MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for UFC Fight Night 210.
UFC Fight Night 210 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The card streams on ESPN+.
Cory Sandhagen (14-4 MMA, 7-3 UFC)
Height: 5’11” Age: 30 Weight: 135 lbs. Reach: 70″
Last fight: Decision loss to Petr Yan (Oct. 30, 2021)
Camp: Elevation Fight Team (Denver)
Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
Risk management: Good
+ WKA world kickboxing champion
+ Amateur kickboxing accolades
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
+ 6 KO victories
+ 3 submission wins
+ 6 first-round finishes
+ KO Power
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Excellent feints and footwork
^ Manages distance/draws out attacks
+ Variates shot selection
^ Punctuates well with bodywork
+ Hard leg kicks
+ Underrated scrambling ability
+ Solid transitional grappler
Song Yadong (19-6-1 MMA, 8-1-1 UFC)
Height: 5’8″ Age: 24 Weight: 135 lbs. Reach: 67″
Last fight: Knockout win over Marlon Moraes (June 12, 2022)
Camp: Team Alpha Male (Sacramento, Calif.)
Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
Risk management: Good
+ Chinese kung fu background
+ Regional grappling accolades
+ 8 KO victories
+ 3 submission victories
+ 7 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Explosive athlete
^ Deceptive distance closer
+ Dangerous right hand
^ Coming forward or off the counter
+ Strong inside of the clinch
+ Serviceable wrestling acumen
^ Defensively and offensively
+ Solid top game
^ Good ground-and-pound
Point of interest: Volume vs. power
Cory Sandhagen vs. T.J. Dillashaw, UFC on ESPN 27
The main event in Las Vegas features a fun stylistic clash between [autotag]Cory Sandhagen[/autotag] and [autotag]Song Yadong[/autotag].
Coming up through the kickboxing ranks in the quiet martial arts hotbed of Colorado, Sandhagen has clearly studied and absorbed a lot in what has been a fun career to watch thus far.
Utilizing his long and lean frame like second nature, Sandhagen is a rangy kickboxer who appears comfortable poking and prodding his opposition with accurate jabs and leg kicks from either stance. Shifting or drop-stepping at a moment’s notice, the 30-year-old talent can piece together flowing, varied offense off of whatever building materials are offered up to him.
Whether Sandhagen is bringing back Jose Aldo’s patented “Dutchie” combination or launching jumping switch-knees that give me flashbacks to Liu Kang’s bicycle kick, he certainly knows how to keep things spicy. And when Sandhagen is feeling in stride, it’s not uncommon to see the good samaritan show a sadistic smile after punctuating his presence with deep hooks or uppercuts to the body.
However, despite the multi-leveled attacks, Sandhagen is not exactly impervious from a defensive standpoint and will have to respect counters coming his way.
Starting his martial arts journey at the legendary Shaolin temple, Yadong makes for a unique fighter given the historical spectrum of combat arts that he’s been exposed to. That said, there isn’t too much traditional swagger in Yadong’s style to speak of. The Chinese fighter seems to favor more boxing and kickboxing-centric weapons.
Whether Yadong is staying planted or opting for more fencing-like footwork, the 24-year-old does a decent job of staying on balance and looking for his spots to explode. Yadong has excellent eyes in exchanges that – coupled with his incredible speed – make him a formidable puncher both coming forward and off the counter.
Although Yadong can variate his patent right hand into other tools like uppercuts, his left hook follow-ups may quietly have the most play in this matchup. The Team Alpha Male fighter also offers quality kicks to all three levels, but I’m not sure how much Yadong will go to those weapons given Sandhagen’s knack for countering kicks.
Point of interest: Potential grappling threats
Jun 23, 2018; Singapore, Singapore; Felipe Arantes (red gloves) fights Song Yasong (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night Singapore at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Miller-USA TODAY Sports
Despite neither man being a grapple-first fighter, I wouldn’t be shocked to see entanglements happen in the small cage this Saturday.
As we saw in his last outing opposite Petr Yan, Sandhagen is not afraid to mix in takedowns – which might not be the worst idea if he wants to make his opponent work.
Still, Yadong is far from a slouch in the grappling department and offers a solid first layer of defense that can be difficult to penetrate. Outside of getting caught out of position while throwing kicks, Yadong is usually good about sniffing out shots and responding with solid sprawls or hoisting underhooks.
When inside the clinch, Yadong appears to have a rock-solid base and is quick to land sneaky hooks and elbows in small spaces. And when the Chinese fighter decides to get offensive with his wrestling, Yadong shows a competent takedown acumen and an excellent ability to generate power on his strikes from topside.
Nevertheless, Yadong has shown that he is not beyond being out-scrambled in past outings and will need to be respectful of Sandhagen’s skills.
Slippery inside the scramble, Sandhagen has shown that he is not one to settle for bad positions, displaying a stoic composure that – outside of his fight with Aljamain Sterling – has surely assisted him in adverse spots before. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt in his own right, Sandhagen is far from a slouch when it comes to fighting for positions in the grappling department.
Cory Sandhagen grappling with Raphael Assuncao: https://twitter.com/DanTomMMA/status/1268042539908526081?s=20&t=iOlvrDYgbd_tq7Tr_2TAWg
Even when Sandhagen is taken down, he is quick to attack, whether he is throwing armbars off his back to going for triangles from an inverted guard. Nevertheless, despite showing some savvy in tough spots, Sandhagen still will need to be careful when returning to his feet given his propensity to tripod up and expose his back (I warned about this in my breakdowns prior to his fights with Sterling and T.J. Dillashaw).
Yadong may not be the type of fighter to try and blanket with control time against the cage, but he is capable of both taking backs and making people pay with devastating strikes off the breaks. For that reason, I’ll be curious to see if Sandhagen opts for any granby-roll variations this time around or tries for more conservative separations.
Either way, I suspect that the grappling stanzas between these two will be entertaining for as long as they last.
Point of interest: Odds and opinions
Cory Sandhagen vs. Raphael Assuncao, UFC 241
The oddsmakers and public are siding with the American, listing Sandhagen -210 and Yadong +160 at Tipico Sportsbook.
Although I agree with Sandhagen being set as the favorite, Yadong is a fighter who will always be live early due to his explosive power and proprioception. If he pressures and looks to counter, then I could see Yadong recreating a lot of the success that John Lineker had against Sandhagen.
The American will probably end up offering Yadong windows of success early while making his reads, but I suspect that this battle ends up playing out like its own version of Max Holloway vs. Jose Aldo. Unless Yadong is able to become the first person to stop Sandhagen with strikes, then I believe that smaller octagon will force a high-volume affair that suits the style of the “Sandman” down the stretch.
Yadong has shown some insane durability in previous fights and I will be happy for him if he can pull off the upset, but the official pick is for Sandhagen to force a standing stoppage by the fif
Prediction: Sandhagen inside the distance