T.J. Dillashaw returned after a 2-year suspension and snatched a hard fought split-decision victory over Cory Sandhagen at UFC Vegas 32.
The MMA community were as divided as ever in the lead up to Dillashaw’s highly-anticipated return. After a years-long hiatus, the old debate of “ring rust vs activity” was fresh on fans minds. Paired with the elephant in the room: How will T.J. fight without EPO?
The 25 minute main event provided fans with answers. Here’s how it played out.
After almost connecting flush with a flying-knee reminiscent of the Frankie Edgar horror knockout, Sandhagen wound up on his back. Undoubtedly, Dillashaw fans had sweaty palms after the opening exchange, but the former two-time bantamweight champion implemented grappling and clinching throughout the remainder of the round. 1-0 Dillashaw.
Realising his success in the grappling exchanges within the first round, Dillashaw opened the second with a double-leg shot, to no avail. From here, Sandhagen took over. Crisp boxing, slick kicks and yet another flying-knee that tested the 35-year-old’s chin. 1-1.
The third round was back and forth. Sandhagen landed shots on the feet, Dillashaw scored takedowns. As the round progressed, Dillashaw began to implement hard leg kicks that seemed to have Sandhagen back peddling. As he marched the sandman down, Dillashaw closed the round strong, with a flurry against the fence that surely swayed the judges. 2-1 Dillashaw.
Round four seen Dillashaw return to the leg kicks, with Sandhagen doing a fantastic job of keeping the fight on the feet and in the middle of the Octagon. Precise, pinpoint striking saw Sandhagen steal the round, with a late spinning back-fist surely leaving Dillashaw seeing stars. 2-2.
We entered the fifth at two rounds apiece. In a night of shambolic judging (to say the least), it was clear that both fighters were reluctant to leave their fate in the hands of the officials. They wanted the finish.
The fifth round largely played out on the feet, and was as close a round as one could possibly get. Dillashaw landed 40 significant strikes to Sandhagen’s 38, with both fighters tallying a 45% striking accuracy. The deciding factor, presumably, was Octagon control and pressure, both of which had to be given to Dillashaw. Even the team here at VMTV are greatly divided. Below shows Verdict MMAs depiction of the fan scorecards, which is always interesting when such a close fight takes place.
As stated in the caption, the fight was one of the closest scored in Verdict’s history.
The result opens up many options in the division, further deepening the bantamweight talent pool. Dillashaw vs Yan/ Sterling? Sandhagen vs Aldo? Who knows where we go from here. Plus, where does Kevin Lee fit into all of this?
How did you score the fight? Let us know below!
COPA COMBATE: Brackets Announced For One-Night Tournament, $100,000 on the line
Combate Global today announced the official brackets and first, or quarterfinal stage, matchups for its coveted “COPA COMBATE” one-night, eight-man, $100,000 grand prize bantamweight (135 pounds) tournament on Sunday, Dec. 12, live on Paramount+ from Miami, Fla.
Paramount+ live coverage of “COPA COMBATE” will begin with a pre-show at 9:30 p.m. ET/8:30 p.m. CT, and will continue with the live fight action, beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/9:00 p.m. CT.
In one bracket, Carlos Briseño (13-2) of Mexico will face off with Cristian “El Scorpio” Barraza (7-3) of Chile, and Frans “The Zulu Irishman” Mlambo (10-5) of Ireland will battle Jose “The Mercenary” Zarauz (22-8-1) of Peru.
In the opposite bracket, Leo Muniz (6-1) of the U.S. will square off with Pierre “The French Hawaiian” Daguzan (6-5) of France, and Kevin Cordero (12-2) of Spain will collide with Luciano “El Aguila” Ramos (8-6) of Argentina.
The winners of the two quarterfinal bouts in each bracket will square off with each other in the semifinal stage of the tournament, and the two semifinal stage fight winners will face each other in the championship stage of action.
Carlos Briseño vs. Cristian Barraza
The 31-year-old Briseño of Mexico City holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and is a member of the Bonebreakers fight camp. He enters La Jaula, the Combate Global competition cage, on a two-fight win streak after earning a unanimous decision over Adam Martinez in what was Briseño’s Combate Global debut on October 1.
The 28-year-old Barraza of Santiago is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt who has notched all 7 of his professional career wins by way of submission. He is coming off of a first round (2:01) armbar submission of Mexico’s Diego Silva on October 22.
Frans Mlambo vs. Jose Zarauz
Mlambo, a 30-year-old protégé of famed trainer John Kavanagh and former International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) world championships gold medalist, will become the first fighter in history to represent Ireland in the “COPA COMBATE” tournament. To date, Mlambo has produced 8 of his 10 career wins via (T)KO or submission, and will enter “COPA COMBATE” on a two-fight win streak.
Fighting out of Lima, the 28-year-old Zarauz holds the most professional experience of any of the “COPA COMBATE” tournament entrants, and will enter La Jaula for the second time in 2021 after securing a unanimous decision win over Fernando Noriega in a regional event in Peru on July 17.
Leo Muniz vs. Pierre Daguzan
The 31-year-old Muniz is a resident of Tobyhanna, Pa. and a native of The Bronx, N.Y. He put together back-to-back victories over Team Alpha Male member Hector “El Matador” Fajardo on May 29 and August 13, respectively, to secure an entry to “COPA COMBATE.”
At 35 years of age, Daguzan, a native of Versailles, Yvelines and resident of Honolulu, Hawaii, is the eldest competitor in the tournament field. He holds a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and is coming off a unanimous decision win over Carlos Puente, Jr. in Combate Global action on July 16.
Kevin Cordero vs. Luciano Ramos
The 22-year-old Cordero of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, is the number one pound-for-pound rising star out of Spain, and the youngest of the eight tournament entrants. He has claimed 9 of his 12 professional wins via (T)KO or submission, including his last start and Combate Global debut on September 3, when he produced a first round (4:59) submission (triangle choke) of veteran battler Ricky Bandejas.
Ramos is a 25-year-old finisher who hails from Concordia, and who relocated to Stockton, Calif. last year in order to train with the team founded by famed MMA siblings Nick and Nate Diaz. Since making the leap to the Diaz camp, Ramos, who has achieved six of eight career wins by way of (T)KO or submission, has been victorious in both of his MMA bouts in 2021, most recently defeating Keilen Fantroy via first round (1:54) submission (triangle choke) on July 31.
In two previously announced women’s bouts that will be featured on the “COPA COMBATE” card in addition to the tournament, Criszaida Adames (5-1) will throw down with Caroline “Taz” Gallardo (5-4) at strawweight (115 pounds), while Lucero “La Loba” Acosta (2-2) will square off with Rosselyn Chavira (1-0) at flyweight (125 pounds).
The tournament will also be supported with two “reserve” bouts. Should any of the tournament’s quarterfinal stage winners be unable to continue his bid in the semifinal stage due to injury, the winner of one of the tournament reserve bouts will replace the injured winner in the tournament’s semifinal stage.
In one tournament reserve bout, Felipe “Pipe” Vargas (7-2) of San Jose, Calif. via Bogota, Colombia will take on unbeaten Diego “El Niño” Gomez Manzur (4-0) of Santiago, Chile and, in the second tournament reserve contest, Ricky Bandejas (14-6) of Brick, N.J. via Coconut Creek, Fla. will face Alan “Beche” Cantu (9-7) of Monterrey, N.L., Mexico.
Jose “Froggy” Estrada headlines Combate Global Dec. 3 show against Martin Bravo
Combate Global today announced a six-fight Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event, live on Paramount+ on Friday, Dec. 3 from Miami, Fla. In the featherweight (145 pounds) main event, hard-hitting American star Jose “Froggy” Estrada (7-2) will square off with The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 3 reality television series winner, Martin “El Toro” Bravo (12-3).
The 30-year-old Estrada of Oxnard, Calif. secured his career-best victory to date on July 2, defeating seasoned Nicaraguan star Leonardo “Chimmy” Morales by way of majority decision.
The result marked Estrada’s only victory to date that has gone to the judges’ scorecards. All six of his other wins have come via (T)KO or submission within two rounds of action.
Hailing from Rosarito, B.C., Mexico and fighting out of Newton, N.J. the 28-year-old Bravo made his Combate Global debut in 2021, scoring a first round (1:09) TKO (punches) on veteran Andrew “The Beast” Whitney on September 17.
In a featured strawweight (115 pounds) contest, Stephanie “Macaquinha” Frausto (8-8) of Dublin, Calif. will face Camila Rivarola (3-3-1) of Montevideo, Uruguay via Stockholm, Sweden.
The other featured main card bout will pit Tommy “The Spaniard” Aaron (9-5) of Los Angeles, Calif. against Ivan “Choko” Castillo (21-13) of Ensenada, B.C., Mexico at welterweight (170 pounds).
In preliminary card action, Jonathan Sepulveda (9-3) of Isabela, Puerto Rico will throw down with Adrian Garcia (6-1) of Miami, Fla. at a catchweight of 130 pounds.
“Slick” Rick Zelada (1-0) of Los Angeles will meet Gustavo “Volcan” Navarrete (0-1) of Chandler, Ariz. at bantamweight (135 pounds).
Elizabeth Avila (0-2) of Mexico City, Mexico will look for her first professional victory in an atomweight (105 pounds) fight against Tamika Jones (0-0) of Las Vegas, Nev.
Paramount+ live coverage will begin with a Combate Global pre-show at 10:30 p.m. ET/9:30 p.m. CT, and will continue with the live fight action, beginning at 11:00 p.m. ET/10:00 p.m. CT.
Sergio Pettis looking to follow in his brother Anthony’s footsteps and earn two belts
Sergio Pettis won the Bellator Bantamweight World Championship belt opposite Juan Archuleta back in May. He will defend his belt for the first time against Kyoji Horiguchi at Bellator 272 on December 3rd.
The younger Pettis has big plans and wants to match his brother’s legacy. Anthony Pettis captured WEC and UFC in his long and storied career, but Sergio feels there is space on the mantel place for a belt from an Asian promotion (he spoke to MMA Fighting about the defense and his dreams).
“I think it would be a great opportunity for me to cross-promote,” Sergio Pettis said of an overseas move. “Anthony has a WEC belt and a UFC belt, and it would be awesome to have a Bellator belt and Rizin belt as well, to have all the belts in all the organizations – it would feel like a completion.”
Horiguchi has done some cross promotion with Bellator and actually took the belt from Darrion Caldwell before vacating and going back to Rizin. In Sergio’s eyes he holds the true belt because The Gooch injured his knee and could not defend the Bellator belt and by the time he healed up he was back in Rizin again. This is a welcome fight for Pettis who feels this fight will be the capturing of the true belt.
“I feel like the title in general is on the line. I think this is a fight where it’s really going to show who has the real championship in my division.”
The Rizin belt isn’t on the line, but Pettis does not rule some cross promotion at Flyweight or Bantamweight.
“It would be an honor to go overseas and get that opportunity,” he said. “But as of right now, my main focus is next week. I’m not looking ahead of Horiguchi at all. This is one of my toughest fights.”
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