Cory Sandhagen saw his chance to fight for the UFC bantamweight championship hit a speed-bump at last night’s UFC Vegas 32. The top ranked fighter, who was coming off a sensational KO of Frankie Edgar, ended up on the wrong side of a split decision to former champ T.J. Dillashaw.
The fight was a close and hard fought affair with both men landing clean shots on the other. Ultimately, though, two of the three judges saw the contest for the man who was returning from a USADA enforced two-year absence.
In his post-fight comments Sandhagen expressed disappointment at the result. However, he spared the judges his ire and instead blamed himself for not doing more in the later portions of the fight.
“I don’t want to be a little whiny baby,” he said (ht MMA Junkie). “I’m going to take it. I’m going to get better from it. That’s what I’m going to do, and I’m still going to win a world championship hopefully still next year.”
“I know I had him hurt more times than me,” said Sandhagen when asked to break down how he felt the fight went. “I think I was landing the way cleaner shots. I was picking him apart. I guess I should’ve done more. That’s on me. … I told myself I was winning the fifth round. I thought that I did. I don’t know. What can you do? I thought I made really good adjustments as the fight was going on. What can you do? I guess I’ll learn from it. I’ll still be world champ. I’ll still do all the things I said I was going to do. I just have got to learn and get better, I guess.”
The loss sets Sandhagen back in his quest to be next man up for the UFC bantamweight title. That belt is currently held by Aljimain Sterling, who claimed it with a DQ win over Petr Yan earlier this year. Sterling and Yan are due to run it back at UFC 267.
Before losing to Dillashaw Sandhagen had back-to-back wins versus Edgar and Marlon Moraes. Prior to that he lost by submission to Sterling, which is his only other loss in the Octagon.
However, despite the loss Sandhagen is confident that he is still within striking distance of a title shot.
“Sean Shelby just talked to me in the back. I made him pinky-promise me that I’m one fight away from winning the title. He came back and said, ‘There’s nothing I can do about (the loss), but I promise you you’re still one fight away from the title.’ I said, ‘I’m going to make you pinky-promise me.’ He did, so that’s still what we’re looking at.”