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UFC Vegas 32 preview, ‘Sandhagen vs Dillashaw’ predictions

UFC Fight Night Cejudo v Dillashaw: Open Workouts Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

After more than two years of inactivity, former — and some might say disgraced — UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw makes his long-awaited return from suspension to prove talent (not EPO) was the secret to his success. Standing in his way in the UFC Vegas 32 main event, which takes place this Sat. night (July 24, 2021) inside APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, is top-ranked bantamweight bruiser Cory Sandhagen, who may be one big victory away from a 135-pound title shot.

Or not.

LIVE! Stream UFC San Antonio On ESPN+

BLOCKBUSTER BANTAMWEIGHT CONTENDERS’ BOUT! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) departs APEX for a special “Fight Night” extravaganza at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, on Sat., March 25, 2023, featuring a pair of thrilling 135-pound bouts. Surging No. 4-ranked contender Marlon Vera goes for his fifth consecutive win when he takes on exciting finisher and No. 5-seeded Cory Sandhagen. In UFC San Antonio’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, former women’s 135-pound champion and current No. 3-ranked Holly Holm battles Yana Santos (No. 4).

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Prior to that exchange of bantamweight leather, fellow 135-pound title hopefuls Aspen Ladd and Macy Chiasson collide in the women’s division. Despite similar trajectories over the last couple of years, Ladd is ranked seven spots above Chiasson at No. 3 while also enjoying a more favorable betting line. No doubt those numbers will be turned upside down if Chiasson — who like Ladd migrated from Invicta FC — can capture the “W” in “Sin City.”

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, head over to the UFC Vegas 32 preliminary card breakdown expertly deconstructed by effervescent analyst Patrick Stumberg here and here. Resident MMA champ Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Vegas 32 main card right here.

For the latest “Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw” odds and betting lines be sure to check out the updated numbers right here.

Let’s break it down ...

135 lbs.: Cory Sandhagen vs. TJ Dillashaw

Cory “The Sandman” Sandhagen

Record: 14-2 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -185
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Switch
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 6.85 | Striking accuracy: 48%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.89 | Striking Defense: 59%
Takedown Average: 1.07 (50% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 30%
Current Ranking: No. 2 | Last fight: Knockout win over Frankie Edgar

TJ Dillashaw

Record: 16-4 | Age: 35 | Betting line: +155
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 5’6“ | Reach: 67” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.37 | Striking accuracy: 41%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.03 | Striking Defense: 65%
Takedown Average: 1.68 (37% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 86%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Technical knockout loss to Henry Cejudo

At the UFC Vegas 32 media day, Cory Sandhagen told reporters that TJ Dillashaw is hoping to have his “Cinderella moment,” which convinces me that “Sandman” has never actually watched Cinderella; but yes, I understand the point he’s trying to make. Dillashaw has done a lot of chirping over the last few weeks. Partly because his job is to help promote the fight, but mostly because he truly believes he’s the uncrowned king of the bantamweight division. In his defense, he was still 135-pound champion when USADA stripped him of the division strap, a result of his wanton drug use, I’m just not sure how well his short reign holds up under scrutiny, especially considering his strength of schedule. After losing his title to Dominick Cruz in early 2016, Dillashaw defeated Raphael Assuncao, John Lineker, and Cody Garbrandt.

Lineker was cut after losing to Sandhagen, Assuncao lost three straight fights, and Garbrandt is a putrid 1-4 over the last four years. In addition, Dillashaw turned 35 back in February and hasn't seen the inside of a cage since early 2019, when he was smoked by the since-retired Henry Cejudo in a failed attempt to win the flyweight title. No doubt Dillashaw has been training during his time off — and so has Sandhagen — but “Sandman” has also competed five times during Dillashaw’s absence, racking up a 4-1 record with back-to-back knockouts in his last two showings. Like his opponent, nobody is going crazy over Sandhagen’s level of competition. The Coloradan also turned away both Lineker and Assuncao and I’m not popping any corks for a victory over the shopworn Frankie Edgar, who turns 40 in October. The biggest test of his career came in the form of Aljamain Sterling at UFC 250 and Sandhagen was submitted in the opening frame. He’s since rebounded with a pair of wins but let’s not pretend that June 2020 is ancient history.

I know the Dillashaw camp wants you to believe that EPO had little to do with his success, which is a dumb thing to say because why risk taking it if you only needed hard work and talent? I’m sure Dillashaw believes he’s the same fighter he was back when he was on top and muscle memory has made him comfortable in the gym. There are just too many unknowns to make him a convincing pick. Dillashaw is older, coming off the gear, and facing one of the top bantamweights in the world who is just entering his prime. Dillashaw wants to make a statement in his UFC return this weekend in “Sin City” and I believe he will, just not the statement he was hoping for.

Prediction: Sandhagen def. Dillashaw by technical knockout

135 lbs.: Aspen Ladd vs. Macy Chiasson

Aspen Ladd

Record: 9-1 | Age: 26 | Betting line: -200
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’6“ | Reach: 66” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.22 | Striking accuracy: 55%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.84 | Striking Defense: 46%
Takedown Average: 2.45 (75% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 66%
Current Ranking: No. 3 | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Yana Kunitskaya

Macy Chiasson

Record: 7-1 | Age: 29 | Betting line: +165
Wins: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 3 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 72” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.16 | Striking accuracy: 49%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.17 | Striking Defense: 46%
Takedown Average: 0.98 (21% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 64%
Current Ranking: No. 10 | Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Marion Reneau

Aspen Ladd is ranked No. 3 at 135 pounds, a full seven spots above UFC Vegas 32 opponent Macy Chiasson, probably because the weekly rankings are a thinly-veiled popularity contest and not an actual reflection of the current state of each division. That’s not to take anything away from Ladd, who is 4-1 in five fights inside the Octagon, three of which came by way of knockout. But Chiasson is 5-1 for UFC and mopped up the competition on Season 28 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). I know the promotion (and the thirsty fanboys masquerading as media members) want Ladd to be the next big thing at 135 pounds — for reasons that don’t need to be explained here — I just wish they wouldn’t curb-kick every other contending bantamweight in the process.

Ladd did a nice job of rebounding from her Germaine de Randamie loss — which may or may not have been an early stoppage (depending on who you ask) — to capture a technical knockout win over Yana Kunitskaya. That said, “Foxy” has been finished in five of her six losses, so putting away the Russian import is no longer a headline in 2021. Ladd is still just 26 years-old and not even in her fighting prime, I’m just not sure her career as a bantamweight is sustainable after multiple scale fails, including one that nearly killed her. Ladd is also coming off reconstructive knee surgery, so we don’t yet know how that will affect her takedowns or power shots.

Chiasson didn’t get the usual buzz you see around TUF champs, but neither did fellow Season 28 winner Juan Espino. You can attribute that to the fact that everyone is sick of TUF at this point, along with a lot of other reality shows, and losing a tepid decision to Lina Lansberg only served to push Chiasson further down the list of marketable bantamweights. Her biggest offensive weapon is her versatility, and when coupled with her grit, the 29 year-old Louisianan is capable of beating just about anyone at 135 pounds, including Ladd. Can she do it in tomorrow night’s co-main event? She’ll have to shut down Ladd’s offense and make this fight ugly, if for no other reason than to stay away from the ground. I just think she may be too gun shy in the beginning, giving away the first two rounds in what is likely to be a very close fight.

Prediction: Ladd def. Chiasson by unanimous decision

Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 32 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 32 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN/ESPN+ main card start time at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 32 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archives here and here. For the complete “Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw” fight card and ESPN/ESPN+ lineup click here.

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