UFC on ESPN 27: Sandhagen vs Dillashaw Predictions & Results
Oh boy, oh boy, does UFC on ESPN 27 have quite the headliner. Former training partners? Check. A two-year drug ban for EPO? Check. Two ridiculously aesthetic switch-hitters with knockout power? Cheeeeck. Inject this into my veins.
Of course, a little side note must be made calling Dillashaw out. What sort of moron gets caught in this day and age. Obviously, Dillashaw’s EPO usage was made worse by the fact that he is a despicably slimy and unlikeable person. Alexa, play Dillashaw sparring videos. Let’s not pretend that at least 80% of the roster isn’t pumping the same juice though.
Three women’s fights on the undercard make for pretty grim viewing. Although, speaking of silver linings, Ladd vs Chiasson has been called off due to an injury. It’s just a shame then that it was the most interesting women’s match-up on the card.
UFC on ESPN 27: Main Event
Cory Sandhagen (14-2) vs T.J. Dillashaw (16-4)
I’m not sure anyone can quite believe the knockout run that Sandhagen has embarked upon after his emphatic loss to Aljamain Sterling. While the Moraes finish hasn’t aged well, it was still a dangerous match-up at the time and there is no denying the Brazilian’s freakish first-round threat. Against Dillashaw, Sandhagen will benefit from a 5″ height and 3″ reach advantage. Although Sandhagen often shortens his jabs to double/triple shots, straight shots out of both stances will be key to frustrate Dillashaw’s attempts to pressure.
Sandhagen’s finest work stems from his jab and series of feints. While many fighters will feint to gain reads early, Sandhagen is a rare breed that maintains feints through the entirety. As a result, Sandhagen keeps a relentless pace on an opponent – physically and mentally. Using the jab as a range-finder, Sandhagen baits opponents onto counters. If an opponent doesn’t react or lifts his guard, Sandhagen safely pours out volume with hooks to the head and body.
With sustained attacks to the head and body, Sandhagen is keen to pepper lead legs too. Additionally, Sandhagen always has the wild card of a flying knee. Although a risky strike, Sandhagen limits the dangers of poor positioning/TDD by throwing the flying knee when an opponent is already pressed against the cage. Moreover, as mentioned before, Sandhagen frequently uses the kimura to create scrambles and break himself out of awkward positions.
Wherever you stand on the Dillashaw EPO debacle, everyone has to concede that he is one of the finest fighters to date. Able to push a ridiculous pace from start to finish, Dillashaw’s heavy-handed switch-hitting and powerful wrestling base tore through a long list of top Bantamweights. Questions do remain over what TJ will return? Although somewhat trivial, will there be any nightmares lingering from his emphatic stoppage defeat to Cejudo? Has his body adapted after (hopefully) easing off any PEDs he was running? Is his thirty-five-year-old body able to compete at the same pace?
It is safest to assume that the TJ of old will return (not the weight drained stick insect that faced Cejudo). Vital to Dillashaw’s success is his patented drop shift. Withdrawing the lead foot, switching feet, creating a new angle for a strike (commonly a hook or uppercut) while creating timing problems for opponents. To get an essence of Dillashaw’s frequent success with the drop shift, a re-watch of his fight with Renan Barao is necessary.
The key to Dillashaw’s success on the night will be whether he can consistently work off the front foot. Although possessing slick head movement, Sandhagen’s range and Dillashaw’s un-coordinated backwards footwork will come undone overextended exchanges. Instead, Dillashaw needs to drown Sandhagen in volume and force the taller fighter to the cage. While single or double legs are ill-advised due to Sandhagen’s tendency to immediately latch upon a kimura, Sandhagen has shown weaknesses against the body lock. If Dillashaw can mix his wrestling in with his striking, he can force a gruelling pace that Sandhagen will struggle to survive with by the championship rounds.
Predicted Result: Sandhagen Decision
The key to Dillashaw’s success on the night will be whether he can consistently work off the front foot. Although possessing slick head movement, Sandhagen’s range and Dillashaw’s un-coordinated backwards footwork will unravel overextended exchanges. Instead, Dillashaw needs to drown Sandhagen in volume and force the taller fighter to the cage. While single or double legs are ill-advised due to Sandhagen’s tendency to immediately latch upon a kimura, Sandhagen has shown weaknesses against the body lock. If Dillashaw can mix his wrestling in with his striking, he can force a gruelling pace that Sandhagen will struggle to survive with by the championship rounds.
Of course, Sandhagen’s masterful jab and feints, in addition to the 5″ height and 3″ reach advantage he will enjoy on the night, are tough hurdles for a thirty-five-year-old coming off a two-year layoff. While Dillashaw should still probably be favoured, form is a hugely important factor in fighting and personally, too many questions surround what version of TJ will appear on Saturday to fully trust the former champ’s success.
Result: Dillashaw def. Sandhagen // Decision (split – 47-48, 48-47, 48-47)
Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
UFC on ESPN 27: Co-Main Event
KYler Phillips (9-1) vs Raulian Paiva (20-3)
A strong BJJ threat on the mat, Phillips surprised Song Yadong with a beautiful back-foot boxing display. Utilising crisp footwork, Phillips’ lateral movement kept Yadong chasing thin air all night. Better yet, Phillips has a knack for landing head kicks off the back-foot, an incredibly difficult but effective strike to time. Against Paiva, Phillips physicality should prove key as he has the size to tie up opponents to create space and suffocate dangerous situations. After watching Phillips fight Yadong, it became abundantly apparent that he is a teammate of Sean O’Malley. The major difference to biscuit legs, however, is Phillips is far more comfortable moving off the back-foot. The American’s declining output towards the end of his last outing is a worry though, especially when considering Paiva’s relentless volume.
Moving up to Bantamweight and filling in as a late notice replacement for Raphael Assuncao, Paiva is up against it on Saturday. While the move to 135 may plaster over a lack of speed found at Flyweight, Paiva will still struggle to catch Phillips with single shots. Instead, the Brazilian’s ability to stalk opponents out of the pocket with long combinations can break the initial layers of Phillips’ back-foot defence and burn his gas tank. With a wealth of experience and a consistent approach to every fight, Paiva could find major success during the later rounds with extended exchanges. Although likely to find himself on his back at some point, Paiva remains active with elbows and has enough know-how to work himself back up.
Predicted Result: Phillips Decision
Phillips has certainly surprised since entering the UFC. Marketed as a BJJ threat, the American instead laid down a classy back-foot kickboxing display against hot prospect Song YaDong. Liquid footwork and the ability to time difficult head kicks off the back-foot are key to Phillips’ success standing. Paiva, a last-minute replacement and moving up to Bantamweight, will have to rely on his gas tank, experience and durability to find success. Possessing decent TDD, Paiva needs to stalk Phillips with long combinations and break his initial defensive layers. Unfortunately, the size difference will prove too much on the night for the Brazilian.
Result: Paiva def. Phillips // Decision (majority – 28-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
UFC on ESPN 27: Main Card
Darren Elkins (25-9) vs Darrick Minner (26-11)
It was clear that Elkins’ never had a style that was going to age gracefully. Even then, The Damage has fallen off a very steep cliff since his ridiculous run between 2015-2018. Still, Darrick Minner resembles the greatest chance for the CTE king to get back in the win column. After years of showcasing his insane durability, Elkins is now being visibly hurt. It is never a pleasant sight to see Nate Landwehr landing damaging strikes on anyone. Elkins still continues to move for the full fifteen minutes, however and has the stamina to match. As ever, Elkins has a good chance to pull ahead in the later rounds after opponents have wilted to his pace.
Darrick Minner has been a surprise package over the past couple of years. Submitting hot prospect, TJ Laramie, in just a minute, Minner carried on his good fortunes with a dominant decision over Charles Rosa. The approach to every fight seems to be the same for Minner, though. Waltz in with huge haymakers with a sole aim to force opponents to the mat and grind it out. While the guillotine remains an ever-present threat in Minner’s diverse submission arsenal, he will have a hard time getting The Damage to tap.
Predicted Result: Elkins Decision
It was clear that Elkins’ never had a style that was going to age gracefully. Even then, The Damage has fallen off a very steep cliff since his ridiculous run between 2015-2018. Still, Darrick Minner resembles the greatest chance for the CTE king to get back in the win column. Always capable of maintaining fifteen minutes of relentless movement, Elkins is primed to overtake Minner in the later rounds. Minner’s haymakers into high octane grappling pose an early threat, but the potency declines rapidly over the fight.
Result: Elkins def. Minner // TKO (punches) Round 2 3:48
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Maycee Barber (8-2) vs Miranda Maverick (9-2)
Women’s Flyweight (125)
Damn, Dana out here just dropping ‘The Future’ of the Women’s Flyweight division. Although a horrible stylistic match-up, Barber still has a path to victory. Despite losses to Modafferi and Grasso, Barber showed a huge heart and tenacity to grind out last-round performances. Maverick’s more simplistic and wild striking leaves Barber with ample opportunity to land powerful counters. There is no doubt that Barber will end up on the mat, but it’s how she deals with a powerhouse on top.
Built like a damn fridge, a female Kelvin Gastellum if you will, Maverick looks an excellent prospect. Constantly developing her striking, Maverick enters Saturday with a huge technical grappling advantage. If Barber has failed to adapt since the Roxanne Modafferi fight, Maverick can easily grind out 10-8 rounds. The issue comes with getting Barber to the mat. Maverick may be attempting to craft out a solid jab, but often she devolves into wild swinging in the pocket that creates disarray for the takedown. Barber has holes in her game, but she is heavy-handed.
Predicted Result: Maverick Decision
Built like a damn fridge, a female Kelvin Gastellum if you will, Maverick looks an excellent prospect. Entering Saturday with a huge technical grappling advantage, a repeat of Modaferri vs Barber could be on the cards. Although a horrible stylistic match-up, Barber still has a path to victory. Showing huge heart in her last two defeats, Barber remains dangerous on the feet till the final round. Maverick’s more simplistic and wild striking leaves Barber with ample opportunity to land powerful counters.
Result: Barber def. Maverick // Decision (split – 28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Mickey Gall (6-3) vs Jordan Williams (9-4)
Owner of perhaps the worst gas tank outside of HW/LHW, Mickey Gall still manages to ride his pitiful hype train. Stoppages over Mike Jackson and CM Punk don’t come cheap you know. In fairness to Gall, there have been attempts to refine his striking. Surviving against Mike Perry, even a coachless Mike Perry, is a decent claim for a fighter who stopped by Diego Sanchez only a year prior. Obviously, Gall needs to expose Williams on the mat, but his inability to successfully take opponents down has long been his issue.
Williams is an older prospect that likely won’t be able to adapt anytime soon. A loss to Nassourdine Imavov wouldn’t usually be damning, yet the manner of the performance was sad. Despite being a brawler with huge power, Williams has technical issues and a poor gas tank that cannot be quickly remedied. A cut down to 170 will either make or break Williams, yet he can always rely on his durability and huge volume.
Predicted Result: Gall Submission Round 2
Ugh, this isn’t a pretty one to predict. Gall owns one of the worst gas tanks outside of HW/LHW, but his grappling chops cannot be ignored in this match-up. While Gall’s wrestling is lacking, his striking has certainly been refined – putting on a decent display against the coach-less, Mike Perry. Williams is a brawler with power and volume, but he lacks the technical nuance or gas tank to climb. Even with a move to Welterweight, it appears that time is running out fast for Williams.
Result: Gall def. Williams // Submission (rear-naked choke) Round 1 2:57
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ❌
UFC on ESPN 27: Preliminary Card
Punahele Soriano (8-0) vs Brendan Allen (16-4)
There’s still a lot to learn about the undefeated, Punahele Soriano. Undoubtedly, Soriano carries nuclear power in both hands – in large part due to his tendency to throw his entire weight behind his shots. Against better counter strikers, Soriano will be forced to pay for his huge overhands by either draining his gas tank or timing a clean counter. Allen, however, will have eyes only on taking this to the mat. While Soriano has a wrestling background, it is yet to be seen in the UFC and he would be ill-advised to showcase it on Saturday.
Brendan Allen is an honest fighter, aiming to take opponents down early and grapple them into exhaustion. Aside from the Sean Strickland loss, Allen is typically durable. If forced to engage on the feet for extended periods, however, Allen struggles with a harsh pace. If Soriano’s TDD holds up in the first round, this could be a painfully quick night for the submission guru.
Predicted Result: Allen Submission Round 2
There’s still a lot to learn about the undefeated, Punahele Soriano. With nuclear power in both hands, Soriano’s tendency to throw everything behind his shots won’t be punished by the tame counter-striking of Allen. Instead, Soriano’s wrestling background needs to be called upon. As honest as a fighter as you will find, Allen aims to take opponents down early and grapple them into exhaustion. This match-up isn’t one designed to stick the distance.
Result: Allen def. Soriano // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Ian Heinisch (14-4) vs Nassourdine Imavov (9-3)
Stupid sexy Heinisch is the classic overhand into single/double leg takedowns archetype that we have seen long before. In fairness, Heinisch chops with decent leg kicks as well. On the mat, Heinisch tends to search for control time, yet also has the potential to posture up and finish fighters. Massively durable, Heinisch can wade through Imavov’s long straight shots in order to wrap up the Frenchman.
Despite being relatively excited about Imavov’s invitation to the UFC, he has failed to show any grit to work himself off the cage. Although owning solid TDD, Imavov is too easily ground out against the cage and dropping rounds without a Plan B. It’s a shame as the Frenchman is a skyscraper with a decent eye for a counter. Imavov certainly has the frame to grow as a solid Middleweight name, but his style is too easily exploited by the grinding wrestlers that dominate Middleweight.
Predicted Result: Heinisch Decision
Despite being relatively excited about Imavov’s invitation to the UFC, he has failed to show any grit to work himself off the cage. It’s a shame as the Frenchman is a skyscraper with a decent eye for a counter. With a frame to grow into a solid Middleweight name, Imavov’s style is too easily exploited by the grinding wrestlers that dominate Middleweight – which Heinisch proudly represents. Classic overhand into single/double leg takedowns, massively durable and willing to wade through danger, this should prove a far easier match-up after Kelvin Gastellum.
Result: Imavov def. Heinisch // TKO (punches) Round 2 3:09
Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Adrian Yanez (13-3) vs Randy Costa (6-1)
In a match-up between heavy-hitting prospects, Yanez is the far more well-rounded fighter. While there are still flaws to Yanez’s game, primarily his hands-low style and lack of nuanced feints to comfortably maintain distance, he is a deadly sniper on the counter. Better yet, Yanez’s desire to end fights puts bums on seats and that pleases Daddy Dana. While question marks remain over Yanez’s wrestling, Costa isn’t the fighter to test those waters.
It isn’t a style that can be backed with much faith, but God damn is Costa fun to watch. Only three years into his professional career, the future of Costa is not yet certain – win or lose on Saturday. Yanez is a difficult match-up, carrying his power later than Costa, yet The Zohan has lights out power that could win this early. While Costa’s power will never write him out of any contest, Yanez needs only to survive the first round to limit Costa’s danger.
Predicted Result: Yanez TKO Round 2
In a match-up between heavy-hitting prospects, Yanez is the far more well-rounded fighter. While there are still flaws to Yanez’s game, primarily his hands-low style, he is a deadly sniper on the counter. While Costa’s one-shot lights-out power will never write him out of any contest, Yanez needs only to survive the first round to limit Costa’s danger.
Result: Yanez def. Costa // TKO (punches) Round 2 2:11
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Julio Arce (16-4) vs Andre Ewell (17-7)
Dropping down to Bantamweight, Arce’s athletic ceiling will continue to remain the biggest detriment to his game. His well-rounded technical skillset means he can handle himself well in any area of a fight. Let us not forget, Arce only barely dropped a split decision to Dawodu last time out while also holding a victory over the ever-improving Dan Ige. If Arce learns to control the direction of the fight, he will be able to drag opponents into uncomfortable waters more frequently.
A rangey powerful striker with a healthy volume behind his 75″ reach, Ewell, unfortunately, lacks short shots to deal with opponents in the pocket. Regularly failing to control a fight’s pace, Ewell has dropped meek losses to Chris Gutierrez and Nathaniel Wood. Despite a chequered record, Ewell possesses solid TDD and crisp out-fighting. Sadly, the Bantamweight division is unforgiving for fighters who excel in one part of one area of the fighting game.
Predicted Result: Arce Decision
Dropping down to Bantamweight, Arce’s well-rounded technical skillset means he can handle himself well in any area of a fight. Unfortunately for Arce, he lacks the ability to control the direction of a fight and often fights to an opponent’s tune. Ewell is a rangey powerful striker with a healthy volume behind his 75″ reach but an equal inability to lead fights. Uncomfortable fighting in the pocket, Arce can pepper Ewell with hard shots and stumble into his grappling advantage – whether he directly seeks it or not.
Result: Arce def. Ewell // TKO (punches) Round 2 3:45
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Sijara Eubanks (6-6) vs Elise Reed (4-0)
Women’s Flyweight (125)
Dropping down to Flyweight after a mixed bag of performances at Bantamweight, Sijara Eubanks is back baby. While victories over Roxanne Modafferi and Julia Avila are solid, it is almost impossible to justify losing to Bethe Correia at this stage in her career. Despite the stupid Twitter rants and the ridiculous chance of a championship fight against Valentina Shevchenko, Eubanks has grown as a fighter. There have been clear steps to develop her entire game. Already a solid grappler, her boxing has improved considerably, with her jab proving a potent threat if it lands early.
A replacement for Priscila Cachoeira, having been charged with domestic abuse against an ex-girlfriend. Christ. Terrible inside and outside the octagon. Regardless, Reed is an undefeated prospect in addition to holding the Cage Fury FC Strawweight Championship. Although a durable striker, she will be giving up almost two divisions worth of weight as Eubanks will enter a huge Flyweight on Saturday.
Predicted Result: Eubanks Submission Round 3
Dropping down to Flyweight after a mixed bag of performances at Bantamweight, Sijara Eubanks is back baby. Despite the chequered record, Eubanks has taken clear steps to develop her entire game. Already a solid grappler, her boxing has improved considerably, with her jab proving a potent threat if it lands early. Last-minute replacement, Elise Reed, is a durable striker and Cage Fury FC Strawweight Champion. Although Reed is a solid fighter, she will be giving up almost two divisions worth of weight as Eubanks will enter a huge Flyweight on Saturday.
Result: Eubanks def. Reed // TKO (punches) Round 1 3:49
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Diana Belbita (13-6) vs Hannah Goldy (5-1)
Women’s Strawweight (115)
A risk-taking brawler, Belbita is enjoyable to watch but horrendously out of her depth in the UFC. Even when considering the state of Strawweight, Belbita really is one of the bottom of the barrel fighters. Belbita’s awful risk-taking and game planning (willingly grappling with Liana Jojua? A fighter who solely wins with armbar?) cannot be resolved by her decent power.
Despite her Instagram following, Hannah Goldy fights almost solely on the back foot. It is a strange strategy for a fighter with a 61″ reach, often leaving Goldy struggling to find any range on her counters. The obvious solution for Goldy would be to power ball her 5’4″ frame into the pocket and drag fights into an ugly, tangle of limbs. Unfortunately, Goldy is exceptionally averse to risks.
Predicted Result: Belbita Decision
Between two truly awful fighters, you sort of have to pick the fighter with the 7″ reach advantage and willingness to strike. Belbita is a risk-taking brawler with awful risk-taking and game planning (i.e. willingly grappling with Liana Jojua, aka Miss Armbar). Goldy, on the other hand, refuses to engage. A back-foot gameplan for a fighter with a 61″ reach and 5’4″ frame? Gonna be a no from me, Boss.
Result: Belbita def. Goldy // Decision (unanimous – 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
UFC on ESPN 27
2021 MMA Season
Takeaway comments: The Future really do be looking more like The Past.
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