A highly anticipated bantamweight clash headlines this Saturday’s UFC fight card as Cory Sandhagen takes on a returning TJ Dillashaw.
With Dillashaw’s suspension from a failed drug test over, the former champion will look to regain his £ 135 crown in a much-changed division.
Elsewhere, there is little in the way of greater importance in the UFC on ESPN 27, but the chance to see Kyler Phillips as well as motherboard fights in Miranda Maverick vs. Maycee Barber and Adrian Yanez vs. Randy Costa should promise excitement.
Cory Sandhagen (14-2) vs. TJ Dillashaw (16-4)
Dillashaw’s absence from competition has seen a whole new crop of top competitors come up at £ 135 and it will be fascinating to see how he matches this new generation.
On his feet, Dillashaw’s smooth and fluid striking is a joy to watch, but I doubt with his size and power advantage that he will be in kickboxing range with Sandhagen.
Instead, a breaking heavy game plan is likely to be the approach he takes, but keeping the bigger man down will be a tough request.
Another question surrounding this battle is whether Dillashaw’s production will be able to keep up with Sandhagens.
While Dillashaw flourished years ago with movement and strikes cast, Sandhagen operates on a higher cut than the previous champion, doing so with more natural force behind his strikes.
Because of Dillashaw’s size disadvantage, I struggle to see him control this fight, and with that fact combined with his ring rust, I think Sandhagen will be able to have his own impressive strike successfully.
Election: Cory Sandhagen
Kyler Phillips (9-1) vs. Raulian Paiva (20-3)
It’s a shame not to see Kyler Phillips against another ranked bantamweight candidate, but a game fighter like Raulian Paiva should make this fun.
Paiva is always eager to approach his opponents, but a flying weight that briefly moves up is likely to put him at a significant disadvantage.
Since Phillips is the more well-rounded fighter, both in his willingness to change where the fight takes place and the diversity of strikes, I think it’s Phillips’ fight to lose.
Select: Cooler Phillips
Darren Elkins (25-9) vs. Darrick Minner (26-11)
Both Elkins and Minner are high-performing warriors with durability, and I think it will be difficult to separate the two.
Although Elkins has taken a lot of damage and has not had the most success recently, his competitive quality has been higher than Minner and he is still able to remain competitive.
Memories, meanwhile, are fast out of the blocks, and I think if he is to win this fight, he will have to do the same here to fight Elkin’s experience of picking up rounds.
It’s a close match to choose, but I will carefully stand with Elkins to have sufficient know-how to keep me out of danger early and control the match later.
Select: Darren Elkins
Miranda Maverick (9-2) vs. Maycee Barber (8-2)
Maverick and Barber seek to account for their potential here, but I think the former’s ability to grind control out physically will be enough to win here.
Barber has shown an ability to act in her pocket and shown impressive strength in doing so, but when she is tasked with a skilled striker like Alexa Grasso, she really struggled to get any offense at all.
Maverick, meanwhile, is happy to exert pressure through gravel and athletics alone and then keep control either on the mat or in the clinic.
Maybe Barber’s aggression will be able to catch Maverick when he closes the hole, but I’m sitting with the warrior who’s better at dictating battle.
Select: Miranda Maverick
Adrian Yanez (13-3) vs. Randy Costa (6-1)
This seems to be the most exciting match on the map outside of the main event.
Yanez is a talented striker with great strength and he has shown an ability to be patient and collected when things are not going exactly his way.
Costa, on the other hand, is a fighter who pushes his foot all the way down on the accelerator and presses the action looking for a quick finish.
Because of Costa’s approach, it’s hard to rule out an explosion of violence at his end, but Yanez has simply shown more in his career so far for not believing he should win this fight.
Election: Adrian Yanez
(Last predictions: 4/5, total: 70/123, 57% success rate)
(Success rate: 2016: 61%, ’17: 60%, ’18: 58%, 19 ′: 57%, 20 ′: 67%)