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Cory Sandhagen vs. Song Yadong full fight preview | UFC Vegas 60

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UFC Fight Night: Moraes v Song Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight strikers Cory Sandhagen and Song Yadong will collide TONIGHT (Sat., Sept. 17, 2022) at UFC Vegas 60 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

It’s been nearly one year since Sandhagen last made the walk, coming up short in a competitive title bid opposite Petr Yan. He enters his third main event slot on a two-fight losing streak, putting an extra bit of pressure on “The Sandman” to perform even if he actually fought rather well in both defeats. On the flip side, Yadong is on one heck of a tear. One of the top fighters younger than 25 across the entire promotion, “The Kung Fu Monkey” has won three in a row, including two recent knockout wins. He’s already earned a spot in the Top 10, and now, Yadong looks to break into the title mix.

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

Cory Sandhagen

Record: 14-4
Key Wins: Frankie Edgar (UFC Vegas 18), 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), Petr Yan (UFC 267), TJ Dillashaw (UFC Vegas 32)
Keys to Victory: Sandhagen is really a top-notch kickboxer. “The Sandman” manages distance well, hits the body from both stances, and can time his jump knee directly to the jaw like very few others. He throws a ton of shots, but Sandhagen also hits pretty damn hard.

For Sandhagen, this bout is all about footwork and distance control. In general, Sandhagen wants this fight to take place in the kicking range with small pocket exchanges mixed in ... provided he’s the one dictating those trades. Sandhagen’s goal should be to make Yadong work through damaging distance strikes, make him miss once he’s a touch closer, then hit him on the counter.

More lateral movement in general will likely help him in this plan. Yadong’s most recent loss came in 2021 to Kyler Phillips, and Phillips had a lot of success in the first 10 minutes by just switching directions and avoiding the pocket. He also managed to catch Yadong off-guard by suddenly exploding forward with fast combinations, and while that’s not necessarily Sandhagen’s modus operandi, Sandhagen is quite good at sudden direction changes into a big power shot (such as the Frankie Edgar knockout).

Song Yadong
Record: 19-5-1 (1)
Key Wins: Marlon Vera (UFC on ESPN 8), Marlon Moraes (UFC Vegas 50), Casey Kenney (UFC 265), Julio Arce (UFC Vegas 42), Alejandro Perez (UFC 239)
Key Losses: Kyler Phillips (UFC 259)
Keys To Victory: Yadong might just have the heaviest hands at 135 lbs. He’s a ferocious puncher with lightning fast hands, and Yadong has a deceptively well-rounded overall skill set.

The single most important key in this fight for Yadong is to avoid headhunting, which is what ultimately cost him the decision against Phillips. Since then, he seems to have absorbed that lesson. In his last three fights, Yadong is still swinging with nasty intent towards the jawline, but he’s also ripping the body or kicking at the legs more often.

Both will be important against Sandhagen, whose distance and defense are both quite solid. There’s always a chance Yadong can just melt him early with a clean connection, but his odds are much better if Yadong consistently tracks him down and hits what is available until the chin opens up.

In general, Yadong wants this at a closer range, because he’s nastier in the clinch and can end the fight from the pocket. He doesn’t want to walk into something huge, but the Chinese athlete should always be looking to inch forward and cut off the cage.

Bottom Line

This is a big step up for Song Yadong.

Yadong has said in interviews that he expects a title shot with a stoppage over Sandhagen, and that’s not impossible. After all, everyone else who has defeated Sandhagen wound up in a title fight soon afterward! Yadong has an exciting style, and UFC would love to promote another Chinese champion, so it’s really a win-win for the promotion if he does continue to succeed.

For Sandhagen, he has to defend his position inside the Top Five. He’s in a difficult spot having lost to three other members of that rank already, which means climbing higher than his current position isn’t simple. The only solution is to get back into the win column here and then hope to look ahead for a rematch, or even a new highly ranked opponent like Marlon Vera.

At UFC Vegas 60, Cory Sandhagen and Song Yadong will go to war in the main event. Which man remains standing when the dust settles?

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