No. T.J. Dillashaw did not redeem himself with his win over Cory Sandhagen in the main event of UFC Vegas 32.
Dillashaw cheated, and he got caught. That fact will stick with him for the rest of his MMA career and beyond. However, Dillashaw served a two-year suspension for his use of EPO and at the end of that suspension he came back to defeat a 29-year-old who, while Dillashaw was on the sidelines, went from unranked to the No. 2 spot in the official UFC bantamweight rankings. Think what you want of Dillashaw’s decision to use a performance-enhancing drug, but what he accomplished against Sandhagen was impressive.
The question now becomes what’s next for each fighter. Dillashaw limped from the octagon with a cut above his right eye that will require a number of sutures and time to heal. He’ll also need to have his left leg looked at as he sustained some type of injury to that limb early in the contest. With that, it’s not out of the question that Dillashaw, who has long been a favorite of UFC president Dana White, could be in line to face the winner of the recently announced bout between bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling and former champ Petr Yan.
As for Sandhagen. He needs to sit down and assess what went wrong against the ex-champ and figure out a way to avoid those failings in order to get back into the title picture as soon as possible. If Sandhagen and his team look at the loss with clear eyes, they will see places they and their fighter can improve.
In the big picture, it’s hard to see a more significant winner emerging from UFC Vegas 32 than Dillashaw. Read on for all the winners and losers from Saturday’s fight card.
T.J. Dillashaw: My pre-fight take was the UFC bantamweight division had passed by T.J. Dillashaw. I didn’t see the 35-year-old coming back to defeat Cory Sandhagen. While I didn’t see Dillashaw as an ancient relic, I thought fighters like Sandhagen, Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling had passed Dillashaw while he was serving his suspension for EPO. I was wrong for the moment, at least about Sandhagen, and since that was who Dillashaw fought at UFC Vegas 32, that means he’ll likely get to see if he can regain the UFC bantamweight title.
Kyler Phillips vs. Raulian Paiva: This bantamweight scrap between Kyler Phillips and Raulian Paiva was a fun one. Phillips was insanely active and dominant in the first round. However, he seemed to use most of his energy in the first five minutes and with only one judge giving him a 10-8 in the first stanza, it was Paiva who got his hand raised in victory. Phillips will need to look back at this fight and ask himself if his approach was the correct one or consider if he took Paiva a bit too lightly. As for Paiva, he showed a lot of resilience in this scrap, but I don’t think he’ll want to repeat the first round of this one again as he was in a bad way during those five minutes.
Darren Elkins: I’m guessing Darren Elkins is one of those fighters who has a roster spot with the UFC as long as he wants one. The 37-year-old Elkins might not win all his fights, but he is going to entertain the fans and give 100 percent effort. Elkins had a rough go in the first round as Darrick Minner did all he could to secure a stoppage on the mat. The second round was all Elkins as he landed 94 total strikes before he earned the stoppage at 3:48 of the stanza. Minner landed zero strikes in the second round.
Adrian Yanez: Adrian Yanez had a rough first round against Randy Costa. Costa used a fast and effective jab to bloody and frustrate his opponent. Yanez took the minute between the first and second stanza to reset. He took over the fight in the second round and scored a knockout with powerful striking. This fight was a significant learning experience for Yanez, who is now 3-0 in the UFC with three finishes. He acknowledged his disappointment in his performance in the first five minutes of the fight and he was correct in his assessment, but he can also look at that as a positive as he didn’t allow a bad first round to affect his attitude or confidence ahead of the second stanza.
Punahele Soriano vs. Brendan Allen: The middleweight contest between Punahele Soriano and Brendan Allen was an entertaining one. The matchup showed that Soriano is a powerful and resilient fighter, but it did more for Allen, who won via decision.
Allen was very confident in his striking, and he was extremely effective in his combinations and body kicks. What impressed me about Allen was how he adjusted after a fairly close first round and pulled away from Soriano in the second and third stanza. Allen moved to 6-1 with this win.
Nassourdine Imavov: Nassourdine Imavov is a hell of a striker. He was incredibly relaxed, fast, and took advantage of what his opponent, Ian Heinisch gave him. Imavov’s speed allowed him to touch Heinisch with ease, and he showed no fear of attempting unorthodox techniques or mixing up targets. Any fighter who attempts to use power over technique might be in big trouble against Imavov, who called for a top-10 middleweight opponent in his next outing.
Mickey Gall: Mickey Gall got his sixth career submission win on Saturday. Gall showed power in his striking and some increased comfort on his feet, but he still used that striking to get to his ground game. Gall needs to develop more comfort and confidence with his striking, but his win over Jordan Williams was a nice step in the right direction.
Julio Arce: Julio Arce made his UFC bantamweight debut on Saturday after a 3-2 run at featherweight. Arce brought his power down to 135 pounds and scored an impressive TKO win over Andre Ewell. Arce did a great job in keeping Ewell in front of him and controlling where the fight took place. Arce is worth watching at bantamweight.
Sijara Eubanks: Sijara Eubanks had a rough go making the flyweight limit early in her UFC run. Hitting bantamweight was not a problem for her, but racking up wins in that division was. Eubanks went 2-4 at 135 pounds. She returned to flyweight at UFC Vegas 32 and had a nearly flawless performance against an overmatched Elise Reed.
Eubanks used aggressive striking to set up a takedown. She then showed an excellent mix of patience and aggression on the mat, moving to increasingly dominant positions while looking for submissions and landing devastating strikes.
This matchup seemed design to give Eubanks a chance to show she could make the 125-pound limit and get herself back in the mix. Eubanks accomplished both things. Expect Eubanks to get a huge jump in competition in her next flyweight scrap.
Diana Belbita: Diana Belbita had a good performance in the opening fight of the night — good, but not great. Belbita’s striking was relaxed and smooth, and she did an admirable job of mixing up her targets. On the downside, she was too open to head kicks and her takedown defense was lacking. At 25, Belbita has room to grow, but her win against Goldy, the first of her three-fight UFC run, should give her some confidence.
Cory Sandhagen: I think Cory Sandhagen will watch the tape of his five-round fight against T.J. Dillashaw and walk away with several regrets. I also believe he will come back in his next bout as an improved fighter.
Sandhagen made some tactical mistakes on Saturday. None of those errors were especially egregious, but they added up and at the end of the 25-minute contest, those errors were enough to cost him the fight. Sandhagen employed some reckless techniques. He put himself in bad positions. He allowed Dillashaw to push forward. He let Dillashaw appear to control certain aspects of the fight. He did not show an overwhelming sense of urgency. When Sandhagen used his length and straight punches, he had great success. When he got away from that approach, Dillashaw capitalized and scored enough to convince the judges he had won.
Sandhagen can and should take a week or so to feel bad for himself and then he should get back in the gym with renewed focus and a vow to do whatever he can to avoid the outcome of his fight opposite Dillashaw a second time.
Darrick Minner: Note to UFC featherweights, don’t use all your energy trying to submit Darren Elkins. Use Darrick Minner’s loss to Elkins as a reference on what might happen to you.
Randy Costa: Randy Costa used his jab to frustrate and bloody Adrian Yanez in the first round of their bantamweight scrap. However, Costa seemed to empty his tank in the first stanza. With his energy sapped, Costa had little to offer in the second round, and Yanez took over and finished Costa with strikes. Costa really needs to work on his cardio, output and getting past the first round. All six of his wins have come via first-round knockout.
Ian Heinisch: Ian Heinisch dropped to 1-4 after in his past five after Nassourdine Imavov finished him him via strikes. Heinisch was far too reliant on his power against Imavov, and that cost him the fight. The loss was the first setback via strikes in Heinisch’s career.
Elise Reed: Elise Reed got a ROUGH matchup for her UFC debut. The former Cage Fury strawweight champion, who had a 4-0 pro record heading into UFC Vegas 32, faced Sijara Eubanks. Eubanks dropped from bantamweight for this flyweight scrap. Eubanks has been with the UFC since 2018, easily overwhelmed Reed, and left her with a badly swollen eye after closing the fight via a first-round TKO. Reed got a raw deal in this scrap.
Hannah Goldy: Hannah Goldy fell to 0-2 in the UFC in dropping a decision to Diana Belbita. Goldy was stiff in her striking, and she kept her guard in a spot that left her open to head and body blows. Goldy is strong inside the clinch, but she needs a lot of work in her striking and defense if she wants to get a win in the UFC.
UFC matchmakers: The UFC matchmakers did Elise Reed extremely dirty in matching her against Sijara Eubanks.
UFC: C’mon now, T.J. Dillashaw had a “transgression”? I guess that’s a nice way to say he got caught doping.
UFC: Jordan Williams, who is a Type 1 diabetic, needs a sponsor for his insulin, something that insurance would probably cover if UFC fighters were employees and had health insurance. The fact that Williams needs a sponsor for his medical care was mentioned on the broadcast — and not as a negative reflection in the UFC — but just as a simple aside.
Judges: Looking at social media throughout the night, the one thing that seemed to come up a lot more than it should have was the judging and how bad it was. It’s never a good thing when the judging is one of the main topics during and after an event.
Daniel Cormier: UFC commentator Daniel Cormier has never been the best when talking about scoring fights, but his comment that post-fight body language is important in judging was a head scratcher.
Dominick Cruz: Early in the night, UFC commentator Dominick Cruz commented that a surge in offense during the last 15 seconds of a fight could have changed everything about that fight. With fights being scored by round and all the activity of a round being considered when scoring, it was a nonsensical remark by the former champion. It frustrates me to no end when the UFC commentary team doesn’t seem to understand — or care to understand — how fights get scored.
Miranda Maverick vs. Maycee Barber: When all of the post-fight talk about a fight revolves around the scoring, neither fighter really wins. That is what happened with the Miranda Maverick vs. Maycee Barber scrap.