Two of the bantamweight division’s finest go head-to-head on UFC Fight Island on October 10 with the winner likely to earn a shot at the title in 2021. But who will leave the island with the win – Marlon Moraes or Cory Sandhagen?
Moraes, a former World Series of Fighting champion, came up short in his first crack at UFC gold in June 2019, suffering a third-round knockout at the hands of Henry Cejudo, but he rebounded to knock off the legendary Jose Aldo in December of last year and that victory has kept him at the front of the queue for a shot at Petr Yan, who stopped Jose Aldo back in July to become the new king of the bantamweight division in the wake of Cejudo’s retirement. However, his ranking has not made him the favourite in the minds of the bookmakers for his latest outing.
The bookies are siding with Sandhagen despite the fact that he is ranked lower than Moraes and despite the fact that he was beaten in his most recent trip to the Octagon. The 28-year-old American was forced to tap out to a rear-naked choke by Aljamain Sterling in June of this year, ending his seven-fight win streak, although the loss has not done a huge amount to harm Sandhagen’s stock. He remains a top-five ranked fighter in the bantamweight division and if he can bounce back from that loss with a win over Moraes then he will once again be a leading contender for a shot at Yan.
So the question is, will Sandhagen bounce back in his second bout of 2020 or can Moraes stay on course for a second shot at the bantamweight crown by leaving Fight Island with the win? As I said before, the bookmakers are siding with Sandhagen for this one and it is easy to see why. He will go into this fight with a significant size and reach advantage that will present him with the opportunity to try to pick apart Moraes from range, but I do not see that happening.
Moraes is going to be in Sandhagen’s face from the opening bell and I expect him to overwhelm ‘The Sandman’ throughout the five-round affair. Moraes is an outstanding striker with a great deal of stopping power, but on top of that he will also have the edge if the two men hit the canvas. The bookies may not fancy the Brazilian for this one, but I do. I expect Moraes to outstrike Sandhagen in order to gain favour with the judges, although I am not 100% certain that he will need them. 16 of his 23 professional wins have come inside the distance and Moraes has stopped his opponent in seven of his last nine fights, mostly by strikes. If he does stop Sandhagen here it will be via strikes.