UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs Dillashaw Preview

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Jeff got 9 out of 10 picks correct last week, so you won't want to miss out on his tips for this weekend's UFC Fight Night.

Cory Sandhagen lands a blow in the UFC octagon.

After a very successful UFC Vegas 31 for my predictions (I went 9-1 – yippee for me!), the UFC returns to the UFC Apex once more with another card this Saturday. And while last week’s offering might have been weak on paper, this one is jam packed with top fighters and exciting matchups. This card has a stellar main event and is a solid from top to bottom.

The main event in question is a more than likely #1 contender fight in the bantamweight division. In the one corner we have Cory ‘Twinkle Toes’ Sandhagen, winner of seven of his eight UFC fights, including his last two via (T)KO. In the other corner, the returning T.J. Dillashaw, former two-time UFC Bantamweight Champion. The key plotline in this matchup is Dillashaw’s long absence from the cage – two and a half years – due to a failed drug test for EPO. That’s a long time to be on the shelf, plus it casts into doubt all that we’ve gleaned from Dillashaw’s past performances in the cage since we don’t know for sure if he ever was a “clean” fighter.

It is very hard to back the former champ due to his time off, the absence of PEDs this go around (you’d hope), plus the fact that he is now 35 years old, ancient for a lighter weight class like 135 pounds. Plus, Sandhagen is a tough matchup for Dillashaw – he’s five inches taller, has three inches of reach, and is six years young. Not to mention he’s a dangerous striker, winning his last two fights via (T)KO, as mentioned above. If he can avoid getting taken down too often and ground out by Dillashaw, Sandhagen is my pick at 20/43.

Sizzling Matchup Between Top Young Prospects

The co-main event is a sizzling matchup between two of the top young up-and-coming prospects in the women’s bantamweight division. We’ve got the 9-1 Aspen Ladd and the 7-1 Macy Chiasson, with the winner one step closer to a coveted title shot against Amanda Nunes. While Chiasson will be the much bigger combatant in this one (five inches taller and six inches of reach), I think Ladd is the better all-around fighter of the two. She’s a better striker, but more importantly, she vastly trumps Chiasson in grappling, which is the path I expect her to take to victory in this one. Ladd at 5/11 gets my money.

While I’ve gone chalk with the top two fights on the card, there are quite a few live dogs that are getting my attention. We’ll start with featherweights and Darren Elkins vs Darrick Minner. Minner is a grappling specialist, with 22 of his 26 pro wins coming via submission. But Elkins has been submitted exactly once in his 14-year UFC career, to current UFC Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveira, way back in 2010. Plus, The Damage is great on the ground himself, and Minner gets submitted a lot. Elkins at 5/4 is worth a splash of money.

For our next underdog choice, let’s move up to middleweight. Nassourdine Imavov at 6/5 against Ian Heinisch is my pick here. Imavov is bigger, younger, and the superior striker, making him a live one in my eyes. Additionally, Heinisch has only won once in his last four fights, so he could be ripe for the picking.

Finally, Randy Costa matches up against Adrian Yanez in a bantamweight battle on the prelim portion of the card. Both men are talking like this one is going to be a slugfest, and both men have crazy knockout power for 135-pound fighters. However, a wild brawl is right up Costa’s alley, more than Yanez’s, so Costa at 7/4 is a solid pick.

*Odds correct at time of writing.

Jeff Fox offers expert insight into the world of MMA & UFC betting from his years of experience in the industry. His work has appeared in publications such as SI.com, St Louis Post-Dispatch, SLAM, Fighters Only Magazine & FIGHT!, among many others. Jeff shares his UFC betting tips with MansionBet readers on a weekly basis.
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