After a solid show this past weekend, the UFC returns to Abu Dhabi's 'Fight Island' this weekend for UFC Fight Night 179: Moraes vs. Sandhagen.
The show features a major headliner between two of the UFC's top Bantamweight contenders, and while the rest of the card is largely lacking in name value, the hope is that the show will provide plenty of entertainment.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC Fight Night 179: Moraes vs. Sandhagen.
#1 UFC Bantamweight Division: Marlon Moraes vs. Cory Sandhagen
The UFC's Bantamweight division is arguably the promotion's most loaded weight class, but this fight could be more important than most. With newly-crowned champion Petr Yan looking likely to defend his UFC title against Aljamain Sterling at some point in late 2020 or early 2021, the winner of this fight could easily find themselves in line for the next title shot.
Some would probably argue that Moraes should already have been granted a shot. After all, he defeated former UFC Featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo at UFC 245 in December, but somehow Aldo was granted a crack at the vacant title in a fight with Yan instead.
Granted, it's probably fair to suggest that Aldo deserved the nod against Moraes, but the fight was incredibly close, and 'Magic' certainly gave his fellow Brazilian a lot of problems.
Essentially, Moraes is a monstrous striker at 135lbs. His leg kicks are as vicious as any you'll see in the UFC, and he's an excellent boxer too, with a tendency to let big combinations go at the body and the head.
Perhaps Moraes' greatest strength though, is his timing. He seems to be able to understand the movements of his opponents very quickly and can adjust his striking accordingly – as Sterling himself found out when he basically dived into a knee to the head that left him unconscious in 2017.
'Magic' does have some weaknesses, though. He's a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, and while his offensive grappling has looked good in the UFC – an example being his guillotine choke of Raphael Assuncao in 2019 – when he was put on his back by Henry Cejudo, he definitely had issues in defending ground-and-pound.
However, those issues may have stemmed from Moraes' biggest weakness. Simply put, he definitely has a tendency to slow down in his fights. While we haven't seen him outright gas out in the UFC, in all of his longer fights, his offensive output clearly waned in the later rounds.
That could almost certainly be music to the ears of Sandhagen. 'The Sandman' is a pretty sharp striker in his own right. He doesn't hit as hard as Moraes does, but then he doesn't come in with the same buzzsaw style as the Brazilian. Instead, he tends to snipe at his opponents with in-and-out movement, and we've seen him use that style to perfection in the UFC against opponents such as Assuncao and John Lineker.
On the ground, too, Sandhagen has proven to be an excellent fighter. He was able to escape some horrible positions in his fight with Iuri Alcantara in 2018, and eventually TKO'd the Brazilian. Sure, Sterling throttled him in just over a minute, but 'Funk Master' has the ability to do that to anyone when he's on form.
For me, then, this fight comes down to whether Sandhagen can use his striking style to wear Moraes down until he tires out without taking too much damage in the process. It's a tricky question to answer, but I'm leaning to him being unable to do it.
Essentially, Sandhagen's UFC run of five wins in a row came solely against opponents who are either far lesser athletes or quite substantially smaller. Moraes, on the other hand, is probably a superior athlete to 'The Sandman.' He appears to be markedly quicker, he hits harder, and he isn't going to be outmuscled.
With that in mind, I'm taking Moraes to switch Sandhagen's lights out early on in this one – setting up a potential rematch with Sterling for the title (I'm picking him to beat Yan) in 2021.