With Aljamain Sterling likely the next bantamweight title challenger, two of his previous opponents face off to maintain their foothold on future contender status when top-ranked Marlon Moraes squares off against fourth-ranked Cory Sandhagen in Saturday night’s main event of UFC Fight Night.
Contender or pretender?
Cory Sandhagen (-140) vs. Marlon Moraes (+120)
After suffering a self-admitted embarrassing loss to Sterling just four months ago, the American Sandhagen has been given a second chance at establishing himself as a top bantamweight contender when he faces the No. 1-ranked Moraes of Brazil.
It is hard to think of anyone who has been as disrespected after a big win as the 32-year-old Moraes has. After a controversial split decision win over Jose Aldo in December, the UFC opted to give Aldo a bantamweight title shot regardless of the judges’ verdict.
Since then, not only has Aldo gotten a shot, but the next shot has been granted to Sterling, who Moraes defeated in just over a minute several years ago.
Now Moraes needs to prove that he still belongs at the top of the bantamweight rankings by facing the awkward and very talented up-and-comer in Sandhagen, 28, who is favoured in the main event of this weekend’s card in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
This bout comes down to Sandhagen’s awkward style, length and arsenal of weapons against Moraes’s relentless offensive attack.
The line originally opened with Moraes as a -135 favourite, which I believe is a more accurate line than the current one that has been shifted by the public.
While Sandhagen is undoubtedly talented, Moraes has been a top-tier bantamweight for more than five years and has yet to show any concrete signs of being on the decline.
New Canadian on the Block
KB Bhullar (+220) vs. Tom Breese (-260)
Edmonton’s KB Bhullar got a surprise call from his manager a few weeks ago, who said that he would need to pack his bags and head to Abu Dhabi after being offered a short notice bout against England’s Tom Breese.
Bhullar, 28, answered the call and rather than appearing on the Dana White Contender Series in November, his road to the UFC has been fast tracked with a tough assignment against the established Breese.
Although Bhullar is undefeated, he faces his toughest test to date in Breese.
While the 29-year-old Breese struggled in his last outing, where he was finished by surging prospect Brendan Allen in the first round, his overall skill set will pose new problems for Bhullar to solve.
Bhullar trains with other top fighters in Edmonton, including UFC heavyweight Tanner Boser, who will be cornering him this weekend and Dana White Contender Series alum Teddy Ash.
The biggest question mark for Bhullar is how he will fare against UFC-calibre talent. His last win was against Matt Dwyer, himself a former UFC fighter and he scored a unanimous decision victory.
Prior to the win against Dwyer, his combined opponent record was 42-46-1.
This is a wait and see spot for Bhullar and while the underdog line might look enticing for an undefeated fighter, it may not be worth the risk without seeing him perform on the big stage.
Odds and Ends:
* Edson Barboza has closed as the favourite in his last three bouts and went 0-3.
* Markus Perez is an underdog for the fourth straight fight. He was 1-2 in those fights.
* Bruno Silva is an underdog for the third straight time and is 0-2 in the UFC.
* Tom Breese has been favoured in all of his UFC bouts and is 5-2 in the promotion.
Odds courtesy of Bestfightodds.com