Sterling (22-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC) is expected to make his next title defense against returning former dual champion Cejudo (22-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC), who is coming out of retirement. Cejudo once held both the UFC flyweight and bantamweight titles, but even though “Triple C” has left 125 pounds behind, Sandhagen thinks he’ll be at a size disadvantage against Sterling.
“One thing that people don’t really understand about Sterling is that he’s a very physical and very big guy for the weight class,” Sandhagen told MMA Junkie. “And Cejudo definitely isn’t going to be at 135, and I think that really goes a long way at some point.”
Sterling used his grappling to overpower the likes of Sandhagen, Petr Yan, and most recently T.J. Dillashaw in his past title defense at UFC 280. But going up against Olympic gold medalist wrestler Cejudo, Sandhagen thinks he’ll be forced to stand throughout the fight.
“I think that Cejudo will be able to wrestle him,” Sandhagen said. “I think Sterling has good jiu-jitsu, but where he’s good at jiu-jitsu is really particular. He’s really good on top and on the back. He has some things that he does really well off his back too, but they’re kind of hard to see because people just don’t follow him to the ground, so that’s kind of hard to tell.
“I don’t know if Cejudo will keep it standing or try and take him down, but I think Cejudo will be able to stuff all his shots. He’s definitely not going to be giving up his back that much, so it’s gonna be very hard for Sterling to get there. So it might just be a not so exciting kickboxing fight between two wrestler guys.”
Sandhagen (15-4 MMA, 8-3 UFC) will look to emerge as a title contender when he meets Marlon Vera in the UFC Fight Night 219 headliner on Feb. 18 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.