Last year was monumental for Cory Sandhagen.
The Colorado native made his debut for the UFC, knocking out Austin Arnett in January. He then picked up where he left off in August, finishing highly respected veteran Iuri Alcantara in a fight which earned ‘Fight of the Night’ honors at UFC Fight Night 135.
Speaking with John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock, Sandhagen recounts his victory over Alcantara, his experiences training with bantamweight king TJ Dillashaw and his upcoming bout with John Lineker.
In Sandhagen’s impressive victory over Alcantara, it looked as if he had sustained serious damage to his arm after being caught in a vicious armbar.
“[The damage was] actually nothing man, which I know it was really surprising to a lot of people to hear. I mean, to be honest, I don’t really know how that happened. I tore a pec on that side, so I don’t know if that prevented my bicep from tearing or something. I really have no idea how my arm didn’t get more jacked in that position.”
However, he fought free and went on to knock out his opponent in the following round. It was also his first time fighting at bantamweight since his pro debut, as he cleaned up his nutrition.
“I was walking a lot heavier when I made my pro debut. I was walking around like 165/166 ish and cutting all the way to 135, and that’s why we made the decision to go to 145 [pounds], because that weight cut is just way too much.”
“But throughout the years, my body just kind of adjusted. I eat a lot better now too. I think when I’m in my pro debut, I was 22 or 23 [years old], but I was like right out of college. I was in college eating college foods, like macaroni and cheese and stuff like that, so I started to eat a little bit more consistently.”
Sandhagen will be facing John Lineker on the very first ESPN card, an opportunity he is extremely grateful for.
“I’m pumped about that. I think I’m the first fight on the prelims too.” he said.
“I’m a big like journeyman guy, I like just doing whatever the universe wants to give to me. I take and just greatly appreciate everything that it gives to me. And fighting John Lineker on the first ESPN card is dope, you know, like a cool blessing I get to have. I’m very attuned and alert of like the fact that I should be incredibly grateful to have that opportunity.”
Originally, Sandhagen was scheduled to face another Brazilian in Thomas Almeida, however, Almeida was forced to pull out due to an injury. Nevertheless, it was a blessing in disguise – he now faces #6 ranked bantamweight John Lineker. Withal, the task isn’t any easier.
“Obviously he’s much more wild. He throws a lot of hooks, he marches forward. If you don’t stop this pressure forward, he’s just going to tear you apart. So the game plan has definitely changed.”
When asked about his striking compared to his counterparts, Cory was quick to highlight the differences.
“He likes people to stand right in front of him and kind of trade with them. I like to stay rangy, I like to step off on angles and I like to be outside of people’s shoulders. I like to mix it up and use a lot of different tools, so it’s gonna really come down to just me outclassing Lineker and me outworking him.”
Lineker’s last defeat came at the hands of bantamweight king TJ Dillashaw in December 2016, someone whom Sandhagen has trained with and learned from.
“I do remember specifically watching that fight and watching TJ completely kind of destroy Lineker. So he kind of laid out the blueprint. Me and TJ have a little bit different styles, but I mean, he’s shown how that guy can be beat.”
Cory Sandhagen has immense potential and a win over John Lineker at UFC Fight Night 143 on January 19 will move him higher into the bantamweight rankings.
Steven is a Mixed Martial Arts journalist and analyst from the United Kingdom.