Cory Sandhagen is fighting for the interim title against Petr Yan on Saturday at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi. After UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling pulled out of the co-main event due to an injury, the UFC called upon Sandhagen to fill in, and he accepted the offer to compete for the interim belt.
Sandhagen (14-3) is coming off a split decision loss to TJ Dillashaw in July at UFC Vegas 32. That bout against Dillashaw is a contender to win Fight of the Year and it has a chance to be one of the most memorable main events in recent history. It was a fight that could have gone either way and the scorecards happened to rule in favor of Dillashaw by a slim margin.
The fight took a lot out of both fighters because it was a brutal fight that lasted 25 minutes. Unfortunately, the bantamweight division has been held up since March and that fight between Sandhagen and Dillashaw provided some clarity to the division.
Dillashaw suffered significant injuries against Sandhagen and needed a substantial amount of time off. The UFC was unable to place Dillashaw in an interim title fight in October, even though he was next in line for a title shot, so they decided to tap Sandhagen for the same spot.
Sandhagen is right back to where he was before his fight in July. The main difference in this go-around is that Sandhagen does not have as much to lose. In July, he lost his spot as the No. 2 bantamweight contender. Now that he is the No. 3 bantamweight contender, he does not run the same risk because he is a late substitute.
After the loss, Sandhagen was not expected to be immediately reinserted into the title picture. The worst that can happen to Sandhagen after a loss to Yan would be fighting someone in the top 10 of the division. The reason why that is not a bad thing is that Sandhagen was supposed to take a step back from the championship picture, but that plan is being sidelined for the time being.
For Sandhagen, this fight is the definition of a fight with low risk and high reward. The pressure in this fight is on Yan since he was the champion before he lost his belt via disqualification at UFC 259. Sandhagen can only help his stock in this fight.