MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for UFC on ESPN+ 37.
UFC on ESPN+ 37 takes place Saturday at Flash Forum at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The main card and prelims stream on ESPN+.
Marlon Moraes (23-6-1 MMA, 5-2 UFC)
- Height: 5’6″ Age: 32 Weight: 135 lbs. Reach: 67″
- Last fight: Decision win over Jose Aldo (Dec. 14, 2019)
- Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
- Stance/striking style: Orthodox/muay Thai
- Risk management: Good
+ WSOF bantamweight title
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ Multiple muay Thai accolades
+ 10 KO victories
+ 6 submission wins
+ 13 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Excellent feints and footwork
^ Pivots, lateral movement, distancing
+ Accurate shot selection
^ Coming forward and off of the counter
+ Dynamic and dangerous kicker
+ Underrated wrestling ability
+ Good transitional grappler
^ Solid scrambling and submissions
Cory Sandhagen (12-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC)
- Height: 5’11” Age: 28 Weight: 135 lbs. Reach: 70″
- Last fight: Submission loss to Aljamain Sterling (June 6, 2020)
- Camp: Elevation Fight Team (Colorado)
- Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
- Risk management: Good
+ WKA world kickboxing champion
+ Amateur kickboxing accolades
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
+ 4 KO victories
+ 3 submission wins
+ 5 first-round finishes
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Excellent feints and footwork
^ Manages distance/draws out attacks
+ Variates shot selection
^ Punctuates well with bodywork
+ Hard leg kicks
+ Underrated scrambling ability
+ Solid transitional grappler
^ Flows well from top or bottom
Point of interest: Kicks and counters
The main event on Yas Island features a fun fight between two bantamweight bangers who are very familiar with kicks and counters.
A fleet-of-foot striker, Marlon Moraes does well at staying light yet loaded on his feet, which in turn (coupled with his blinding speed) allows him to open up on opponents coming forward or moving backward. After doing a better job of balancing out his punch-to-kick ratio in recent years, Moraes will now mix in a healthy amount of feints with his already fantastic footwork, often finishing his variating punch-offense with ferociously placed kicks.
Though the 32-year-old Brazilian is not beyond being countered while throwing his patented weapons, he maintains impeccable balance when attacking (even while throwing kicks) that allows him to seldom be caught out of position. In fact, Moraes will often counterbalance himself with checking hooks that come from the opposite side, typically shifting his stance in the process.
Nevertheless, as crafty as Moraes has shown himself to be, he’ll need to respect the skills of a ready and willing dance partner that will be standing across from him this weekend.
Enter Cory Sandhagen.
Coming up through the kickboxing ranks in the quiet martial arts hotbed of Colorado, Sandhagen has clearly studied and absorbed a lot in what has been a fun career to watch thus far.
Utilizing his long and lean frame like second nature, Sandhagen is a rangy kickboxer who appears comfortable poking and prodding his opposition with accurate jabs and leg kicks from either stance. Shifting or drop-stepping at a moment’s notice, the 28-year-old talent can piece together flowing, varied offense off of whatever building materials are offered up to him.
Whether Sandhagen is bringing back Jose Aldo’s patented “Dutchie” combination or launching jumping switch-knees that give me flashbacks to Liu Kang’s bicycle kick, he certainly knows how to keep things spicy. And when Sandhagen is feeling in stride, he has no issue digging deep hooks and uppercuts to his opponent’s body, and it’s not uncommon to see the good samaritan show a sadistic smile after landing a direct hit.
However, despite the multi-leveled attacks, Sandhagen is not exactly impervious from a defensive standpoint, as he, too, will have to respect the shots coming back at him.
Point of interest: Potential grappling threats
Considering the fashion in which Sandhagen lost his last fight, it’s not hard to wonder if Moraes will dust off his underrated wrestling ability in order to exercise the on-paper advantages of his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
Initially following his childhood friend, Edson Barboza, to the U.S. for mixed martial arts training, Moraes spent a solid chunk of his career under the care of Mark Henry – which obviously afforded the Brazilian a lot of time to work with Frankie Edgar and his wrestling ways.
It was around this chapter where Moraes started to integrate more late-round takedowns into his game, as his athleticism translates well in this realm. Whether Moraes is changing levels for a shot in the open or chaining off of a caught kick, the 13-year pro demonstrates competent executions when he wants to.
That said, taking Sandhagen down is one thing; keeping him down is another.
Slippery inside the scramble, Sandhagen has shown that he is not one to settle for bad positions, displaying a stoic composure that – outside of his last contest – has surely assisted him in adverse spots before. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt in his own right, Sandhagen is far from a slouch when it comes to fighting for positions in the grappling department.
Even when Sandhagen is taken down, the Colorado native is quick to attack, whether he is throwing armbars off his back to going for triangles from an inverted guard. Nevertheless, despite showing some savvy in tough spots, Sandhagen (as I warned in my breakdown prior to his fight with Aljamain Sterling) will still need to be careful when returning to his feet, as he seems to have a propensity to tripod when looking to get back to his base.
Moraes doesn’t exactly offer a consistent process to get there, but the Brazilian will take submissions from an opportunistic standpoint.
Point of interest: Odds, opinion and prediction
The oddsmakers initially opened the Brazilian fighter as the favorite, but public money has flipped the line, listing Sandhagen -130 and Moraes +110 as of this writing.
Considering that the line movement reflects my feelings on this fight, then I can’t say that I disagree with the spread above.
Moraes is certainly the deserved favorite given his greater well of experience and more proven sample size of skills, so I don’t hate anyone who sees value in him as the underdog in this spot. However, the closer I look at this matchup the more I end up leaning toward the chances of Sandhagen.
Unless Moraes can cleanly knock out or severely compromise Sandhagen within the first two rounds, then I have a hard time seeing the American losing a decision due to his high output and building nature. And between Moraes’ last three submission wins deriving from knockdowns (not takedowns) to the fact that a wrestling-heavy gameplan requires a lot of energy, I’m not sure how bankable it is to assume that the Brazilian will out-grapple the American in this spot.
I don’t like how hittable Sandhagen can be to both his legs and body, but the seeming confidence Moraes has in his chin can be troublesome against building strikers who appear manageable upon first offering. Sandhagen also offers a lot of things that have traditionally troubled Moraes, whether we’re talking about crafty uppercuts or straight-shot counters.
Although I’m officially picking Sandhagen to pull away from a fading Moraes down the stretch for a decision win, I would not put it past him to earn a late stoppage in a fight that smacks of Jose Aldo’s first meeting with Max Holloway.
Original article: https://mmajunkie.usatoday.com/lists/ufc-on-espn-37-breakdown-can-cory-sandhagen-rebound-against-marlon-moraes