The back-and-forth battle saw Sandhagen surging early and then Yan take over late as the Russian put on a punishing performance round after round. Yan only seemed to get stronger with each passing minute and by the time the fight was over, he had blasted Sandhagen with a number of staggering shots that helped him secure the victory and claim the interim title.
The final scorecards all read 49-46 with Yan earning the unanimous decision win.
“Cory is a well deserving opponent,” Yan said following the fight. “I knew it was going to be his game plan, moving a lot. He’s a tall guy who moves well. Our game plan was going to pressure him a lot and just beat him to the punch.”
Showcasing a diversity of strikes, Sandhagen was attacking with fast hands to the head and body while also peppering away at Yan’s lead leg with a series of kicks when the fight got started. Yan wasn’t backing down as he continued to fire back with several hard overhand punches but he spent a lot of the opening round playing defense with a Sandhagen very active on his feet.
With Sandhagen throwing with so much volume, Yan looked to slow him down with some stiff kicks to the body, which were landing with serious force. Yan was continuing to throw with power but Sandhagen was there to answer him at every turn with blitzing combinations including a slick double jab that was landing with regularity.
The volume striking attack from Sandhagen continued deep into the third round while Yan was really starting to come back at him with big looping punches as he sought to connect with power. With the bantamweights exchanging fire on the feet, Yan unleashed a devastating spinning back fist followed by another punch behind it that dropped Sandhagen to the canvas.
Yan immediately jumped to the ground in an attempt to get the finish as he threw a flurry of punches but Sandhagen defended well in order to survive the onslaught.
As the fight moved into the championship rounds, Yan was starting to land his straight left at will and he was really beginning to crack Sandhagen with every shot landed. With Sandhagen backing up, Yan really started to unload his punches in bunches, digging to the body and then going back up to the head.
With time ticking away to the closing moments, Sandhagen was still moving and flashing fast hands, which seemed to frustrate Yan a bit more until he uncorked a head kick out of nowhere that blasted the Colorado native. Sandhagen shook off the strike before resetting in the center of the cage as he just kept throwing three and four punch combinations in succession.
Just before the final horn, Yan launched a final spinning wheel kick and Sandhagen came back with a flying knee as they embraced once the fight came to a close after 25 minutes.
Sandhagen made no excuses for the loss while paying homage to Yan on a job well done.
“He’s a hell of a fighter,” Sandhagen said about Yan. “He was better tonight. I’ll learn from it. Next time I face him, I’ll get the win.”
As for Yan, he now holds a part of the bantamweight championship yet again and he will be expected to unify the titles with Aljamain Sterling in early 2022, although it appears he’s open to other challenges as well.
“Everyone knows I am the real champion,” Yan said. “I am ready to fight anyone. It’s either going to be [T.J.] Dillashaw or that clown Sterling.”