The main event for UFC Fight Island 5 is a guaranteed banger. #1 ranked bantamweight Marlon Moraes faces off against #4 ranked Cory Sandhagen. This fight is a guaranteed brawl.
Coming from Nova Friburgo, Marlon Moraes is one of the most exciting Bantamweights in the world. Starting his life in combat as young as 7, Marlon went on to be a Muay Thai prodigy. Amassing a pair of national championships and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. This Muay Thai style is often evident in the way he fights. Everything is thrown with devastating power and often equally devastating accuracy.
After leaving Muay Thai and transitioning full time to MMA, Moraes jumped from Xtreme Fighting Championship to the fabled UFC breeding ground of World Series of Fighting. With the step-up in competition, it only allowed Moraes to show his full repertoire of skills.
Right from the off Moraes had killers to contend with. Miguel Torres in his debut, former WEC Bantamweight champion, winning via split decision. Next up it was the ever-impressive Tyson Nam, where he almost decapitated Nam(something Moraes has become known for) and finished it with ground and pound in the opening round.
Moraes would stay with WSOF and reign their Bantamweight division for 5 further years, becoming champ midway through the 5.
After signing for the UFC in 2017, Moraes worked his way through the promotion, earning a title shot within 2 years of signing.
Despite losing to Cejudo in the title shot, Moraes could feel hard-done-by with Jose Aldo getting a title shot despite losing to Moraes.
Sandhagen is a 28-year-old Mixed Martial Artist and former Amateur Kickboxer. A natural athlete and High School basketball player, it’s no surprise to see Sandhagen take to MMA like a duck to water.
After winning an Amateur World Title at WKA in Kickboxing, Sandhagen began transitioning to MMA. An amateur MMA record of 4-1, with 3 stoppages seen him transition into the Professional scene smoothly. After bouncing around promotions including Sparta, he ended up settling, albeit not for long, at LFA.
After losing his first fight under the LFA banner, Sandhagen went on to amass two TKO finishes in his next two fights. With the UFC taking notice, he was drafted in to fight on the Jacare vs Brunson 2 card on January 27th of 2018. After impressing early with a second-round TKO, Sandhagen would next face Fan Favourite, Iuri Alcantara. After a fantastic first round, Sandhagen stopped him in the second.
Next up after a trio of victories vs Mario Bautista, John Lineker, and Raphael Assuncao, he was catapulted into the big leagues with a scheduled bout vs Frankie Edgar. The bout fell through as Edgar was needed elsewhere, however next up was a #1 contender shot vs Aljamain Sterling. Unfortunately for Sandhagen, it would end quickly via a Rear Naked Choke.
Marlon Moraes is a little power-ball. He has a typical Muay Thai style, in reference to the ferocity of his shots. Whilst unusually a KO artist at 135lb, the set ups that lead Moraes to his KO’s are notable.
Vs Raphael Assuncao Overhand set up.
Against Assuncao, a brilliant counter striker, Moraes exploited the weakness of Assuncao’s lazy left hand after exiting the pocket. During the fight, there was an influx of short sharp combos in the pocket from Moraes. Each time, without ever landing much, Assuncao would counter and exit with his right hand under his chin and left hand dropped down.
Here is an exchange seconds before the knockdown, watch as Assuncao blocks the left from Moraes with his straight right then exits the pocket.
Notice the left hand of Assuncao, it’s low. This is something Moraes tested early with a switch stance as well, Moraes used a false entry into a switch stance and got a left hook attempt thrown at him from Assuncao and the hand was again, noticeably low.
The finish consisted of two overhand rights thrown clean onto the chin, over the vacant left hand of Assuncao, followed by a beautiful submission. This was a beautifully executed sequence, heightened by the fact he was able to land the same shot, twice, for aesthetic purposes, of course.
Jimmy Rivera KO.
The Jimmy Rivera switch kick KO was beautiful from Moraes. He started with early level changes, drawing a feint/jab every time from Rivera. Despite an inside leg kick, Moraes looked as if he was going to stand and box with Rivera. This was, again, a ploy to land the finishing blow. After circling out, Moraes feinted with the jab and threw a beautiful switch kick, thundering off of Rivera’s skull, whilst Rivera attempted to beat him to the jab, leaving his defense completely down.
This KO highlights the sheer explosiveness of Moraes. Also carrying a BJJ black belt, Moraes’ only real downfall is his cardio. Often a down-point of explosive strikers, Moraes has been known to gas out before the end of the third, causing some doubt for how he will last in a 5 round fight vs a cardio machine.
Cory Sandhagen Breakdown
Sandhagen comes into the fight with a considerable height and reach advantage. Being one of the tallest Bantamweights, as well as his kickboxing background, he has learned to utilize the length expertly. A style that often draws comparisons to the great Dominick Cruz, there’s more technical soundness to Sandhagen.
Against Alcantara, Cory spent the majority of the first round in an enthralling grappling battle. As the second rounded started, however, Sandhagen took the center quickly, slipped a straight left, and countered the spinning back fist with a lunging straight right of his own.
After this came a swarming finish.
Sandhagen has one very unique combination he loves to throw.
It’s a lead body uppercut-leg kick. It’s not often thrown, but when it is thrown it’s beautiful to see. The bodywork of Sandhagen is going to be very important. As well as moving his feet as well as he usually does laterally to ensure there Moraes can’t cut the cage off how he usually would like to. If he can avoid being caught/survive the onslaught from the Brazilian, he should be able to chip away at the legs and body of Moraes with significant effect.
I can see Moraes coming out slower and try to conserve some energy, however, I think he will be looking to set up a big kick/overhand to finish the fight. Another shot to watch for is the step in left hook. Sandhagen drops his head to his right a lot and Moraes has a beautiful counter left.
Sandhagen needs to move as well as usual, but prod Moraes and keep him at range with his confusing style of jabs/stance switches. The bodywork will be essential also. For someone that tends to gas themselves out, Sandhagen will want to ensure that happens early with consistent body shots and chipping away at the legs.
Overall, I think Moraes has his moments early on, but Sandhagen picks it up mid second/early third round and takes over.
Final Prediction – Cory Sandhagen via Decision.
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