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UFC Nashville preview: ‘Sandhagen vs. Font’ predictions

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

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) continues its nationwide tour this weekend with the UFC Nashville: “Sandhagen vs. Font” mixed martial arts (MMA) event, scheduled for this Sat. night (Aug. 5, 2023) inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. Headlined by the bantamweight banger between Top 10 title contenders Cory Sandhagen and Rob Font — a late booking in the wake of an injury to Umar Nurmagomedov — UFC Nashville will air on both ESPN and ESPN+ from start to finish.

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 79 On ESPN+

HIGH STAKES LIGHTWEIGHT MATCHUP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC APEX on Sat., Sept. 23, 2023, with a high stakes 155-pound showdown as No. 6-ranked contender, Rafael Fiziev, takes on No. 7-seeded Mateusz Gamrot. In UFC Vegas 79’s co-main event, No. 12-ranked Featherweight contender, Bryce Mitchell, steps back into the Octagon against No. 13-seeded Dan Ige.

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

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, which includes the strawweight showdown between former champion Jessica Andrade and undefeated contender Tatiana Suarez, check out Patrick Stumberg’s preliminary card breakdowns by clicking here and here. In addition, budding free soloist and “Volunteer State” resident Andrew Richardson did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the UFC Nashville main card right here.

For the latest “Sandhagen vs. Font” 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. Rob Font

Cory “Sandman” Sandhagen

Record: 16-4 | Age: 31 | Betting line: -330
Wins: 7 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 70” | Stance: Switch
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.98 | Striking accuracy: 44%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.90 | Striking Defense: 57%
Takedown Average: 0.89 (21% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 64%
Current Ranking: No. 4 | Last fight: Split decision win over Marlon Vera

Rob Font

Record: 20-6 | Age: 36 | Betting line: +240
Wins: 9 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 5 DEC
Height: 5’8“ | Reach: 71” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 6.46 | Striking accuracy: 46%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 4.03 | Striking Defense: 56%
Takedown Average: 1.01 (36% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 55%
Current Ranking: No. 7 | Last fight: Technical knockout win over Adrian Yanez

Cory Sandhagen returns for what amounts to his fourth main event in less than three years, thanks partly to the promotion’s abundance of “Fight Night” cards but mostly because “The Sandman” has consistently proven to be one of the most exciting fighters at 135 pounds, racking up four performance bonuses over the last five years with UFC, including two “Fight of the Night” honors. His stock dipped in late 2021 following consecutive losses to former champions TJ Dillashaw and Petr Yan, with some of the water cooler warriors wondering if the Coloradan was simply outgunned by the top half of the division.

In response, Sandhagen rattled off back-to-back wins over Yadong Song and Marlon Vera, a pair of action-heavy Top 10 bantamweights with something to prove. I think “The Sandman” got screwed ahead of this weekend’s fight card, and that’s no disrespect to Rob Font, but a victory over the undefeated Umar Nurmagomedov — who was bounced from the lineup due to injury — would have made for a much stronger argument when it came time to talk title shots. Since that’s still the goal for Team Sandhagen, the counter to his change in opponents needs to be a career performance against a very durable adversary, who no doubt will be looking to steal some of that shine ahead of next month’s bantamweight title fight.

Font was an exciting but inconsistent bantamweight for the first half of his UFC career, debuting with a knockout victory over George Roop back in summer 2014. To put that timeline into perspective, Chris Weidman was still middleweight champion and Conor McGregor was just one week out from his featherweight return against Diego Brandao. Stopping Roop was part of a 5-3 start for Font, who finished all five of his opponents during that span. Then things really started to click and the Bostonian went on a four-fight tear, picking off established veterans Marlon Moraes and Cody Garbrandt along the way. Not unlike Sandhagen, the aging Font saw his title shot go up in smoke after dropping two straight decisions to Jose Aldo and Marlon Vera.

Undeterred, Font was able to remind the division he’s here to stay with a technical knockout victory over Adrian Yanez at UFC 287 last April. The concern here is that Font is stepping up on short notice and even though he was already in camp for Yadong Song — who also bowed out due to injury — the Sandhagen fight is a couple of weeks before his original UFC 292 booking, leaving him much less time to prepare. Working in his favor is the fact that matchmakers agreed to switch this five-round affair to 140 pounds, sparing Font the agony of a rushed weight cut. With that in mind, I expect tomorrow night’s headliner to be a battle of gameplans. Sandhagen is the more creative, dynamic striker but the nuts-and-bolt offense of Font comes with knockout power. In addition, Font has double-digit takedowns across his UFC career and “The Sandman” has been taken down 13 times since early 2018.

Font’s wrestling is going to make this a close fight. That said, I don’t think he’ll be able to do anything with the ground, other than put the Coloradan on his butt. Between those instances, look for Sandhagen to control the distance, and the standup, en route to a clear (but competitive) unanimous decision victory.

Prediction: Sandhagen def. Font by unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Jessica Andrade vs. Tatiana Suarez

Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade

Record: 24-11 | Age: 31 | Betting line: +300
Wins: 9 KO/TKO, 8 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 5 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’1“ | Reach: 62” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 6.82 | Striking accuracy: 50%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 5.40 | Striking Defense: 54%
Takedown Average: 2.61 (54% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 73%
Current Ranking: No. 5 | Last fight: Knockout loss to Xiaonan Yan

Tatiana Suarez

Record: 9-0 | Age: 32 | Betting line: -425
Wins: 2 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’5“ | Reach: 66” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 4.35 | Striking accuracy: 66%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 1.34 | Striking Defense: 49%
Takedown Average: 6.12 (58% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 100%
Current Ranking: No. 10 | Last fight: Submission win over Montana De La Rosa

Jessica Andrade is a former strawweight champion and one of the tiniest fighters on the roster at 5’1” with just a 62” reach. It's kind of amazing what she’s been able to accomplish over the years and tomorrow night’s contest marks her 25th appearance inside the Octagon, a record for female fighters. She’s also the only woman in UFC history to register wins in three different weight classes and could tie Amanda Nunes for most wins (16) by capturing a victory at UFC Nashville. On top of that, Andrade holds UFC records in multiple categories including significant strikes, total strikes, takedowns, and performance bonuses. She may not be the most consistent fighter in terms of wins and losses, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a boring “Bate Estaca” fight. Does one exist? That said, Andrade needs a victory in a big way, having lost two straight to Erin Blanchfield and Xiaonan Yan while also getting finished in both losses. The Brazilian is still just 31 years old and competing in her athletic prime, but it's safe to say there are a lot of miles on those tires. To wit, eight of her 11 losses have come by way of knockout or submission.

Matchmakers did her no favors against the undefeated Tatiana Suarez, who missed nearly four years of her competitive prime due to injury. It certainly didn’t look like she lost any time at all with her second-round destruction of Montana De La Rosa at UFC Vegas 70 earlier this year in “Sin City.” That was first appearance for the Californian since June 2019 and in case you forgot what she was capable of, now is a good time to remind you she not only beat, but finished current champion Alexa Grasso (UFC Fight Night 129) and former titleholder Carla Esparza (UFC 228). In addition, Suarez swept Season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and was a two-time freestyle wrestling bronze medalist. Not surprisingly, Suarez averages a staggering 6.12 takedowns per fight and has 24 to her credit across six UFC appearances. Her opponents? A big, fat goose egg. Unlike Esparza, a fellow wrestler, Suarez is a prolific finisher with both submission prowess and knockout power. She also sports an anemic 1.34 significant strikes absorbed per minute, probably because she spends so much time on top.

Like any fight that features Andrade, you can expect nothing but 100 percent from the Brazilian buzzsaw. Unfortunately, I don’t expect that to be enough, simply because “Bate Estaca” is accustomed to dictating the ground game, outwrestling 13 of her previous opponents. Former strawweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, however, made it look easy, registering seven takedowns and giving up zero in their early 2021 affair. Suarez is a far more accomplished wrestler than “Bullet” and has a significant size advantage over Andrade, which is why I predict this will be a lopsided affair, for however long it lasts.

Prediction: Suarez def. Andrade by submission

Remember, the rest of the UFC Nashville main card predictions are RIGHT HERE. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Nashville fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ preliminary card bouts at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN/ESPN+ main card start time at 9 p.m. ET.

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

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