Five for Fighting: UFC Fight Night: Moraes vs. Sandhagen

Action from Fight Island resumes this weekend with a bantamweight showdown between Marlon Moraes and Cory Sandhagen topping the bill. There are some very interesting fights going down on the night, and I’m here to take you through the five fights that I am looking forward to most on Saturday Night.

Marlon Moraes vs. Cory Sandhagen

The main event is a fantastic fight, and it will be super interesting to see how Cory Sandhagen comes back from his disappointing last outing. Riding a seven-fight win streak, Sandhagen failed to make it eight when he succumbed to a first-round submission loss to Aljamain Sterling. The fight lasted only 1 minute and 28 seconds, and Sandhagen was left bitterly disappointed. He fought Sterling that night, who is an elite fighter, and he is fighting another when he steps in to face Marlon Moraes.

Moraes is gunning for the title and will want to make a statement in this fight in order to secure a second title shot. The Brazilian had Henry Cejudo in big trouble before it all went horribly wrong in his last challenge for bantamweight belt. “Magic” fought Jose Aldo next, and it was clear he made some adjustments to his game.

He fought the former champ to a controversial decision victory. The uproar around the decision somewhat glossed over Moraes’ performance that night. Aldo is battle worn, but he is still an excellent fighter.

Sandhagen will want to prove he deserves his place in the upper echelon of the division. He has proven that before with wins over John Lineker and Raphael Assunção. The American is taking a big risk here fighting Moraes, but it shows that he believes he can get the job done. Petr Yan is waiting in the wings with no opponent set in stone to challenge for his title.

Both Moraes and Sandhagen will have eyes on the prize and will be looking to make their mark on the bantamweight division. Moraes’ experience should see him through here, but he will have to deal with Sandhagen’s reach. If Sandhagen manages to implement his gameplan, it would make this a very interesting fight.

Moraes has fight-ending power and a varied arsenal of strikes on the feet. He can get it done on the canvas too with six of his victories coming by way of submission. I believe this is Moraes’ fight to lose.

Quick Pick: Marlon Moraes

Edson Barboza  vs.  Makwan Amirkhani

Makwan Amirkhani comes into this fight on short notice and faces a big battle in this fight. The SBG-affiliated fighter picked up a nice anaconda choke against Danny Henry and looked extremely impressive in doing so. “Mr Finland” will be looking to pile the misery onto Edson Barboza, who comes into this fight with only one win in his last six fights. Some of those losses for the Brazilian came in the lightweight division against top level guys such as Khabib, Paul Felder and Justin Gaethje.

Barboza made his featherweight debut in his last fight against Dan Ige and lost a razor close decision. He performed well, but I feel he may have held back a little in order to save his cardio, as it was his first time dropping down to 145 pounds. The former lightweight desperately needs a win, and I reckon that he still has it in him to get the job done here against Amirkhani.

With that being said, the Finnish fighter has nothing to lose and everything to gain in this fight. His quickest path to victory will be by taking his opponent down to the mat and getting the submission. However, Barboza’s takedown defence has historically shown that getting him down is easier said than done.

Quick Pick: Edson Barboza

Tom Aspinall vs. Alan Baudot

A cracking heavyweight encounter between two European heavy hitters, and we see the return of Tom Aspinall after his sensational UFC debut. The Englishman made a blistering start to his UFC career when he knocked out Jack Collier after just 45 seconds. Aspinall has had the experience of being the sparring partner of boxing heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in the past. He showed his own impressive boxing skills while landing a speedy one-two, ending Collier’s night very early.

Alan Baudot, who will fight inside the UFC’s octagon for the very first time, is no stranger to first-round finishes. Out of his eight victories so far in his professional career, seven of those wins have come by way of knockout with four wins coming in round one. Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what sort of a trend we’ve got here. I would be very surprised to see this fight leave the first round. I would also be very surprised not to see Aspinall’s hand raised in the air at the end of this scrap. It’s going to be a very exciting battle, for however long it lasts.

Quick Pick: Tom Aspinall

Tom Breese vs. KB Bhullar

Tom Breese looked a shadow of his former self in his last fight which he lost by first-round knockout to Brendan Allen. It was a surprise for many to see as Breese has looked great in previous victories over Cathal Pendred, Keita Nakamura and Dan Kelly. The English mixed martial artist dropped a close split decision to Sean Strickland in between those fights and had a two year gap after the Kelly fight before stepping in to fight Allen. That layoff may have affected Breese, and he will want to remind everybody how good a fighter he is when he is on his game.

Standing across the cage from Breese will be undefeated Canadian prospect KB Bhullar. Bhullar, who is a native of Edmonton, Alberta has won all but two of his fights in the very first round. He has picked up four knockout wins, two submission victories and two decision wins on his way to earning his UFC swansong.

It’s fair to say that Bhullar is taking a good step up in competition here and will have it all to do if Breese turns up in form to this middleweight fight. Doubts will still linger after Tom Breese’s last performance, but I think he has enough to come back and find his early UFC form.

Quick Pick: Tom Breese

Youssef Zalal vs. Ilia Topuria

I am really high on Youssef Zalal, he will make his fourth UFC appearance this Saturday night. Zalal’s nickname is “The Moroccan Devil”, born in Casablanca but is now fighting out of Inglewood, California. His last fight against Peter Barrett he showcased a very well-rounded set of skills.

At only 23 years of age Zalal fought a very mature fight against Barrett. He landed a beautiful spinning back kick which almost finished the fight. He didn’t punch himself out trying to get the finish and had enough awareness to take his foot off the gas which is good to see in a young fighter. In the second round he almost secured a submission and continued to impress going on to win a one-sided decision victory.

Ilia Topuria comes into the UFC with an unblemished record, and the Georgian doesn’t like to hang around when he fights. Topuria has eight finishes from eight fights. Seven of those victories were by way of submission and in his last fight at Brave 29 against Steven Goncalves he secured his first knockout win. Topuria fought Brian Bouland at Cage Warriors 94 and locked in a sweet anaconda choke handing Bouland his first loss of his career.

Quick Pick: Youssef Zalal

Official Fight Card

Main Card

  • Bantamweight Marlon Moraes vs. Cory Sandhagen
  • Featherweight Edson Barboza vs. Makwan Amirkhani
  • Heavyweight Ben Rothwell vs. Marcin Tybura
  • Middleweight Markus Perez vs. Dricus du Plessis
  • Heavyweight Tom Aspinall vs. Alan Baudot
  • Featherweight Youssef Zalal vs. llia Topuria

Preliminary card

  • Middleweight Tom Breese vs. KB Bhullar
  • Heavyweight Chris Daukaus vs. Rodrigo Nascimento
  • Middleweight Impa Kasanganay vs. Joaquin Buckley
  • Bantamweight Ali Al-Qaisi vs. Tony Kelley
  • Featherweight Giga Chikadze vs. Omar Morales
  • Women’s Bantamweight Tracy Cortez vs. Stephanie Egger
  • Flyweight Bruno Silva vs. Tagir Ulanbekov
Ian O'Neill is a Kilkenny man living in Canada. You can catch him on Twitter most of the time talking all things MMA. Follow me on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma.