Following his interim title shot vs Petr Yan, Cory Sandhagen took a step back in the rankings of the bantamweight division to fight rising star Song Yadong in the main event of UFC Vegas 60.
At only twenty-four years old, Song is one of the best young fighters in the sport and coming into this fight already found himself ranked tenth in one of the toughest divisions in the sport. Fighting the fourth ranked Sandhagen, whose only UFC losses are to current or former 135-lb champions, represented a big step up for the youngster and a win would catapult him into the rankings. This fight was one of the most anticipated fights of the fall season as both men have elite striking capabilities and regularly get highlight reel knockouts.
In the first twenty seconds Cory Sandhagen surprisingly shot a takedown but the Team Alpha Male fighter Song Yadong was able to stuff it and start a clinch exchange with Cory in the dominant position. However neither man did much damage and they got back to striking quickly. Cory Sandhagen’s stance switching and length presented problems for Yadong early but then Song landed a massive right hand on Cory, who ate it like a donut. Cory soon attempted another takedown but failed again. In the center of the cage he once again shot, this time a single leg, but Song Yadong reversed the takedown and ended up in top control. Cory was forced to give up his back to stand up, an issue he has had in many previous fights, but he forced Yadong to slide over the top of him and got back to his feet fully with a clinch exchange. When at range Cory had success with poking straight punches and round kicks while Yadong was forced to chasing the Team Elevation fighter around outside of the octagon, though he did land a respectable amount of strikes as well. As the round drew to a close Sandhagen began to open up a bit more with his hands and when the bell rung it was anyone’s guess who won that first stanza.
Towards the end of the first minute Song Yadong landed a big hook that staggered Sandhagen across the entire cage, but Cory was able to recover. Soon after, Cory finally landed one of his takedowns, a big double leg, but Yadong floated his hips when he hit the mat and got back to his feet. A glancing elbow from Cory in the middle of the round opened up a big cut on Yadong’s forehead, right above his eye, that dripped blood onto both fighters when they clinched at one point. As the commentary speculated that the cut might be the end of the fight, Cory got back to his evasive ways and started to work the legs of his opponent. Maybe it was due to the cut or maybe just due to that evasiveness but Yadong’s offense trailed off massively in the latter third of the second round. Both men ended the round swinging for the fences. Due to the cut, it was possible that Cory won the round, but the main question on everyone’s minds was if the doctor would stop the fight with Yadong’s right eye almost entirely closed now.
However, the cutman did his job extraordinarily well and Yadong’s eye looked much better after the break when the fighters got back to action, trading open stance body kicks to open the round. A step-in knee from Sandhagen after ninety seconds got that cut flowing across Yadong’s face again. The takedown attempts from Cory, though unsuccessful, were beginning to draw big reactions from Yadong which represented openings to land strikes. Cory went back to the well several times with the step-in elbows due to the success he had in round two, opening up the cut above his foe’s eye even more. Yadong was throwing a lot of powerful shots but he was connecting far less this round than he had in the previous two as he chased Sandhagen. Cory ended the round with a big left hook to the liver and a flying knee that landed partially, probably the clearest round of the fight to score thus far. The doctor looked at the cut again and said that it could continue but also that if the cut got any worse that would be the end.
Going into the championship rounds, Sandhagen seemed to have the advantage on paper given his experience there and Yadong’s complete lack of it, having never been to a fourth round in his MMA career. Sandhagen opened the round with a flurry of activity, but after he settled down Song found a home for two big right hands, then caught a kick, and dumped Sandhagen to his back. It was a great eventuality for Song if he had been able to control his opponent but Cory quickly worked to get up on a hip and scooted to the fence so he could wall-walk and get back on his feet. Both men were now even more coated in blood than at any other point and they traded massive shots when they got back to range. Some nice chain wrestling from Sandhagen with a minute left in the fourth round finally got Yadong onto his back for more than a moment. Cory took full advantage to stay in top full guard for the rest of the round and just do consistent damage with short punches to the head.
— Shaheen Al-Shatti (@shaunalshatti) September 18, 2022
The cut looked worse than ever, it was almost a half an inch wide and perhaps two inches long going right through his eyebrow, and if the doctor’s words last round were true it was likely he would stop it, which he did after four rounds of war. Cory sank to his knees in joy, ending his losing streak. After finishing being evaluated by the doctor, Song Yadong walked over to Cory Sandhagen to tell him that he could not see out of the eye with the cut, justifying the doctor’s stoppage.
Official Result: Cory Sandhagen def. Song Yadong by TKO (doctor’s stoppage), Round 4, 5:00