Cory Sandhagen obviously noticed the massive gash over Song Yadong’s eye after he landed a slicing elbow early in their fight at UFC Vegas 60, but it didn’t lead him to change his strategy to target the open wound.
In fact, Sandhagen might have played into Song’s hands by becoming fixated on his cut after seeing his opponent react to his blood pouring down his face for most of the fight.
“I honestly didn’t think about the cut,” Sandhagen said at his post-fight press conference. I could see blood coming into his mouth. He is a weirdo. He’s smiling and enjoying it, getting the blood in his mouth. He’s kind of one of those guys.
” I noticed it, but other than that, it was to stick with the game plan, and ensure that my ass doesn’t get knocked out by him .”
Sandhagen did confess that a blow landed by Song in the opening round had him severely rocked, but he was able to recover and continue without allowing the shot to alter his performance afterward.
As the time ticked down to the third and finally the fourth rounds, Sandhagen felt more confident as he discovered Song’s tendencies, patterns and gave him the opportunities he needed for greater damage.
Unfortunately for Song, he was not allowed to continue into the fifth round due to the cut growing worse with each exchange.
“Song “is a helluva fighter,” Sandhagen stated. “I knew that he was going to be super tough. The guy hits really hard and he defended the takedowns really well. As the fight progressed, I felt like I was beginning to understand him. I really looked forward to the fifth round.
“I felt good, I felt fresh. It felt as though my eyes were working properly and that my fifth round would be successful. But, I still wanted to find out. It was a bit of a disappointment .”
To be fair, Sandhagen admitted that he’s usually his own worst critic, so he’s not exactly surprised that he felt disappointment, especially after the way this particular fight ended.
Still, the one-time interim title challenger is satisfied enough with his victory that he’s not rushing back into a rematch with Song.
“I didn’t win good enough,” Sandhagen said. “But that’s typically how I feel after every win. He was [I’m not interested in a rematch], defeated by me. I kind of want to fight up in the rankings now.”
The bantamweight division is extremely busy as many top 10 fighters have met off with the hopes of a new No. 1 contender could emerge as reigning champion Aljamain Sterling prepares for his showdown with T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 280 in October.
Although he doesn’t often call out anyone by name, Sandhagen sees only a few viable options given current circumstances at 135 pound.
“Chito [Vera] or Merab [Dvalishvili] are the obvious names,” Sandhagen said. “Both of them pose very different challenges. They are almost two completely different fighters. It doesn’t matter to me. Give me one of them for Christmas.”