The Snake Has Returned
After TJ Dillashaw popped for having EPO in his system going into his bout against Henry Cejudo, many questioned whether he would return as the same force he once was. Dillashaw claimed that fight was the only time he’s ever used performance enhancers and wanted to prove it to everyone in this fight against Sandhagen. Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but he sure proved himself to me.
After serving his two-year suspension for his failed test, 35-year old Dillashaw didn’t seem to miss a beat. He purposefully went for the #2 ranked Bantamweight in the world in Sandhagen and now is firmly in the top-5 of the division. This fight was a great one, too. Very back-and-forth with neither man conceding to the other’s strikes.
Dillashaw got tagged with some big shots but just kept pushing through. He even got a nasty cut early in the fight and continued to fight out the rest of it with seemingly compromised vision. While Sandhagen seemed to land the more damaging blows, I could absolutely see how TJ came away with the victory.
The Thrill And The Agony
I feel for Sandhagen after this one. Being #2 in the world, he really didn’t have to take this fight. Plus, it could’ve easily gone his way but two of the three judges saw it differently. He seemed very shocked when the fight ended, pinpointing the fact that his shots did more damage and how we basically took no damage, but when he watches it back I’m sure he’ll see some things that lost him the fight.
For example, Dillashaw kept getting great position on him round after round. Sandhagen would turn his back and TJ would latch on almost immediately. Now, not many ended in takedowns, but just the sheer control against the cage coupled with how close the striking numbers were made this fight a toss-up for me when it came to judging.
As for what’s next for each fighter, all we can do is speculate. Sandhagen will likely move down a couple spots but there’s still some guys he can face to be in line for a title shot again (in my opinion). A smart fight for him would be Rob Font. Now if we’re assuming Dillashaw gets the winner of Yan vs Sterling, Sandhagen vs Font should be a “title eliminator” fight. Sure, trying to get into the mind of Dana White and UFC matchmakers is near impossible, but rationally thinking that’s a great fight and the one to make in my mind.
What a great night for Dillashaw and his return. As much as I feel for Sandhagen (and had money on him), I can’t even be mad at the former champ. At 35-years old and off of a two-year suspension, Dillashaw did what it took to win against a great opponent. This Bantamweight divison is slowly becoming one of my favorites to watch.