Song Yadong’s dynamite hands and kicks light up most opponents. That power ignites at any time, causing an explosive knockout rate of 40%— essentially 12% higher than the divisional average.
All victims on the highlight reel pale in comparison to Sandhagen. He owns a 7-3 UFC record. The highly ranked veteran narrowly lost to Petr Yan in one of the best, most technical fights of last year. Judging granted TJ Dillashaw a controversial split decision victory in another tight contest. Aljamain Sterling secured a quick rear naked choke.
No shame accompanies getting choked out by the current bantamweight champion and arguably MMA’s best fighter in back control. Yan and Dillashaw are former world champions. Sandhagen only loses to elite UFC competition.
Yadong hasn’t swam in those waters yet. Earning a controversial decision nod over Marlon Vera and quickly dispatching Marlon Moraes diminished by three-straight knockout losses prior represent his two finest wins. The promising prospect remains a stranger to the spotlight as a 24-year-old entering his first headlining fight.
Kyler Phillips’ definitive victory causes some technical concern. He maximized a five-inch reach advantage to neutralize Yadong’s power at a one-sided distance. Sandhagen pumps an efficient jab with a reach advantage of his own here.
Elevation Fight Team augments Sandhagen’s greatest skills. Training in the tough, grapple-heavy regime above sea level shapes him into one of the best-conditioned fighters cardio-wise in the UFC. Wrestlers need cardio and both Sandhagen and his camp have that skill in abundance.
The famed Team Alpha Male gym Yadong trains at holds its own and recycles high-level strikers with grappling competence. Even the best struggle to compensate for wrestling deficiencies though. Yadong’s takedown defense is only 60% and Cody Stamann — a worse offensive grappler than Sandhagen — found continued success exploiting it.
I predict Sandhagen surviving early onslaughts to outwork and ultimately outpoint Yadong as the fight goes longer.
Gregory Rodrigues’ resume radiates grappler vs. striker vibes for this matchup. The grappler usually wins those, but fear not here. Rodrigues elects to primarily strike in the Octagon. In fact, despite being a black belt Abu Dhabi world champion in jiu-jitsu, he has never won by submission in a sizeable MMA organization.
Chidi Njokuani welcomes striking wars. He’s only been finished once by strikes in the last 10 years and never on his feet in over 20 fights. An impressively pinpoint 73% strike accuracy against Rodrigues’ 53% strike defense points in stronger favor of the slight underdog.
A takedown defense of 76% keeps the fight advantageous more times than not. Pressure wrestlers overwhelmed Njokuani in the past but Rodrigues doesn’t fit that mold in the Octagon.
Andre Fili has endured a long, hard UFC run. Father Time frowns upon most worn featherweights who need fast reactions to stay competitive. Fili’s inability to win except once over his last five bouts against mostly middling opponents suggests time is ticking.
Algeo is the far fresher fighter. Not only does he feature lighter ware, but he’s the heavier hitter of the two. The reach and overall size of both fighters are essentially even.
Fili edges the ground comparison. Unfortunately for him, Algeo has proven to be a feisty fighter from the bottom who is difficult to hold down. The best version of Fili is fully capable of winning, but he is very inconsistent. The advanced career stage complicates the ability to bring out the good side of such fighters.
Tanner Boser strays from the heavyweight status quo. He lacks the power most of the UFC’s weightiest wailers wield at all times. He glides at a faster speed than most though at his comparably small size.
Veteran heavyweights tend to expose Boser’s high-level inexperience by heavyweight standards. Rodrigo Nascimento yields experience to Boser. The newer fighter signed a UFC contract in 2020 and has experienced less than 15 minutes of total fight time since.
Inexperience breeds green mistakes. Nascimento appears very slow and hittable from what we’ve seen. An abysmal 38 % striking defense against substandard competition quantifies that uncharming claim.Whether Boser is a legitimate prospect or gatekeeper remains to be seen. I’ve viewed enough to look at him as a comfortable favorite to win Saturday.
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