This past weekend in the main event of UFC San Antonio, we saw a big time matchup between two of the best bantamweight contenders in the world. Former interim title challenger Cory Sandhagen (16-4) was back as he took on Marlon “Chito” Vera (22-8-1).
Sandhagen fought in September when he halted the momentum of Song Yadong by stopping him after the fourth round of their fight. He was looking to do the same to Chito Vera on Saturday night. Vera is known for being a slow starter and Sandhagen knew he needed to get out to a big start.
Sandhagen beautifully used his range and grappling in the opening frame to secure a dominant round. For the rest of the fight, Sandhagen used his footwork and range to completely pick Vera apart. Vera got off to his slow start, but even when he tried picking things up, he could never quite get to Sandhagen.
The Sandman was just on another level Saturday night. In the end, you could have easily given him all five rounds. Somehow, one judge gave the fight to Vera. Thankfully, the other two got it right and Cory Sandhagen walked out of UFC San Antonio with a huge win.
Who is next after UFC San Antonio?
After the fight was over, Sandhagen took to the mic and he had one name in mind. Sandhagen called out top contender Merab Dvalishvili. Dvalishvili just fought a few weeks ago when he completely dominated former champion Petr Yan.
After that kind of win, you’d think Dvalishvili would be calling for a title shot. However, Dvalishvili’s best friend and training partner is current champ Aljamain Sterling. Sterling is set to fight Henry Cejudo in May with Sean O’Malley waiting in the wings for the winner.
The thought from their team is that if Sterling wins those two fights, he’d move up to featherweight opening the door for Dvalishvili. Dvalishvili says he will never fight the current UFC champion. With that, Dvalishvili will need another opponent and honestly, Sandhagen is the perfect opponent.
The fight makes perfect sense for both men. Sterling and Cejudo will fight in May then I expect Sean O’Malley to get the winner in the late summer months depending on the health of the winner. Let Dvalishvili and Sandhagen fight in the summer with a fall showdown planned for the winners of this fight and the O’Malley title shot.