The UFC octagon was on "Fight Island" in Abu Dhabi on Saturday for UFC Fight Night: Moraes vs. Sandhagen. It was the third consecutive event in the EAU as part of the fight promotion's five-event run on Yas Island.
Top ranked bantamweight contender Marlon Moraes faces No. 4 ranked Cory Shandhagen in the fight card's main event. Moraes, a former title challenger and WSOF bantamweight champion, entered the bout having won five of his last six fights. Sandhagen was looking to rebound from a loss to No. 2 ranked Aljamain Sterling in his last outing.
Sandhagen made a statement by finishing Moraes early in the second round. In the opening frame, both fighters had their moments. Sandhagen switched stances regularly and moved laterally on the outside. Moraes looked to land counter strikes and connected with a few right hands. Neither fighter had a clear edge at the end of the first frame.
In the second round, Sandhagen landed a kick that caused immediate swelling underneath Moraes' eye. In front of a crowdless venue, Sandhagen said, "his orbital is broke."
Moments later, Sandhagen threw a jab followed by a spinning back kick that dropped Moraes. Sandhagen followed the Brazilian to the canvas and finished with a series of right hands.
"That's putting in that hard work during quarantine when you can't go to the gym and all you can hit is the bob. I added that into my game during a weird time. Always working. Hard work pays off," Sandhagen said about the kick that led to the finish.
With the win, Sandhagen wants to fight for the title in his next outing. Champion Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling are expected to meet later this year and "The Sandman" wants to face the winner.
"The only other guys that have an argument is TJ (Dillashaw) when he gets back in January and Frankie (Edgar). All the respect to both of those guys, but I want that belt. I want the belt and those are the only two guys ahead of me. I want the winner of (Petr) Yan and (Aljamain) Sterling," he said.
In the co-main event, former lightweight contender Edson Barboza picked up his first win as a featherweight by defeating Makwan Amirkhani by unanimous decision.
In the opening frame, both fighters were carefully picking and choosing when to throw offense. Barboza connected with his leg kicks and Amirkhani responded with counter punches. As the round neared its end, Barboza landed a hard kick to the body. Amirkhani quickly powered forward and secured a takedown.
In the second round, Barboza dominated Amirkhani. He dropped "Mr. Finland" twice with straight right hands. In the closing moments, Amirkhani secured a takedown like he did in the first frame.
Amirkhani was able to put Barboza on his back early in the third round but was unable to mount enough offense to keep him there. The referee stood them up for inaction and Barboza went back to landing strikes. Seconds before the end of the round, Baroza held his hands up in victory.
"I expected exactly like that. He tried to move a little bit, tried to take me down, but I'm always ready. I'm very happy. I'm very, very happy to get my W," said Barboza following the win.
With his first featherweight win under his belt, Barboza requested a highly ranked opponent for his next fight. He goal is to get to a title fight and become the 145-pound champion.
"I want to be a champ. I'm here to be a champ. Guys, I'm ready to be a champ. Please give me a top five, top six, whatever. I'm ready," Barboza said. "Anybody. Top five, top six. I'm ready to go."