Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight striking talents Cory Sandhagen and Rob Font will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Aug. 5, 2023) at UFC Nashville inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Sandhagen’s last two performances have really showcased development in his already top-tier game. He’s utilizing his entire mixed martial arts (MMA) game and adapting as necessary to individual opponents, making very dangerous foes look far more ordinary. What’s interesting here is that he won’t get the chance to do so opposite his planned opponent, Umar Nurmagomedov (full details here). Sandhagen will have to throw most of his gameplan out, as he’s instead been given just a couple weeks to prepare for Font, a very different challenger. Of course, Font was also preparing for a different opponent in Song Yadong, but his straightforward boxing style tends to be more consistent regardless of the opponent.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Marlon Vera (UFC San Antonio), Song Yadong (UFC Vegas 60), 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 can do it all. He’s a tremendous kickboxer at distance, filled to the brim with tricky tactics to land punishing shots safely. More and more, he’s been effectively wrestling too, mixing in takedowns to keep his opponent off-guard and push the pace.
There’s a general idea in kickboxing to punish the opponent’s preferences with their weaknesses. The old saying goes, “Kick the boxer, box the kicker,” and though it may seem endlessly roundabout, it pretty much defines this match up on both sides.
Sandhagen may have a fast jab and strong combination punching, but his advantage here on the feet lies with ... his feet. Sandhagen moves well and operates at a longer distance than Font, whose best range weapon is his sharp jab. Conversely, Sandhagen has kicks of all kinds that can score points and do damage another step further.
Countering the jab with kicks should be a big part of Sandhagen’s goal. If he can take away Font’s jab to some extent, Font will appear even more limited at distance. I expect feints to be a huge key for Sandhagen as well. Font counters well, but if Sandhagen can get him swinging at air, it will mess up his overall timing and create openings for “The Sandman.”
Key Wins: Cody Garbrandt (UFC Vegas 27), Marlon Moraes (UFC Vegas 17), Ricky Simon (UFC on ESPN 7), Adrian Yanez (UFC 287), Sergio Pettis (UFC on FOX 31), Thomas Almeida (UFC 220), Douglas Silva de Andrade (UFC 213)
Key Losses: Marlon Vera (UFC Vegas 53), Jose Aldo (UFC Vegas 44), Raphael Assuncao (UFC 226), John Lineker (UFC 198), Pedro Munhoz (UFC Fight Night 119)
Keys to Victory: Font is as tough as they come, an athlete who has been hurt by shots but never knocked out. He’s got one of the division’s best jabs, and once it starts landing, Font will build well with heavier shots to follow up.
Remember: Font has to box the kicker. He wants to get in Sandhagen’s face, a step closer than his lanky foe would prefer. A one-to-one exchange favors Font as the heavier hitter, but more to the point, Font is better at building combinations of power punches from within the pocket.
Really, Font would be wise to take a page from Petr Yan’s book, as the Russian striker also had to close distance and put hands on Sandhagen. For one, Yan did well to mix his targets, throwing lots of head-body and body-head combinations. In addition, Yan scored some of his best lands by switching stances and extending his combinations from the other stance, an effective strategy to close distance.
For Font, the switch-hitting doesn’t have to be complicated. A double jab-cross can lead into a Southpaw jab-overhand — the inverse of the classic Dustin Poirier attack — and that will chew up a ton of space.
A Bantamweight title shot is on the line ... maybe.
Sandhagen should be fighting for a title shot. He’s cleared a pair of absolute top contenders, and the division is going to open wide up without Aljamain Sterling at the helm (win or lose). Maybe he fights Sean O’Malley for the belt or maybe he takes on Merab Dvalishvili for a vacant title. Either way, his name is a part of that conversation with a win.
As for Font, he’s further back from the belt. His last win over Yanez was spectacular, but it snapped a two-fight losing streak. Even defeating a well-regarded Top Five contender like Sandhagen wouldn’t secure him a title shot in a red-hot division like Bantamweight, but it would certainly move him a lot closer.
At UFC Nashville, Cory Sandhagen and Rob Font will go to war in the main event. Which man earns the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Nashville fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN/ESPN+) at 9 p.m. ET.
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