Fireworks were expected at UFC Fort Lauderdale when Cory Sandhagen and John Lineker stepped in the cage, and they delivered.
Cory Sandhagen has proven to be one of the brighter prospects of the bantamweight division. The Colorado resident was 7-1 with two knockouts and two submissions when he got the call from the UFC. After a successful second-round KO at featherweight in his debut, Sandhagen dropped to bantamweight and knocked out veteran Iuri Alcantara in a Fight of the Night effort. After John Lineker pulled out of their scheduled bout in February, Sandhagen submitted late replacement Mario Bautista after a beautiful flying knee.
John Lineker has consistently been one of the most exciting fighters in the lighter weight classes in the UFC. “Hands of Stone” is 10-3 in the Octagon since making his debut in 2012 with three Fight of the Night bonuses, one Performance of the Night, and seven stoppage victories. The Brazilian is 6-1 since moving up to the bantamweight division, only losing to former champion TJ Dillashaw. Lineker has won his last two fights, knocking out Brian Kelleher last time out.
In such a highly anticipated fight, the opening round did not disappoint with action from both fighters. Sandhagen used his fantastic footwork to set up his flashy attacks whilst Lineker waited for opportunities to throw hooks to the body, hoping for an opportunity to land the bombs he’s renowned for. In a highly competitive first round, Sandhagen perhaps edged it with a higher output and more aggressiveness.
An incredibly fast and explosive start from Lineker saw him take command of round two in the early exchanges. However, Cory responded well to this and showed the fight IQ of a seasoned veteran, being more sensible and methodical in his approach.
The third round saw Sandhagen be more conservative, knowing that if he survived round three, a win may be in the bag against the #8 contender. Being the taller and rangier opponent, Sandhagen opted to stay on the outside in an attempt to avoid any dangerous spells of pressure from Lineker. The Brazilian found the target a couple of times in the round but didn’t manage to sustain any pressure or land the one punch knockout. In the final seconds of the round, a shot on Sandhagen forced a takedown. ‘Hands of Stone’ capitalised when he seemed to sink in a chokex, forcing his American counterpart to bleed profusely. However, he was able to hang on and hear the final bell.
After what was a close, action-packed encounter, the fight went to the judges scorecards which were split. Cory Sandhagen won via split decision taking his record to 11-1 and earning him an inevitable place in the top 10 of the UFC’s bantamweight division.
Cory Sandhagen def. John Lineker by Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)