Residing in the UFC Apex UFC on ESPN 27 will host the return of former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw (16-4). He will be taking on the #2 ranked Cory Sandhagen (14-2). Dillashaw reigned supreme when he captured 135-pound gold in 2014 beating Renan Barao at a huge underdog. He lost his title to Dominick Cruz in 2016 and won back in 2017 beating Cody Garbrandt. A successful title defense against a rematch with Garbrandt, Dillashaw made the move down to 125 to attempt to be a double champ. Dillashaw lost to the flyweight champion Henry Cejudo in just under a minute. Not long following that it was found out Dillashaw tested positive for recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) an in-competition urine sample. For the violation of the UFC’s Anti-Doping Policy Dillashaw accepted a two-year ban.
Dillashaw’s last fight on January 19th, 2019 his opponent this Saturday, Cory Sandhagen fought on the prelims and moved to 3-0 in the UFC. Since Dillashaw has been gone Sandhagen rose to the occasion as a serious threat in the UFC’s bantamweight division. Sandhagen with wins over John Lineker, Raphael Assuncao, Marlon Moraes, and just last Febeuary beat Frankie Edgar. His only loss is to the current UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling. Since that, Sandhaged has won his last two fights.
The lead-up to the main event is one of the hottest contenders in the bantamweight division, Kyler Phillips (9-1) who is ranked at #14. He will test himself against Raulian Paiva (20-3) who is ranked at #12 at flyweight. Phillps debuted in the UFC in early 2020 with suspension if he was ready for the UFC or not. Prior to his UFC call-up, he was 1-2 as he lost on TUF 27 and on the regional scene after the show. He scored a highlight-reel head kick knockout that got him signed to the UFC. “The Matrix” has stunned me ever since coming into the UFC. He beat Gabriel Silva in his debut, won a POTN bonus against Cameron Else, and last March beat Yadong Song which was a huge step up in competition.
Raulian Paiva came to the UFC after winning his contract off the Contender Series Brazil in 2018. Paiva didn’t have the best start in the UFC dropping two fights right off the bat. With all credit, those losses were to Kai Kara-France and Rogério Bontorin. He’s now on a two-fight win streak and now 2-2 in the UFC. In his last fight, he won a close decision victory against Zhalgas Zhumagulov. With a not-so-satisfying win, Paiva also missed weight making it worse. Even though he’s ranked at flyweight he will be moving up to bantamweight.
Sandwiched in between the co-main and main card opening are two fun fights at featherweight and women’s flyweight. 23-fight UFC veteran Darren Elkins (25-9) still at 37-years-old is a stern test for anyone in the division. He’s 1-4 in his last four fights but losing to Ricardo Lamas, Ryan Hall, and champ Alexander Volkanovski don’t look bad. He’s taking on not a UFC veteran but fight veteran Darrick Minner (26-11) who has thirty-seven fights. Minner lost his UFC debut to Grant Dawson but beat T.J. Laramie and Charles Rosa in his next two fights. Being a dog in those two fights Minner showed his improvement training with Glory MMA.
23-year-old Maycee Barber (8-2) is back in the cage after suffering two consecutive losses. She did start off hot in the UFC going 3-0 after winning her UFC contract on the contender series in 2018. She’s dropped two in a row against Roxanne Modafferi and Alexa Grasso. The rising star in 2019 is now fighting the new rising star in Miranda Maverick (9-2). Maverick after winning the Invicta FC: Phoenix Series 2 flyweight tournament and beating Pearl Gonzalez she signed with the UFC last October. With two impressive wins, Maverick is ranked at #13 right above Barber.
Main Card Opener
In the fans, the main event Adrian Yanez (13-3) who represents Dr. Pepper will fight Randy Costa (6-1) who represents Resees. This fight was originally on the prelims but with so much buzz online the fight was moved to the main card. Yanez sparked Brady Huang last summer on the contender series in under a minute to earn that UFC contract. He’s 2-0 in the UFC knocking out Victor Rodriguez and Gustavo Lopez earning a POTN in both wins. Costa was signed to the UFC when he was only 4-0. He lost his debut to Brandon Davis but won his next two fights. Costa knocked out Bostan Salmon and recently Journey Newson last September. Two highlight-real bonus winners