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UFC Vegas 60 preview: ‘Sandhagen vs Song’ predictions

UFC 267: Open Workouts Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is just one day away from the upcoming UFC Vegas 60 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, which is set to go down tomorrow night (Sat., Sept. 17, 2022) from inside the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, featuring a bantamweight main event between Top 10 title hopefuls Cory Sandhagen and Yadong Song, a five-round headliner with serious title implications for late 2022 and beyond.

LIVE! Watch UFC 279 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

BLOCKBUSTER WELTERWEIGHT SHOWDOWN! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., Sept. 10, 2022, with a must-watch updated Welterweight thriller that will see perennial fan favorite, Nate Diaz now battles former top-ranked Lightweight contender, Tony Ferguson, who will return to the 170-pound weight class for this last minute, upgraded assignment. Meanwhile, In UFC 279’s pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event, we now get the undefeated No. 3-ranked contender, Khamzat Chimaev, opposite Kevin ‘Trailblazer’ Holland.

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

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes the middleweight collision between Chidi Njokuani and Gregory Rodrigues, check out Patrick Stumberg’s breakdowns for the UFC Vegas 60 preliminary card — which we obtained during the raid of Mar-a-Lago — by clicking here and here. In addition, in-house pro fighter Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Vegas 60 main card right here.

For the latest “Sandhagen vs. Song” odds and betting lines courtesy of our fiscal friends over at Draft Kings go here.

Let’s get to work.

135 lbs.: Cory Sandhagen vs. Yadong Song

Cory ‘Sandman’ Sandhagen

Record: 14-4 | Age: 30 | Betting line: -190
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Switch
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 6.42 | Striking accuracy: 44%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.50 | Striking Defense: 55%
Takedown Average: 0.71 (33% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 67%
Current Ranking: No. 10 | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Petr Yan

Yadong ‘Kung Fu Monkey’ Song

Record: 19-6-1, 1 NC | Age: 24 | Betting line: +160
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 8 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 4 DEC, 1 DQ
Height: 5’8“ | Reach: 67” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.92 | Striking accuracy: 42%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.78 | Striking Defense: 59%
Takedown Average: 0.45 (42% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 60%
Current Ranking: No. 10 | Last fight: Knockout win over Marlon Moraes

Cory Sandhagen is sitting pretty at No. 4 in the official bantamweight rankings and I think the current voting panel may be suffering from voter’s remorse. Sandhagen has dropped two straight and three of his last five. His two victories during that span came over Frankie Edgar and Marlon Moraes, who are a combined 2-8 with seven knockout defeats over their last five. Gritty, hangin’ tough losses to TJ Dillashaw and Petr Yan were admirable performances, but if we have to start building a case for fighters in their defeats then maybe they don’t belong in the Top 5 of their weight class. That’s not an attempt to besmirch the Sandhagen name, I just find it interesting that Yadong Song is ranked six spots below him at No. 10 despite winning three straight, holding a better overall record than Sandhagen under the UFC banner, and capturing a victory over No. 5-ranked Marlon Vera on the UFC on ESPN 8 card roughly two years back. That’s what makes this an interesting fight and one that may help freshen up the current title picture. Aljamain Sterling and TJ Dillashaw are going to battle for “Funk Master’s” strap at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi and it would be nice to add Song’s name to the mix, alongside fellow streaking contender Merab Dvalishvili.

Easier said than done.

While I questioned his place among the bantamweight elite, I certainly don’t question Sandhagen’s skill set. He’s a creative, dynamic striker with sneaky submissions. He’s also deceptively fast, which is how “Sandman” was able to sleep Edgar and Moraes. Part of what makes this matchup so compelling is the fact that Song has a similar offensive style, developed during his time at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento. “Kung Fu Monkey” is six years younger than Sandhagen at age 24 and may have the edge in confidence based on their respective streaks. If you compare their offensive and defensive statistics they are pretty much even across the board, though it appears Song takes a little less damage on the feet and is a little more successful in his takedowns. My biggest concern for the Tianjin product is that he’s never done five rounds in UFC whereas Sandhagen has done it twice in his last two fights. The bottom line is this: If you’re 24 years old and can’t fight competitively for 25 minutes, then you don’t belong in the Top 5 and shouldn't be in the conversation for potential title shots. I’m expecting a five-round war between two very talented combatants and I wouldn’t be surprised if this contest was decided by a late takedown or balls-to-the-wall flurry in the final frame. Pencil this one in for “Fight of the Night.”

Prediction: Song def. Sandhagen by unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Chidi Njokuani vs. Gregory Rodrigues

Chidi ‘Bang’ Njokuani

Record: 22-7 | Age: 33 | Betting line: -125
Wins: 14 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 80” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.76 | Striking accuracy: 73%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 1.45 | Striking Defense: 56%
Takedown Average: 0.00 (0% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 76%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Knockout win over Dusko Todorovic

Gregory ‘Robocop’ Rodrigues

Record: 12-4 | Age: 30 | Betting line: +105
Wins: 7 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 75” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 6.00 | Striking accuracy: 55%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 5.73 | Striking Defense: 53%
Takedown Average: 2.40 (53% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 100%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Knockout win over Julian Marquez

Chidi Njokuani has been a nice surprise in the UFC middleweight division and to be quite honest, I’m equal parts shocked and impressed by his recent run. Remember, this is a combatant who left Bellator after losing two straight fights — and three of his last four — to ho-hum competition. Undaunted, “Bang” rebounded with a victory on the regional circuit and then captured the biggest win of his career, a technical knockout victory over Mario Filipe de Sousa on Dana White’s “Contender Series” just last year. The decision to sign the younger brother of former UFC lightweight Anthony Njokuani proved to be a smart one, as “Bang” quickly racked up two straight knockout victories, both in the opening frame. He’s a tall, imposing middleweight with a gigantic 80-inch reach and could become a major player at 185 pounds. My only concern is that a pair of quick-fire KOs against two fighters who have losing records under the UFC banner may not be enough to prove he’s not the same fighter who fell apart after jumping out to a 4-0 start for Bellator. That said, this is probably going to be the fight that tells us what the Dallas-born striker is capable of at this level.

Gregory Rodrigues also had a chance to blast his way into UFC by way of Dana White’s “Contender Series” but got pasted by Jordan Williams in late 2020, sending him back to the local circuit. From there, “Robocop” hooked up with Legacy Fighting Alliance and put the screws to Samoan bruiser Al Matavao and recently-signed UFC middleweight Josh Fremd, the latter of which earned Rodrigues the UFC contract he missed the first time around. Like Njokuani, the Brazilian made the most of his opportunity, putting together a 3-1 record (his loss was a split decision to Armen Petrosyan) and laying waste to Cuban crusher Julian Marquez. Rodrigues is just as tall as his “Fight Night” foe at 6’3” but has a whopping five-inch reach disadvantage. Expect that to be a problem — and perhaps the difference maker — if Njokuani stays long on the jab and keeps his feet from falling flat in the red zone. The counter to that is “Robocop’s” wrestling because “Bang” was taken down twice in one round by Dusko Todorovic and Rodrigues has seven takedown across his last four fights. I expect him to score a couple on Njokuani, as well, I’m just not sure he’ll be able to do anything with him. That said, it could be just what the judges want to see when it comes time to pencil in the scorecards.

Prediction: Rodrigues def. Njokuani by unanimous decision

Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 60 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 60 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 60 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive here. For the updated and finalized “Sandhagen vs. Song” fight card and ESPN+ lineup click here.

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