UFC Nashville suffered a major blow last night when it was revealed that Umar Nurmagomedov would be pulled out of their bantamweight headliner against Cory Sandhagen after suffering an injury during training. However, should the show go on and Sandhagen currently has no opponents, here’s a look at three alternative fighters he could face on short notice at UFC Nashville in August. 5 at Bridgestone Arena.
If you told anyone in early 2021 that Petr Yan would be on a three-bout losing streak, they would think you were crazy. However, this is somehow the reality we are in as the Russian is coming off consecutive losses to Alzman Sterling, Sean O’Malley and Merab Davliashvili, even though many feel he should have won two of those three bouts. Overall, he has lost four of his last five (if you include the disqualification from his first fight with Sterling) and his only win during that time came against Sandhagen at UFC 267 in October. 2021.
This does not mean that the vehicle has been washed away or has passed its limits, or the same for Sandhagen. Ultimately, their fight was actually for the interim bantamweight title and although it was a close and competitive affair, Yan did enough to earn a decision win on the night. It’s been almost two years and given the circumstances and his recent results (Sandhagen, by contrast, is on a two-fight winning streak right now), it makes perfect sense to get things back on track now with the champ back in the bantamweight title picture.
Admittedly, this seems a bit unlikely given the short notice, the fact that the vehicle resides in Russia, and is unlikely to be in fighting condition. However, this is definitely the option that is ideal and makes the most sense in terms of ranking.
One particularly interesting bout that has yet to take place in the bantamweight division is Cory Sandhagen against Rob Fonte. Font most recently bounced back from a two-fight losing streak with an impressive first-round TKO win over rising prospect Adrian Yanez at UFC 287 in April. Overall, he has won five of his last seven and, despite his age of 36, he still holds out hope of challenging for the bantamweight title and the reality is, he still remains one of the best strikers – especially with his boxing – in the 135-pound division.
There’s no better way than to beat Sandhagen to earn his first-ever bantamweight title shot. Sandhagen is one of the best and most dynamic strikers in the world in his own right, and it will certainly be interesting to see how they stack up against each other in a stand-up.
This is a fight that Fonte called early last year and out of the fighters on this list, it is certainly the most likely. Maybe now in 2023 it will finally come to fruition?
One final option, and a wild card at that, is former UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz. Cruz is coming off a knockout loss to Marlon Vera last August and has not competed since. However, before that he was on a two-fight winning streak with wins over Casey Kenny and Pedro Munhoz, and one more win could have cost him another title shot.
Instead, he will have to go back to the drawing board if he still wants to become a three-time Bantamweight Champion. Maybe given the similarities between the pair, fighting Sandhagen would be an insanely unique stylistic matchup that would be the perfect rebound option for Cruise?
The 38-year-old is also a notable inspiration for Sandhagen and Sandhagen has already given his statement want to fight him before Cruise calls it a day.
Sandhagen said last year, “I really want to fight Cruz before I retire, though Aldo as well.” “I get a lot of people saying that me and Cruz are too parallel and our styles are this and that, but I also like Aldo’s style. I’ve been a student of Aldo and Cruz for a very long time. If I had a preference, I’d go with the cruise because it would be a right time, right place kind of thing.”
That said, this is more likely than not as Cruz has repeatedly spoken about the importance of a proper fight camp and given his commentary duties, he may not be able to do so even if he wanted to. That said, this is still a fight that many in the MMA world would like to see happen at some point in the future.