Cory Sandhagen vs. Chito Vera
This be the highest shit I ever wrote- 2Pac voice.
This one is an urban legend celebrity death match, a melee of nightmare amalgamations whose creations can only be attributed to ancient and modern psilocybin and tetrahydrocannabinol-enhanced minds. Yes, shroom trippin’ and blunt smokin’ for the layman. The two combatants represent predators of mankind from our far-distant past and future.
In the red corner, we have Navajo lure and the ancient Skin Walkers, supernatural shape-shifting beings. Skin Walkers are known to take on the forms of animals, giant bears that devour human bodies ass first in a single bite, and rabid saber wolves whose attacks leave behind no evidence of their prey's prior existence except the carrion birds that gather to feast upon the spilled viscera. Cory Sandhagen is a well-known Skin Walker, transforming his style, stances, and tactics from one exchange to the next. He can go from a long stalking aggressive predator who attacks from range to a crouched wily opportunist who sets traps and lays in wait for precise moments to counter.
And in the blue corner, we have modern lore and the Hyperion Cantos, a historically accurate record of the future believed to have been sent back in time by our future selves. The Cantos come from a time when humans inhabit two hundred planets and travel between worlds via the Farcaster network, time portals. The Cantos prophesizes the deadliest hunter known throughout time, the Shrike. The Shrike is a supreme humanoid with a metal carapace and four arms like Goro. Its entirety is covered in blades, from scalpel finger blades and razor wire wrapped around its torso and limbs to a single Katana mounted on the chest to impale prey like its earth-animal namesake. Every inch of it is deadly. At present, the only thing we can compare to the Shrike is Marlon "Chito" Vera, a marauder who attacks opponents with a multitude of deadly weapons, every limb an impaling or eviscerating blade.
The two figments of the human psyche will clash in an epic main event that will have major title implications as the future of the bantamweight division is up in the air with the Champ Aljo’s future uncertain beyond the Henry Cejudo bout win or lose.
When not in animal form, Cory Sandhagen looks like someone who wears a mascot costume for a minor league baseball team like the Montgomery Biscuits or Rocket City Trash Pandas. But don’t let that fool you; Sandhagen is one of the best strikers in a division full of elite bone throwers. His best weapon is his ability to manipulate the pocket inside and out with stance switches and forward/back pivots. He uses back pivots to give up ground while remaining within striking range, and the stance change alters the orientation of the opponent’s defenses. If they don’t make the correct adjustments, they will be vulnerable where it was thought they were protected. Also, the Sandman uses stance switches to cut the cage and box opponents in, trapping them where he can take chances with extended combinations and flashy spinning attacks.
Sandhagen is also a master of styles. Other than Sandhagen, I’ve only ever really seen Khalil Rountree completely switch styles and stances from one round to the next. Cory will switch styles from one exchange to the next. He’ll start out upright and wide with a bouncy cadence and then switch to a crouched wrestling stance and strafe laterally, looking for an opening to engage in the pocket. He also uses his head like a fishing lure to elicit strikes and get the drop, so he can pull counter. Once inside the pocket, he busts out the sneaky Peaky Blinders razor blades for elbows and cuts you so fast when your blood spills, it’s still blue. Ask Yadong Song. And then there’s the spinning shit.
Sandhagen is a textbook example of an effective flashy striker. He uses flashy spinning and flying techniques like fundamental strikes. You can land anything if you know how to set it up. Cory sets up the flying knee by sliding back in the pocket as if in retreat, drawing the opponent’s pressure forward right into the knee. He set up the spinning wheel kick that knocked out Marlon Moraes by putting a distracting jab in Moraes’s face and using it to spin off.
All that shit’s cool and all, but what about his ground game? Don’t let the Aljo fight fool you; Sandhagen is also a slick grappler, offensively and defensively. He’ll level change from time to time to keep you honest and force scrambles and hunt subs from his back. Overall, Sandhagen is as well-rounded a fighter as there is. His game plan will be to keep the fight at his range and use volume to get ahead on the scorecards, while staying outside of Chito’s knees and elbows, his battering weapons.
Chito Vera will straight-up murder your ass. He will smash your face into a car windshield and take your mother, Dorothy, out for a nice seafood dinner and never call her again. Vera is a damage-over-volume striker who marches down fleeing opponents without ever having to break from a brisk walk like Jason Voorhees. He wins fights with accumulative damage created by using every one of his limbs. Chito Vera doesn’t have weapons; he is a weapon. There are no rules of war when Chito invades the Octagon; he’s an anybody killer and bombards indiscriminately with hands, shins, knees, and elbows.
The deadliest part of Chito’s game is his kicks. He uses coffin corner up-the-middle snap kicks and unassuming heavy round kicks. His round kicks make use of an element not found on the periodic table, surprise. He snaps kicks out of nowhere without a tell, using his knee as a fulcrum to propel his leg instead of using his hips, making his kicks quicker to the target. Add deceptive hand speed, stiff straight punches, and nonstop forward pressure, and you have an oft-slept-on elite striker. Much like Merab Dvalishvili, Chito doesn’t lose; he only runs out of time. Without time restraints, Chito can win any battle of attrition. He outlasts opponents, chipping away at them as they dump round after round until, they run out of ammo, and Chito emerges steadfast from the smoldering heap of rumble, still in pursuit.
The knock against Chito is that he gives up rounds due to low output. In his last bout against Dominick Cruz, Chito let Dom get ahead on the scorecards by outworking Chito, and Chito had to rely on a walk-off homerun to pull it out. But that’s what Chito does; he works the count and fouls off tough pitches until he gets his pitch. Then he erases any deficit with one swing. But relying on home runs to pull off late comebacks is a risky game to play, one that will eventually catch up to Chito. Chito was out-landed in his last three fights but won all three and finished two of them. You can’t knock that kind of hustle.
Cory Sandhagen will be the (-165) favorite, and Chito will be the (+140) dog. You know what time it is. Bust out the Piso Mojado signs. Chito Vera at plus money will be dripping value all over your freshly Swiffer’d floor. In twenty-seven career scraps, Chito has never been finished, which means, more than likely, Sandhagen will have to go a full twenty-five minutes without making a fatal mistake. Chito has eight career TKO/KO’s and eight subs in twenty career dubs. I think the fight goes the distance, but Chito is the slightly better finishing threat.
I got back in the main event winning column last week when Leon Edwards defended his belt, and this one could get me streaking again. But to quote the incomparable Chito Vera, "You can’t wipe your ass before you shit." No, nothing is guaranteed, and main event dubs aren’t promised to anyone. I think this time, Chito might fall a little too far behind output-wise and allow Sandhagen to steal close rounds. A Sandhagen TKO/KO will return (+550) and a Chito TKO/KO (+350). Cory Sandhagen via decision. On wax.
Yana Santos vs. Holly Holm
It all began in 2015, my love for dropping twenty-twen-twens on fights. The first fight I ever bet on was Holly Holm vs. Ronda Rousey. I was like a member of congress engaged in insider trading based on non-publicly disclosed information. That information was that Ronda was overrated, especially her striking, and the women’s boxing Hall of Famer, Holly Holm, was going to KO Ronda. I tried to share my knowledge with anyone who would listen, but I had trouble finding anyone who would listen.
"Welcome to Dimpus, can I take your order?"
"Give me a, uh, double bacon cheeseburger."
Into the loudspeaker, "Double bacon cheeseburger. It’s for a security guard."
"What the hell’s that all about? Are you gonna spit in it now?"
"Nah, I’m just telling him, so he makes it better." Into the loudspeaker again, "Don’t spit in that security guard’s burger."
"Thanks. Give me a, uh, pie...apple. And did you know Holly Holm is going to KO Ronda Rousey this weekend?"
"Sure bud. Do you want me to hold the spit? Haha, just kidding. Do you want to differ-size your meal for a dollar more?"
"No thanks, but seriously Holly is going knock Ronda the fook out. You should drop an Andy Jackson on it."
"It’s just a quarter and look how much more you get."
"I’ll save the quarter and give it to you, so you can bet on Holly Holm, she’s (+700)."
"Yeah, sure bud. Beverage?"
"Give me a liter of cola."
"Liter of cola?" Into the loudspeaker, "Do we have a liter of cola?"
"Liter is French for you should bet on Holly Holm this weekend."
"Sorry, bud. Ronda is going to break her arm in thirty seconds. Will that be all?"
When I sat down, I found a juicy loogie in my burger, but I ate it anyway. Principals. The rest is history. It’s not important how I spent the money, but what is, is that I had a valid medicinal recommendation from a back pain specialist.
Anywho, that’s old shit now. Holly won the title, lost it, went up to featherweight and fought for the belt, got robbed of a second title, and now she has come face to face with her fighting mortality. It’s been nearly a year since she last fought, and at age forty-one, a year off in this game is like seven in dog years. I rewatched her last fight against Ketlen Vieira. Hov did that, so hopefully, you won’t have to. It was the first time Holly actually looked slow as if Father Time finally took her back like Aljo and weighed her down for the twenty-five-minute clinch fest. She still has tight, technical striking, but she looked like Zeke Elliott, slow and labored hitting the hole.
But all that matters now is, can she beat Yana Santos? Holly Holm’s worst enemy has always been Holly Holm. GSP was vocal about how scared he would get before fights but never fought scared. Holly always fights scared, afraid to engage and take risks. In a way, Yana Santos will be the perfect opponent for Holly at this stage of Holly's career. Yana, if nothing else, is aggressive and fearless. She will press the action and force Holly to engage or walk away in what could be her final fight with an L. In her prime, Holly would dominate Yana with speed and overall technical superiority, and this fight wouldn’t even be sanctioned. But Holly isn’t in her prime, and Yana is closer to hers.
Yana is wild; she howls at the moon. She throws doodie in the Honeywell and gets shit poppin’. She’s a high-output striker who just throws and lets the chips fall where they may. There isn’t much tact to her approach, but she comes forward and overwhelms with volume and constant pressure. But don’t let the tennis grunts fool you; Yana’s major malfunction is a lack of power. Her strikes make boinking sounds when they land. Her fights sound like an old-school Tom and Jerry episode. Her value will be in her output, nearly four and a half significant strikes landed per minute. She’s a real threat to outwork Holly to a decision win if she can avoid the clinch and keep the fight in the center of the Octagon.
Holly will be the (-250) favorite, and Yana will be the (+200) dog. I think this fight is a toss-up; a lot closer than the odds suggest. Yana will make this ugly and pressure Holly, which always looks good in the eyes of the judges. One thing you can count on is the fight going the distance; Holly hasn’t finished a fight since 2017, and in seven UFC bouts, Yana has never finished one. For old-time's sake, I’m hopping on the Holly train for one last ride (Never mind, Holly just inked a new six-fight deal). All she needs to do is read the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear and let them hands and feets go. Holly Holm via decision.
Nate Landwehr vs. Austin Lingo
The emergency broadcast system will be sounding that loud, annoying beeping noise on your TV during this one. This will be a fight that will make all the paranoid Doomsday Bunker advocates look like Nostradamus. Nate Landwehr vs. David Onama in my hometown—San Di... San Di... San Di-let-go-of-my-ego—was my 2022 fight of the year, and Nizzy Nate Landwehr took home the Ron Burgundy performance of the night honors. Don’t act like you weren’t impressed. Nate will never have to pack his own bowls in San Diego ever again. Landwehr is an MMA Al Bundy with a Three 6 Mafia soul. Nate fights carefree like his riding spinners and pulling boppers at the local Sonoco. But most importantly, Nate Landwehr is a fookin’ dog. And I ain’t talkin’ Santa’s Little Helper. I’m talkin’ the product of Cujo humping one of those Resident Evil zombie dogs. Landwehr’s opponent will be the late replacement, Austin Lingo, whose fight against Ricardo Ramos two weeks ago was canceled after weigh-ins. Lingo also has some serious dog in him, and this could turn into a Michael Vick promotion’s main event dogfight real quick.
Nate Landwehr is a textbook kill-or-be-killed scrapper, and when he gets killed, he Dies Hard like Bruce Willis. If you don’t finish Landwehr in the opening minutes like Julian Erosa and Herbert Burns did, you’re gonna get your ass kicked. In the trenches is where you’ll find Nate, using collar ties and Thai plums to deliver nasty elbows and knees. He’s Smeagol in the pocket, only venturing out to spend a couple seconds hyping up the crowd. Pressure is Landwehr’s best weapon; he marches down opponents and never ever, ever, ever, takes a step back. He has kicks for every day of the week and tight short punches with deceptively quick hands. Extended combinations to the tune of nearly six and a half significant strikes landed per minute is Nate’s bread and butter as he’s a Makaveli Seven Day Theory First To Bomb representative.
The underrated part of Landwehr’s game is his wrestling/grappling. He will take you down, beat you up, and let you back up so he can take you down and do it all over again. From his back, Nate forces scrambles and never accepts being stuck on the bottom. Although he only has one career submission, Nate has slick head-and-arm chokes, using them to defend takedowns and finish the fight. Landwehr is a solid, well-rounded sleeper. His major malfunction is that he’s a defensive atheist; he doesn’t believe in it. He takes heavy damage early and often and can get put to bed at any moment. When he loses, he usually gets caught early. But he doesn’t mind because—as we saw in San Diego—Nate Landwehr doesn’t simp for the dub. He plays hard to get. In SD, victory was begging Nate to take it home like a Kiss groupie, and several times Nate turned it down in lieu of putting on a show for the crowd.
Here is what I wrote about Austin Lingo two weeks ago:
Austin Lingo is a 3rd of the month Jamie Mullarkey (because you get paid on the 1st and you’re broke by the 3rd), with First Team All Mr. Hanky honors, a doodie that won’t flush. He’s a classic overachiever who chooses the path to victory less traveled.
Lingo is a throwback take-one-to-give-one fighter who usually goes through a crucible on his way to victory. He’s like the NASCAR driver that starts the race in the back of the pack and drafts his way to the front. But Austin’s lingo is violence (see what I did there). No matter the extent of the damage he’s taking, he will continue to come forward with reckless pressure behind tight hooks and overhands. He will literally walk through fire for a dub and is often a danger to himself. The local Sheriff’s department is usually called between rounds to conduct welfare checks on Lingo. But Lingo is 9-1 for his career, and more often than not, his cardio, pressure, and penchant for throwing combinations lead him to victory. Lingo is 2-1 in the UFC and coming off back-to-back dubs and will likely be the dog against Nate Landwehr.
Fantasy-wise, Lingo will be a valuable low-tier option; this fight will be fought almost exclusively in the pocket, with both fighters trading volume back and forth. If this goes the distance, win or lose, Lingo should put up solid punch stats. But the better finishing threat will be Nate Landwehr. Lingo can hurt and finish Nate, too, but Nate uses more weapons and likes to take the fighte everywhere and anywhere. You already know what time it is. I’m rolling with San Diego’s adopted son, Nizzy Nate Landwehr, via TKO, round three.
Andrea Lee vs. Maycee Barber
This fight will be a Holly Holm vs. Yana Santos prequel. Andrea Lee is like an alternate universe version of Yana Santos, and Maycee Barber has a similar skillset to Holly Holm. Andrea Lee is a Nintendo Wii scrapper with a Rudy heart. Like Yana Santos, Lee uses a high output of never-ending strikes that never quite qualify as combinations and never stops moving forward. And before taking back-to-back L’s after starting her UFC career 3-0, Maycee Barber started fighting like a shell of her former self. In high school, you was the maaan, homie. The fook happened to you? She started taking fewer risks on the feet and instead initiates the clinch and rides out control time. Andrea Lee’s high activity should force Maycee Barber to open up her stand-up as she did in her first three bouts.
Andrea Lee’s striking reminds me of a dog too big to fit through the doggy door but keeps ramming itself into it anyways, over and over again. She has ADHD striking; there’s only madness and no method. There’s no flow to her striking; it’s a bunch of single strikes just mashed together with no setups or overall tact. She punches and kicks, but she’s not quite a kickboxer. The intricate details are lost in translation. Lee will run face-first into counters and keep coming forward in a straight line and keep running face-first into counters. But she has some serious dog in her. If she were a 90s rapper, she’d be signed to Bad Boy. Can’t stop, won’t stop. Andrea Lee will keep swinging and kicking as she floats past Jack Dawson all the way to the bottom.
Maycee Barber will be the better striker, grappler, and fighter in this matchup. She has some serious striking skills, including fast hands and sneaky kicks. There’s a bladed, bouncy Karate cadence to her stand-up, and she utilizes side kicks to maintain distance. In her first three fights, she looked like one of the top strikers in the division and even gave the new champ, Alexa Grasso, a scare in the third round of her loss to Grasso. But then she started using the Holly Holm clinch and grind. My mind is telling me no, but my body’s telling me yes. I don’t see nothing wrong with a little clinch and grind. Except Maycee not using her striking is like having a Corvette and pushing it around town. Top down, screaming out, money ain’t a thang. After three straight wins and playing it safe, this fight will be like sending a player down to the minors to work on their swing. This is the perfect fight for Maycee to knock the dust off her hands and feets and put on a show.
The key for Lee will be avoiding the clinch and pressuring Barber with volume. If she can stay in the center of the Octagon, she could be a valuable low-tier Fantasy option. She has a higher overall output than Barber, averaging five and a half strikes per minute compared to Barber’s four and a half. Barber is coming off three straight decision wins, and Lee’s two most recent dubs came by TKO and submission. There’s distant value for a finish for both fighters, but this will likely go the distance. Barber is the (-250) favorite, and Lee is the (+200) dog. After fading Justin Gaethje last week like a pendejo, I’m gonna stick to the fundamentals this week. Maycee Barber via decision.
Chidi Njokuani vs. Albert Duraev
If Albert Duraev doesn’t hydrate with moron juice after weigh-ins, this should be a wrestler vs. striker matchup. But that’s not a given. If Duraev fights with his ego and settles for a kickboxing match, he’ll be batting his eyelashes and blowing kisses, flirting with unconsciousness. Chidi Bang Bang is fast as f**k booooooy! I don’t think you understand just how fast he really is. But that doesn’t matter if he ends up on his back. This one will be a clash of styles, and whoever can fight to their strengths and dictate where the fight takes place will win.
Chidi Njokuani is coming off a wild fight against Brazilian Deebo, Gregory Rodrigues. If you saw a picture of both fighters after, you would have thought Chidi had won by vicious KO. He landed a knee on Rodrigues that opened a massive cut between Rodrigues’ eyes. You could see Deebo’s skull like Ghost Rider. It was a grotesque unibrow. Deebo looked like Frita, looked like a savage Anthony Davis. There are three words you never thought you would see in succession: Savage Anthony Davis. But that happened in the first round, which came before the second round, which was the round Deebo TKO’d Chidi.
I’ll tell you where you never want to be; in the clinch against Chidi Njokuani. Dude has a nasty Thai clinch and knees and elbows and Anderson-like control. Chidi is excellent at striking his way into the Thai clinch and striking his way out. Now that I think about it, Njokuani kind of reminds me of a more technical Kevin Holland. Like a New Year’s resolution Kevin Holland. New year, new me. The long quick hands and aggression are similar, but Chidi uses his reach more consistently than Holland. He has nasty kicks, especially up-the-middle Ray Guy punt kicks, and his hands are fast and sharp. Chidi’s jab will be the key for him against Duraev. He needs to employ it by the dozens and keep it in Duraev's chest. Head-hunting a wrestler is suicide. You punch to the chest and make it difficult to level change. Njokuani’s ground game is sus; he’s a little prickly to take down, but once he is, the parental advisory warning flashes on the screen.
Albert Duraev, the ‘ev’ says it all. He can wrestle. And if he chooses to do so against Chidi, his path to victory will be paved in yellow bricks and lined with fanciful-dressed little people cheering him on. Now, don’t @ me, bro. Duraev’s stand-up isn’t like Christopher Reeves’s, but it’s not the most effective part of his game. He has smooth combinations and reminds me of Chimaev on the feet, with long, straight combinations, and even has some sneaky grassy knoll head kicks that appear out of nowhere, but it’s just not a risk he needs to take like eating Taco Bell with no PTO accrued. In his last bout, Joaquin Buckley left Duraev looking like Martin after Martin’s run-in with Tommy "Hitman" Hearns, all lumped up and swollen. Duraev couldn’t unlock his phone after the fight because the facial I.D. couldn’t recognize him. Duraev will give himself a better chance on the feet if he takes the Merab approach and constantly threatens with takedowns, whether they are successful or not.
I’m a little surprised to see Chidi as the (-170) favorite and Duraev the (+140) dog, but that is likely because of the discrepancy of physical attributes on the feet should Duraev be unable to relocate the fight. The fight is heavily favored (-285) to end before the final bell, and both fighters have paths to a finish. Duraev finished twelve of his fifteen career dubs, including noine subs, and fourteen of Chidi’s twenty-two career dubs came via TKO/KO. The striking stats heavily favor Chidi’s near four and a half significant strikes per minute compared to Duraev’s under three, but Duraev also averages over two takedowns per fifteen minutes. This could be a good spot to take a dog, but I ain’t doing it, ol’ hoss. Chidi Bang Bang via TKO, round three.
Manel Kape vs. Alex Perez
This one is impossible to call, other than it is almost guaranteed to end in a finish. Alex Perez was the last person not named Brandon Moreno to fight Deiveson Figueiredo in a title fight back in 2020, and Manel Kape was once a backup for a title fight before he even made his debut. Perez is the prototypical wrestler striker with debilitating Baby’s First Gaethje Leg Kicks, and Manel Kape is Hot Sauce on the And-1 Tour showboating at Rucker Park. Kape is a flashy striker with speed to burn and has been slowly creeping back into title contention.
Before his last two bouts, Alex Perez was 6-1 in the UFC after a dub on the Contender Series back in 2017. But in his two most recent scraps, I’m not so sure Perez wasn’t putting pleasure before business. Against Alexandre Pantoja and Figueiredo, Perez got choked like he had a safety word. To his credit, Pantoja might be next in line for a shot at the Champ, Brandon Moreno, and you already know what kind of monster Figgy is. Perez is a power-over-everything-else striker with heavy, aggressive hooks and crippling leg kicks. Leg kicks will be the x-factor in this matchup; Manel Kape has Jon Jones legs, rickety Ikea table legs, and one or two kicks could disrupt his best attribute, movement. I anticipate Perez trying to wrestle early and rack up some control time from the top position.
The biggest question about Manel Kape is his mental game. The physical skills are all there; he has excellent hand speed, varied attacks on the feet, and an ability to force scrambles with submission attempts from the bottom, but he often loses focus during fights. He will literally bust out Allen Iverson crossovers with an imaginary basketball in the middle of the fight. It’s all smoke and mirrors to mesmerize with fancy footwork but doesn’t really serve much purpose other than hyping up the crowd. Kape will likely have to fight from his back against Perez, but he has a special move from his guard. He uses the Kimura from the bottom to sweep and end up on top. In his last bout, he had David Dvorak wiping southpaw for six months after using a Kimura to sweep from the bottom and nearly ended the fight. The key for Kape will be using an active guard and increasing his output on the feet.
Kape will be the (-185) favorite, and Perez will be the (+150) dog. Bring ‘em out, bring ‘em out. The Piso Mojado signs should be out in full effect when Perez steps into the cage. Perez has only lost to elite competition in the Octagon, and it has yet to be seen if Kape is at that elite level. Perez can cause Kape problems on the feet and salt away precious time from the top position. Both fighters average around four and a half significant strikes per minute, but Perez also averages nearly three takedowns per fifteen minutes. The fight is favored (-185) to end before the final bell; the likely path for Manel Kape is a TKO/KO finish, but Perez is a double threat with seven career subs and the ability to change any fight on the feet with his nasty leg kicks. Manel Kape via decision. Wax on, wax off.
Thanks for reading, homies! Catch ya in two weeks.