Top bantamweight contenders Marlon “Magic” Moraes and Cory Sandhagen face off this Saturday night in the main event. Both will look to make themselves stand out in the star-studded bantamweight division and take that next step to being closer to the title.
Moraes, currently ranked No. 1, is one of the most exciting fighters in the bantamweight division. Moraes had a bit of a lackluster start in the UFC, losing his UFC debut to longtime contender Raphael Assuncao by split decision. He then won a close fight against two-time flyweight title challenger John Dodson that many people weren’t sure who should’ve won.
After those two fights, Moraes never looked back. Moraes took a fight against top-ranked contender Aljamain Sterling not even a month after his fight with Dodson and would spectacularly knock out Sterling in just under two minutes with a knee that put Sterling out cold. Moraes took out rising contender Jimmie Rivera in a main event fight in June 2018, winning by TKO in just 33 seconds.
Moraes took almost a year off, but would return last February to rematch Assuncao as a main event fight. Moraes would get his revenge and submit the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt in the first round and call for his title shot.
Moraes should’ve been careful of what he asked for - Moraes was granted a title shot against Henry Cejudo for the vacant bantamweight belt at UFC 238. Cejudo, at the time the flyweight champion, had an opportunity to make history. After having a great first round, Moraes let off the gas just enough for Cejudo to compose himself and have a great second and third round. Cejudo won by TKO Moraes late in the third to become just the fourth person in UFC history to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously.
Moraes return later last year to face former featherweight champion Jose Aldo. In what was a close fight, Moraes would win by split decision, but it was highly controversial as many did not see Moraes winning the fight.
This Saturday, Moraes will have his chance to prove yet again he’s the real deal. Moraes is a powerhouse with a slick ground game to make his opponents worry about wherever the fight goes. Moraes doesn’t necessarily have the cardio to do well the longer the fight goes, so finishing Sandhagen before the third round would probably be his best option.
Sandhagen, currently ranked No. 4, had a very fast rise to be a top contender. Sandhagen grabbed my attention when he fought Iuri Alcantara. He faced adversity early on, but stayed composed and finished Alcantara by TKO in the second. Sandhagen would finish his next opponent, Mario Bautista, by first-round submission in his next fight.
Sandhagen took a big step up in competition when he faced powerhouse John Lineker in his next fight. The two went back and forth and put on a very entertaining bout which saw Sandhagen win by split decision. Sandhagen next fought Assuncao and would outclass the veteran to win by unanimous decision.
Sandhagen was on the verge of receiving a title shot, and his next fight against top contender Sterling was the perfect way to get a title shot if Sandhagen were to win. Unfortunately for Sandhagen, Sterling was just the better man as he made quick work of Sandhagen, winning by submission in just under two minutes.
For this fight, Sandhagen will need to be cautious of the power of Moraes. I believe Sandhagen has better cardio than Moraes, so attacking Moraes’ body to wear him down will be important. Both men have a great ground game, but I may give the advantage to Moraes due to him being stronger than Sandhagen.
This Saturday is very important for both men if they hope to get back to title contention, and I’m picking Sandhagen to win by decision. Catch all of the amazing fights this Saturday on ESPN+!
Tidwell record: 5-4