the fence and driving for a double, committing his fully energy and effort to scoring that first takedown. Sterling ended up winning the fight soon afterward, but even if that exact result does not come to Edgar — and it probably won’t — the value of scoring the takedown early is so huge.

This is only a three-round fight. If Edgar can steal a couple minutes of top control in the first frame, he likely takes the round, and more important, puts a touch of fear into Sandhagen’s heart.

Bottom Line

This is likely a title eliminator.

T.J. Dillashaw’s return to competition is a possible X-Factor, but otherwise, the Bantamweight division seems fairly clear-cut. After the title is decided between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling, the victor of this bout is next-in-line. There is a possible risk that UFC is unwilling to book Sterling vs. Sandhagen 2, so soon after the first bout, at which point Sandhagen may need another win.

The consequences for the defeated man differentiate far more. For Sandhagen, he’s still a young contender possible yet to enter his prime — there will likely be future opportunities. For Edgar, however, he’s already attempted several title runs in the last few years, and at 39 years of age, his current is likely his last.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 18 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 18: “Overeem vs. Volkov” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

At UFC Vegas 18, Cory Sandhagen and Frankie Edgar will battle in the co-main event. Which man has his hand raised?

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