The picture of the UFC bantamweight competitor becomes a little clearer on Saturday night.
Marlon Moraes meets Cory Sandhagen at the main UFC Fight Night event in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The card will take place in the Flash forum on Yas Island, which the UFC has named "Fight Island", the international home of promotion during the coronavirus pandemic.
ESPN has Moraes ranked 2nd in the world in bantamweight and Sandhagen ranked 6th. The winner could be a future title contender.
Moraes (23-6-1) has won five of his last six fights, the only defeat at that time being to Henry Cejudo in a fight for the then vacant bantamweight title. Moraes, a 32-year-old Brazilian, won a UFC 245 win against former featherweight champion Jose Aldo last December. Moraes is the former World Series of Fighting bantamweight champion and has already won over UFC bantamweight competitors Aljamain Sterling and Jimmie Rivera.
All fights of UFC Fight Night: Moraes vs. Sandhagen can be viewed on ESPN +.
• Marlon Moraes versus Cory Sandhagen
• Edson Barboza versus Makwan Amirkhani
• Ben Rothwell versus Marcin Tybura
• Markus Perez versus Dricus Du Plessis
• Youssef Zalal versus llia Topuria
• Tom Breese versus KB Bhullar
• Chris Daukaus versus Rodrigo Nascimento
• Impa Kasanganay versus Joaquin Buckley
• Ali AlQaisi versus Tony Kelley
• Giga Chikadze versus Omar Morales
• Tracy Cortez versus Stephanie Egger
• Bruno Silva versus Tagir Ulanbekov
Check out the full map on ESPN +
Sandhagen (12-2) lost for the first time during his UFC run at UFC 250 in June, a loss to Sterling. Sandhagen, a Colorado resident, had previously won seven fights. The 28-year-old is considered a future star in the division. His precise and unorthodox footwork is somewhat reminiscent of former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
At the co-main event on Saturday, Edson Barboza and Makwan Amirkhani will meet in a featherweights fight. Barboza (20-9), a 34-year-old Brazilian, has lost five out of six. Amirkhani (16-4), a 31-year-old from Finland, has won three out of four.
Also on the map, Ben Rothwell meets Marcin Tybura in a heavyweight match; Markus Perez meets the South African Dricus Du Plessis in the middleweight division; and Youssef Zalal tries to win his fourth UFC fight of the year against Ilia Topuria featherweight.
Fight underway: Men's featherweight: Youssef Zalal (10-2, 3-0 UFC, -160) versus llia Topuria (8-0, 0-0 UFC, +130)
Middleweight: Tom Breese (12-2, 5-2 UFC) defeated. KB Bhullar (8-1, 0-1 UFC) by knockout in the first round
Look back to come.
Heavyweight: defeated Chris Daukaus (10-3, 2-0 UFC). Rodrigo Nascimento (8-1, 1-1 UFC) by knockout in the first round
Nascimento is a jiu-jitsu master and within the first few seconds the fight was on his domain – the canvas. But by that point the great Brazilian was already damaged and on his way to his first career defeat thanks to a flurry of Daukau's left hook.
Daukaus, a 31-year-old from Philadelphia, took his third straight win and eighth win in his last nine games by wasting no time before pursuing Nascimento with heavy hands. He dropped the Brazilian with a left hook underlining a combination just seconds into the fight and followed Nascimento to the mat – a sign that he knew his man was injured.
Daukaus fired several shots from the top position, and when Nascimento brought the fight back to the stand, Daukaus made sure he didn't stay there long. He landed another left hook to bring his opponent to the ground and referee Marc Goddard had seen enough and stepped in after 45 seconds.
For Daukaus it was his third knockout win in a row in the first lap and the fastest of his career. He has a total of nine KOs in 10 wins.
The 27-year-old Nascimento was the third fighter of the night to suffer a first career defeat.
Middleweight: Joaquin Buckley (11-3, 1-1 UFC) defeated. Impa Kasanganay (8-1, 1-1 UFC) by knockout in the second round
Buckley could have sealed the MMA knockout of the year. At least it was certainly one of the most unique knockouts in the history of the sport.
"This could be the biggest KO I've ever seen," said UFC color commentator Paul Felder.
In the second round, Buckley threw a left high kick that Kasanganay caught with his left hand. Kasanganay pushed Buckley's left leg away, but Buckley used that movement to turn – and landed a perfect recoil right in front of Kasanganay's jaw. Kasanganay was underway on impact.
That's 50 G!
– Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) October 10, 2020
"We drill to kill," Buckley said in his post-fight interview. "But I've never landed it in a fight."
Buckley looked good throughout the fight and came forward with tough combinations. Kasanganay also had his moments when he finished strong on the first lap and landed a hard left hook in the second. But all anyone will talk about in this fight is Buckley's incredible knockout. UFC President Dana White said afterward that Buckley would definitely win a fight night bonus of $ 50,000.
"Yes sir, I'm trying to steal all the bonuses," said Buckley.
The 26-year-old Buckley took his first UFC win with the knockout on the highlight role. The Missouri native has won three of his last four. Kasanganay, a 26-year-old North Carolina resident, had two wins in August – one in Dana White's Contender Series and one in the UFC.
Men's bantamweight: Tony Kelley (7-2, 1-1 UFC) def. Ali AlQaisi (8-5, 0-2 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN +)
Tony Kelley secured his first UFC win on Fight Island. Josh Hedges / Zuffa LLC / Getty Images
These two did the full 15 minutes and then another 10 seconds. Yes, even after the horn sounded at the end of the third round of a fight that resulted in wild, flashy exchanges and out of harm's way, they were still in the face, pushing each other.
In the end, Kelley got nods from all three judges – 29-28 on two scorecards and 30-27 on the other – and secured his first UFC win.
"I'll keep developing, I want to get up in that mix, top 15, top 10, you better watch out because I'm coming," said Kelley after the fight.
Round 1 was a long argument. Kelley, a 33-year-old from Shreveport, Louisiana, briefly completed a triangle, and when AlQaisi fought his way out of trouble, the Jordanian secured a guillotine, a thrush, with which he had won three of his previous bouts. But Kelley stayed calm, escaped from position, and ended the lap threatening to end the fight with a triangular arm bar.
The other two rounds also had grappling scrambles, but there were more standup fights, with Kelley landing the more damaging punches, but AlQaisi, 30, showed he was dangerous too. At some point he connected himself with two fists that were just turning.
But it wasn't enough for AlQaisi, who lost for the second straight year – both UFC bouts – after advancing to promotion with a winning streak of five bouts.
Men's featherweight: defeated Giga Chikadze (11-2, 4-0 UFC). Omar Morales (10-1, 2-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN +)
Giga Chikadze lands a massive right hook on Omar Morales' head as Morales falls to the mat on round 3.
Chikadze clearly wanted the knockout and swung at the fences throughout the fight. And in the third round he almost made it.
Chikadze dropped Morales on the right with a rocket-like overhand, then lunged, trying to land great ground and pound blows. The previously undefeated Morales somehow survived, but Chikadze took a featherweight win by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Morales was extremely wild. He pushed for most of the fight, but Chikadze, a Glory kickboxing veteran and black karate belt, showed his superior punching technical skills, landing directly to the left of the south paw stance and cracking body kicks. When Chikadze saw openings, he swung with everything he had, but never quite connected until the third.
"I want my place in the top 15. I know I can beat anyone, I can beat the champion, I can beat the top 5, I can beat the top 10 and I feel like the top 15," said Chikadze said . "I have just beaten an undefeated fighter from the lightweight, nobody fought him. I know how difficult it was to find an opponent for him."
The 32-year-old Chikadze has won six straight wins, including his first four in the UFC. The Georgia native Republican is still aiming for his first UFC finish. Morales, a 34-year-old Venezuelan, was 2-0 in the UFC.
What a blast # UFCFightIsland5
– Niko Price (@Nikohybridprice) October 10, 2020
Women's bantamweight: Tracy Cortez (8-1, 2-0 UFC) defeated. Stephanie Egger (5-2, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (watch this fight on ESPN +)
Tracy Cortez won her eighth straight fight on Saturday night at Fight Island. Josh Hedges / Zuffa LLC
Cortez continued her role in her second UFC fight. She won her eighth straight with a strong performance against Egger, beating it to the limit in the rare flashy exchanges of the fight and controlling it on the screen almost the entire time.
The 26-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona, had nearly 10 minutes of control time on screen during her 15 minutes in the cage with Eggers, who made her UFC debut.
All three judges scored the bout between 30 and 27 for Cortez.
"It's quite an experience, to say the least. I'm just very grateful that I can say I'm part of this story. So I'm very grateful and very happy that I got to experience it," said Cortez. "Would I want to come back? Probably not. I want to fight in Vegas, in my backyard, have my family there to support me for once. A lot of my fights weren't in the states, so hopefully the next one can be in town. "
The 32-year-old Egger from Switzerland had won three fights in a row.
Cortez is great at winning the chess game on the spot. # ufcfightisland5
– Tatiana Suarez (@tatianaufc) October 10, 2020
Men's flyweight: defeated Tagir Ulanbekov (11-1, 1-0 UFC). Bruno Silva (10-5-2, 0-3 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN +)
Tagir Ulanbekov beats Bruno Silva from Brazil in the flyweight fight on Fight Island. Josh Hedges / Zuffa LLC
Silva, the significantly smaller man, had to turn it into a brawl. He succeeded, but it still wasn't enough.
Ulanbekov held Silva on a unanimous win (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) for the opening of the UFC Fight Night: Moraes vs. Sandhagen in check. Silva made things ugly. He closed the distance, created puzzles and tied Ulanbekov in wild exchanges.
But Ulanbekov did even more damage and opened a cut in Silva's right eye in the second lap. Ulanbekov was also able to beat Silva in a few places, although Silva refused to leave. The fight ended with Silva pushing forward and throwing arbitrary hooks. He landed two hard lefts and Ulanbekov landed a hard right. It was a fun way to end a fun back and forth fight.
The 29-year-old Ulanbekov has now won four times in a row. This was the Russian's UFC debut. Silva, a 30-year-old Brazilian, has dropped out of all three UFC fights since his debut in 2019.
Flyweights set the pace for the night! Lesgo! UFC # UFCfightisland5
– Kai Kara France (@kaikarafrance) October 10, 2020
Still to come:
Men bantamweight: Marlon Moraes (23-6-1, 5-2 UFC, +120) versus Cory Sandhagen (12-2, 5-1 UFC, -140)
Men's featherweight: Edson Barboza (20-9, 14-9 UFC, -260) versus Makwan Amirkhani (16-4, 6-2 UFC, +220)
Heavyweight: Ben Rothwell (38-12, 8-6 UFC, -150) versus Marcin Tybura (19-6, 6-5 UFC, +130)
Medium weight: Markus Perez (12-3, 2-3 UFC, +140) against Dricus Du Plessis (14-2, 0-0 UFC, -160)
Heavyweight: Tom Aspinall (8-2, 1-0 UFC, -625) vs Alan Baudot (8-1, 0-0 UFC, +450)