T.J. Dillashaw returned to action with a big decision victory over Cory Sandhagen last weekend at UFC Vegas 32, but the former UFC bantamweight champion still believes he could have done more in his matchup with “Sandman.”
Dillashaw, who was returning from a two-year suspension and trying to win his first fight since 2018, looked good in the early going despite the long layoff. However, Dillashaw ended up injuring his knee early into the fight and had to adapt on the fly. The ailment certainly slowed the former champion down and prohibited him from doing everything he wanted to, but Dillashaw still found a way to edge out Sandhagen on the scorecards.
While some people believe that Sandhagen might have scored more damage and deserved the split-decision win instead Dillashaw feels like things would have been even worse for “Sandman” if he didn’t injure his knee. In fact, Dillashaw believes he would have finished Sandhagen in the main event if he had full use of his leg.
“Cory is really lucky that my knee was messed up when I took his back so many times, because it would have been a different story if I was actually able to lift him or throw my hooks in,” Dillashaw said on Bruce Buffer’s “IT’S TIME!!!” podcast. “When I took his back, I tried doing a couple of trips. But every time – I remember lifting him in the second round, I took his back and my knee completely buckled on me and I was like ‘Oh, we can’t do that anymore.’
“So a lot of those back controls would have been – I believe I would have finished him if my leg would have been healthy. But you know what? Maybe it’s better I didn’t. I got to show that I have that grit, I have that comeback mentality, I have that fight-through-adversity, and I showed that my cardio is second to none. No one is going to outpace me. I work harder than everyone. So maybe it worked out in my favor. I built a lot of fans back in that fight.”
Dillashaw, who coming into the fight was 0-2 in UFC competition when the fight went to a split decision, believed he had done enough to earn the win in his return. Sandhagen certainly scored some serious shots that put the veteran on notice, but Dillashaw’s overall work through five hard rounds allowed him to make a lasting impression on the judges, bad knee or not.
“Going into the decision, I heard split – got me a little nervous. But I knew that it was a tough-fought fight,” Dillashaw said. “I knew that Cory did a great job. He definitely did a good job of using his range and his footwork and his striking accuracy and things like that. But you’ve got to remember, this fight is fought on rounds. He did do most of his damage in Round 2 when I came out after I popped my knee.
“Most of the damage he did in the fight was in Round 2. Even if you give him two rounds, all of the damage he did were in those two rounds he did it in. The other rounds, I was controlling the distance, I was controlling the pace, I was on his back. I won. I did what I had to do on one leg to get that win. To beat a guy like Cory Sandhagen on one leg, I ain’t going to be mad at that.”
With a win in his return to the bantamweight division Dillashaw now lines himself up for a massive fight his next time out. That’s likely to come in the form of a title shot against the winner of Aljamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan 2 later this year. Of course, Dillashaw must heal up his knee if he wants to take out anymore top names at 135 pounds.
What say you, Maniacs? Did Dillashaw’s knee injury prevent him from finishing Sandhagen in his return to action?