A new bantamweight contender has emerged and his name is Cory Sandhagen.
Showcasing a dominant striking attack along with a surprising grappling game, Sandhagen controlled nearly every minute of his fight against Raphael Assuncao on the UFC 241 prelims to earn a unanimous decision victory. Sandhagen remained undefeated in the UFC with the scorecards reading 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 all in his favor.
“I know how good I am,” Sandhagen said after his seventh straight win. “I’m a very confident guy. I’ve trained very, very hard in this sport and given a lot of my heart in this game.”
Sandhagen was on the attack from the opening bell as he stalked Assuncao around the Octagon, using his reach and his power to keep the Brazilian on his back heel. It was an impressive showing of his striking skills with Sandhagen walking down Assuncao while unleashing some stiff combinations as he mixed up shots to the head and body.
As the aggressor, Sandhagen snapped off several leg kicks as well, but never took much damage in return whenever Assuncao managed to throw a counter punch.
The first mistake of the fight for Sandhagen came in the second round when he threw a kick and Assuncao was able to catch the leg before quickly transitioning to drag the fight down to the ground as he looked to take the back. To his credit, Sandhagen stayed patient and eventually worked his way free from the position.
While he was having more success on the feet, Sandhagen seemed willing to engage in some grappling exchanges with Assuncao, which allowed the veteran bantamweight to keep the second round much closer than the first.
Sandhagen reverted to his kickboxing arsenal in the final five minutes while using his range and power to tag Assuncao repeatedly. Even when Assuncao managed to latch onto the clinch late in the fight, Sandhagen showed no fear and typically got the better of all those exchanges.
As the final horn sounded, Sandhagen knew he had done enough to get a win over a top-5 ranked opponent like Assuncao. While the list of bantamweights lining up for a shot at reigning champion Henry Cejudo is already deep, Sandhagen just added his name to the list following his fifth win in the UFC.