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Guide to UFC on ESPN 27: Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw

Getting prepared for UFC on ESPN 27 this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event.

UFC on ESPN 27

Date: July 24, 2021

Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada

Main Card

Start Time: 7:00 p.m. ET, 4:00 p.m. PT

Where To Watch: ESPN & ESPN+

Bantamweights: Cory Sandhagen vs. TJ Dillashaw

Overall Records: Sandhagen 14-2, Dillashaw 16-4

UFC Records: Sandhagen 7-1, Dillashaw 12-4

Last Fight: Sandhagen def. Edgar–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 42 (2/6/21), Cejudo def. Dillashaw (title fight)–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 1 (1/19/19)

Last Five Fights: Sandhagen 4-1, Dillashaw 4-1

Rankings: Sandhagen #2

Betting Odds: Sandhagen -190, Dillashaw +160

Preview: The main event is one of the biggest fights of the summer, and a very pivotal bout at 135 lbs., as the former two-time UFC Bantamweight Champion Dillashaw makes his return from his two-year USADA suspension to take on rising contender Sandhagen, who is looking to get a title shot with a win. These two were originally supposed to meet in May, but Dillashaw suffered a nasty cut above his eye less than two weeks before the show, so it had to be pushed back. The last time we saw Dillashaw, he was on the end of a 32-second knockout loss to Henry Cejudo as he was attempting to become a double champion and win the UFC Flyweight Championship. Coincidentally, Sandhagen also fought on that card, in his third octagon appearance, submitting Mario Bautista in the first round. After that show, Dillashaw failed a drug test for EPO, leading to his suspension.

In that time, Sandhagen has risen to the top three at bantamweight, winning four of five fights, scoring wins over the likes of Frankie Edgar, Marlon Moraes, Raphael Assuncao and John Lineker, with his lone loss coming to current champion Aljamain Sterling. With Sterling expected to defend against Petr Yan later this year, the winner of this fight could be next for the winner. For Dillashaw, it’s a chance at redemption, but he still believes himself to be the best bantamweight in the world, and it will be interesting to see how he looks after 30 months out of action.

At his peak, Dillashaw was known for his amazing footwork and knockout power. He also had really good wrestling, and he could negate a lot of his opponents’ defense. Sandhagen is someone who has an unorthodox style, so it will be a tricky fight for both men. Both are high-volume strikers, and Dillashaw is better with his defense. Sandhagen could try and mix in a flying knee, especially if and when Dillashaw shoots for a takedown. Dillashaw is exceptionally smart inside the cage, and Duane Ludwig will have him plenty prepared for a striking battle. One concerning thing about Sandhagen is his horrid takedown defense, as he’s only defended 30% of takedowns attempted on him. The only opponents to not take him down were Sterling, who mauled him with a submission in under 90 seconds, and Edgar, who he knocked out in 28 seconds. Dillashaw has really good wrestling and a good submission game, one that we rarely see out of him since his striking has gotten so good. Dillashaw could decide to mix it up and take it down, which will give him a big edge in this one.

I’m really interested in this fight, and it feels hard to predict. If Dillashaw comes back looking like the bantamweight he was before the Cejudo fight and the suspension, I feel like he is the winner. However, that time off could be a hindrance for him, and Sandhagen could catch him with a surprise striking attack. I still slightly lean towards Dillashaw getting the win, setting him up for a chance to win the bantamweight title back.

Bantamweights: Kyler Phillips vs. Raulian Paiva

Overall Records: Phillips 9-1, Paiva 20-3

UFC Records: Phillips 3-0, Paiva 2-2

Last Fight: Phillips def. Yadong–UDec–UFC 259 (3/6/21), Paiva def. Zhumagulov–UDec–UFC 251 (7/11/20)

Last Five Fights: Phillips 4-1, Paiva 3-2

Rankings: Phillips #14, Paiva #12 FLW

Betting Odds: Phillips -300, Paiva +240

Preview: A rising bantamweight looking to remain undefeated in UFC takes on a flyweight moving up as Phillips welcomes Paiva to the tough 135-lbs. division. Phillips was originally slated to fight Raphael Assuncao in this bout, but Assuncao was forced out due to injury, and Paiva stepped in. Phillips has gone 3–0 to start his UFC career, and a win over Song Yadong in March saw Phillips move into the bantamweight rankings, where he currently sits 14th. He’s only five years into his career, but he’s scored wins in nine of his ten career fights, with six wins via a finish. Paiva comes into this fight on a two-fight win streak, but hasn’t fought since July 2020. He was moving up the rankings at flyweight, where he’s currently 12th, but he missed weight for his last fight, then had a fight in May cancelled on weigh-in day due to ill effects from a bad weight cut. Paiva has 20 career wins, but 13 have been by decision, so he is used to going a full fifteen minutes, and he’s going to need all of his energy in this one.

Phillips is a high-volume striker, while Paiva is a heavy combination fighter who leaves himself open to getting hit quite a bit. Phillips is very accurate on his feet and has very solid defense as well. Phillips also has good speed and pressures his opponents often, closing the distance rather quickly. He also has a strong takedown game and a brown belt in jiu-jitsu. Paiva does have good takedown defense, but his takedowns aren’t as good, as he completes only about 20% of his takedown attempts. Paiva stays active on his feet, but that will leave himself open for counters from Phillips, an area he’s strong at, as well as takedowns from Phillips. Phillips is a strong prospect at 135 lbs., and this match-up is tailor-made for him to get a solid win. He has tremendous upside, and at 26-years-old, he’s going to be a force in the division for years to come. I like him to win via decision here.

Featherweights: Darren Elkins vs. Darrick Minner

Overall Records: Elkins 25-9, Minner 26-11

UFC Records: Elkins 15-8, Minner 2-1

Last Fight: Elkins def. Garagorri–R3 SUB–UFC On ESPN 17 (11/7/20), Minner def. Rosa–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 43 (2/20/21)

Last Five Fights: Elkins 1-4, Minner 4-1

Betting Odds: Elkins +130, Minner -155

Preview: A featherweight bout between two veterans who give it their all inside the octagon as Elkins and Minner square off in a fight that could bring some violence. Elkins fights for the 24th time as a member of UFC’s roster, and he’s looking for his second straight win. He scored a third-round submission of Luiz Garagorri in November, which ended a four-fight losing skid. Elkins is known for his hard-nosed style and the fact he bleeds a lot during fights, but someone who gives it his all and leaves it all in the cage. Minner comes into this fight having won two straight, scoring wins over TJ Laramie and Charles Rosa. Minner is not someone who tends to go the distance, as 23 of his 26 wins have been finishes, with an astounding 22 submission wins, but he’s also been finished in ten of his eleven losses, including eight losses by submission.

Elkins is always willing to take a lot of punishment, and no amount of damage he takes is going to stop him from coming forward and looking to grind the fight out and take it down. Minner has some aggression and is a fantastic submission specialist. However, Elkins is very tough to submit. He’s only been submitted once in his entire career, and that was by Charles Oliveira, the best submission artist in UFC history. Minner does have power in his hands and will make Elkins eat some shots as he’s coming forward, but it will be very tough to keep Elkins from pressuring and grinding. Elkins is going to take this into deep waters, and it’s going to be a hellacious brawl. Minner may get a submission locked in, but the heart of Elkins and his will to win at this stage will be tough to overcome. I see Elkins getting his grind going, and wearing Minner down en route to a decision win.

Women’s Flyweights: Miranda Maverick vs. Maycee Barber

Overall Records: Maverick 9-2, Barber 8-2

UFC Records: Maverick 2-0, Barber 3-2

Last Fight: Maverick def. Robertson–UDec–UFC 260 (3/27/21), Grasso def. Barber–UDec–UFC 258 (2/13/21)

Last Five Fights: Maverick 5-0, Barber 3-2

Rankings: Maverick #13, Barber #14

Betting Odds: Maverick -150, Barber +125

Preview: Two young flyweight prospects meet in this one, a bout that has me kind of scratching my head at the booking, but the future of the division could be decided here as Maverick takes on Barber. Maverick comes into this fight riding a five-fight win streak, which has seen her score wins in her first two UFC bouts over Liana Jojua and Gillian Robertson. She has scored six of her nine career wins by stoppage, with one by knockout and five by submission. Barber, who once touted herself as “The Future” and said she would become the youngest UFC champion ever, finds herself in a must-win situation as she’s coming in riding a two-fight losing skid. She started her career off a perfect 8–0, with seven wins by stoppage, and three straight wins to start her UFC career. She very much looked like she could live up to her own self-hype of becoming champion quickly. However, she dropped a decision to Roxanne Modafferi in January 2020, suffering a major knee injury in the process, and then lost a decision to Alexa Grasso in February.

Those losses look like they will derail Barber’s hopes of becoming the youngest champion ever, and now she looks to bounce back and get back into the win column here. Barber has been switching camps often, this time working with Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, but this one feels like it’s going to stick. She’s perfect for that team. Both women are high-volume strikers with good defense on the feet. Both also have some decent power on the feet, with both primarily fighting as a southpaw. Maverick is very good at getting foes down to the mat, which is where she likes to take over fights, as she’s a strong ground fighter with good submissions. Barber does have an 80% takedown defense rate, so getting her down may be difficult for Maverick. Barber is the better short range striker.

This should be a solid battle between the two young fighters, but I think Barber gets back on track in this one. Her losses have been to really good opponents, and her power on the feet will be the key difference in this one.

Bantamweights: Adrian Yanez vs. Randy Costa

Overall Records: Yanez 13-3, Costa 6-1

UFC Records: Yanez 2-0, Costa 2-1

Last Fight: Yanez def. Lopez–R3 KO–UFC On ESPN 21 (3/20/21), Costa def. Newson–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 36 (9/19/20)

Last Five Fights: Yanez 5-0, Costa 4-1

Betting Odds: Yanez -250, Costa +195

Preview: An exciting bantamweight match-up that could end up being the best fight on the card takes place here as exciting 27-year-old prospects Yanez and Costa square off. Yanez has shown to be one of the best signings, and arguably the best, of the 2020 Contender Series class, as he comes into this bout winner of six straight, including his last two in UFC. If you include his Contender Series fight, all three of Yanez’ wins inside the octagon have been by knockout, as have eight of his thirteen career wins. Yanez also has a great story about fighting for his late father, and has quickly become a guy you just want to root for. Costa competes for the first time since September, as he looks to extend his two-fight win streak. He made it to UFC rather quickly, getting signed when he was just 4–0. He lost his debut to Brandon Davis, but quickly erased the sting with the two straight wins. All six of his career wins have come by knockout, will all six coming in 2:15 or less, including four wins in under a minute.

You know what to expect from these two, and they’ll be looking to deliver. I’m glad this fight got moved to the main card, because these two are going to bring it, and bring it hard. They are going to swing for the fences, and while the sample size is relatively small for both, they both land lots of strikes. Costa averages just under eight significant strikes per minute, while Yanez averages just under five. Costa does eat just over five strikes a minute as compared to just over two for Yanez, though both have good defense on the feet. Both men each have three knockdowns, so you know the power is there for sure. Costa’s approach is to end this fight quickly, as the only time he’s been tested and taken past the first round, serious conditioning issues came into question. Yanez has been past the first plenty, including his last win over Lopez, and he showed as much power in the second and third rounds as he did the first, and did a great job of wearing Lopez out over time.

It’s going to come down to Yanez’ chin, but he has shown great durability. Yanez is the better boxer, and he’s just too sharp. Barring Costa finding the perfect shot on the chin, Yanez is the better fighter overall right now, and he should be able to wear down Costa and get a finish either late in the first, or definitely in the latter two rounds. This will likely be a barnburner while it lasts, though, and both men are super talented and names to keep an eye on in the future.

Preliminary Card

Start Time: 4:00 p.m. ET, 1:00 p.m. PT

Where To Watch: ESPN & ESPN+

Middleweights: Punahele Soriano vs. Brendan Allen

Overall Records: Soriano 8-0, Allen 16-4

UFC Records: Soriano 2-0, Allen 4-1

Last Fight: Soriano def. Todorovic–R1 TKO–UFC On ABC 1 (1/16/21), Allen def. Roberson–R1 TKO–UFC 261 (4/24/21)

Last Five Fights: Soriano 5-0, Allen 4-1

Betting Odds: Soriano -110, Allen -110

Preview: Two middleweights who both have the potential to be title contenders clash in this one as Soriano puts his undefeated record on the line against Allen. Soriano comes into this fight a perfect 8–0 in his career. This will be his third UFC appearance, as he’s scored first-round knockout wins in both of his UFC fights, over Oskar Piechota and Dusko Todorovic. Seven of his eight wins have come by stoppage, with five by knockout. Allen is the more experienced fighter, as this will be his 21st career fight, and his sixth with UFC. He started his UFC run with three straight wins, scoring wins over Kevin Holland, Tom Breese and Kyle Daukaus, running his overall win streak to seven. He then suffered a loss to Sean Strickland, but bounced back with a submission win over Karl Roberson in April. Allen has scored 14 of his 16 wins by a finish, and his four career losses have all come to fighters currently on UFC’s roster.

Soriano’s power and knockout prowess have hidden the fact that he’s actually a very strong wrestler. He’s gotten two knockdowns in each of his two UFC fights, and that doesn’t bode well for Allen. Allen likes to come forward and isn’t afraid to eat some shots. He hasn’t faced anyone who has the pure power of Soriano, though he did get knocked out by Strickland. Allen could look to test the wrestling of Soriano, and Allen is a better striker than Soriano’s prior two opponents. Allen’s penchant for eating clean shots is going to cost him in this one, as Soriano’s power is going to be the big difference. If Allen is able to get through the power of Soriano, it’s not a given he’ll be able to out-wrestle him.

This fight has Soriano winning by knockout written all over it, and while Allen is a very tough opponent, Allen’s style will leave plenty of openings for a power shot from Soriano to land. It’s close on the betting odds, but Soriano should be favored in this one.

Middleweights: Nassourdine Imavov vs. Ian Heinisch

Overall Records: Imavov 9-3, Heinisch 14-4

UFC Records: Imavov 1-1, Heinisch 3-3

Last Fight: Hawes def. Imavov–MDec–UFC On ESPN+ 43 (2/20/21), Gastelum def. Heinisch–UDec–UFC 258 (2/13/21)

Last Five Fights: Imavov 4-1, Heinisch 2-3

Betting Odds: Imavov +130, Heinisch -155

Preview: A middleweight bout featuring two fighters looking to get back into the win column takes place here as Imavov takes on Heinisch. Imavov is looking to kick start a new win streak, as he saw his six-fight win streak ended by Phil Hawes, who scored a decision win over him in February. Imavov has won seven of his nine fight by stoppage, and he will be looking for his first UFC stoppage in this one. Heinisch is likely in a must-win situation in this bout. He started his career off with an impressive 13–1 record, including wins in his first two UFC bouts, and quickly found himself ranked at 185 lbs. However, he has since lost three of his last four, though the losses came to ranked opposition in Derek Brunson, Omari Akhmedov and Kelvin Gastelum, all of whom Heinisch went the distance with. A win here would keep Heinisch going in UFC, but a loss could see him get cut from the roster, so he has to fight with the mentality of winning.

Heinisch is a very talented fighter, as he has some decent power, good wrestling, and good physicality, but he’s just been stuffed by better overall fighters. Imavov isn’t quite on the level of those who have beaten Heinisch, but he’s no slouch. Imavov did struggle against a good wrestler in Phil Hawes, and while he made a comeback late due to Hawes getting tired, Heinisch doesn’t have the same cardio deficiencies that Hawes does. Imavov is going to have to win this on the feet, and he is a very accurate striker. Heinisch just simply presses forward, is aggressive with his striking, and he will turn this into a wrestling battle. This one will likely go the distance as both are tough and durable, but this should be Heinisch getting the win on the scorecards.

Welterweights: Mickey Gall vs. Jordan Williams

Overall Records: Gall 6-3, Williams 9-4 1 NC

UFC Records: Gall 5-3, Williams 0-1

Last Fight: Perry def. Gall–UDec–UFC On ESPN 12 (6/27/20), Imavov def. Williams–UDec–UFC On ESPN 16 (10/3/20)

Last Five Fights: Gall 2-3, Williams 2-2 1 NC

Betting Odds: Gall +145, Williams -175

Preview: A welterweight bout between Gall and Williams takes place here as both men look to get back into the win column. Gall is fighting for the first time since a June 2020 decision loss to Mike Perry. Gall is a rare fighter who has spent almost his entire career in UFC, as eight of his nine career fights have come with the promotion. He started his career 4–0, with four straight submissions, but has since dropped three of his last five, with his career being hampered by injuries and inactivity. Williams will be making his second UFC appearance as he moves down to 170 lbs. for this one. After scoring a UFC contract in his third chance on the Contender Series, Williams debuted in October, dropping a decision to Nassourdine Imavov in Abu Dhabi. He’s struggling to get consistency, as he’s just 2–2 over his last four fights, but eight of his nine professional wins have come by stoppage.

Williams is a high-volume striker, landing over six significant strikes per minute, but he also eats nearly the same amount of strikes per minute. His striking defense isn’t very good, but he’s also not facing the most-polished striker in Gall. Gall is more of a grappler than a striker, but his striking has also improved. He’s also been out of action for quite some time and has battled injuries, and he’s switched camps quite often. His cardio has also been a big question mark throughout his career. Williams can land some power punches and has decent wrestling, and Gall has only defended 40% of takedowns attempted on him. If Williams can wear Gall down and zap his cardio early, this is a fight that favors him. Gall is the better fighter on talent, but it might not be enough here. I expect a close fight, but despite what I said, I see Gall grinding out a win via decision.

Bantamweights: Julio Arce vs. Andre Ewell

Overall Records: Arce 16-4, Ewell 17-7

UFC Records: Arce 3-2, Ewell 4-3

Last Fight: Dawodu def. Arce–SpDec–UFC 244 (11/2/19), Gutierrez def. Ewell–UDec–UFC 258 (2/13/21)

Last Five Fights: Arce 3-2, Ewell 3-2

Betting Odds: Arce -200, Ewell +170

Preview: Another bantamweight bout takes place on this card, this one featuring two fighters looking to rebound from losses as Arce takes on Ewell. Arce will be making the walk to the octagon for the first time since UFC 244 in November 2019, as he drops to 135 lbs. for the first time since his days on the regional scene. He’s gone 3–2 in UFC, including a win over featherweight contender Dan Ige, but is looking to bounce back from a decision loss to Hakeem Dawodu. He has nine wins by stoppage. Ewell is looking to rebound from a decision loss to Chris Gutierrez in February, which ended a two-fight win streak. The situation surrounding his fight in February was weird, as he was going to be a late replacement against another fighter, but tested positive for COVID-19, so the fight was cancelled, but then tested negative for COVID-19 right after, so he was put on the card the next week against a new opponent in Gutierrez, and he paid the price for all of the changes. He is looking to improve on his 65% finish rate.

Ewell is going to have a five-inch reach advantage on Arce in this one. Ewell does use his reach to be an effective range striker, but Arce is a very durable fighter. Arce also can land some power shots, and it will be interesting to see if his power translates better in his first time at 135 lbs. Arce should look to utilize the calf kick in this one, as Gutierrez was able to wear Ewell down with them. Arce is more versatile on the feet and he mixes everything well. Neither man are strong grapplers, but both have good takedown defense, and Ewell is more successful on his takedowns. This one will more than likely play out on the feet, however. Arce’s diversity on the feet will likely cause Ewell to eat some damage, but both are plenty durable to make it the full fifteen minutes. I like Arce to win by decision based on volume and damage, but this should be a very solid fight.

Women’s Flyweights: Sijara Eubanks vs. Elise Reed

Overall Records: Eubanks 6-6, Reed 4-0

UFC Records: Eubanks 4-4, Reed 0-0

Last Fight: Kianzad def. Eubanks–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 41 (12/19/20), Reed def. Rose–R2 TKO–CFFC 97 (5/29/21)

Last Five Fights: Eubanks 2-3, Reed 4-0

Rankings: Eubanks #13 WBW

Betting Odds: Eubanks -350, Reed +270

Preview: A flyweight bout featuring a UFC veteran in a must-win situation against a debuting replacement goes down here as Eubanks welcomes Reed to UFC. Reed makes her debut as a replacement for Priscila Cachoeira, who was forced out due to personal reasons. Eubanks will be making the drop back down to 125 lbs. for this fight. She famously was scheduled to fight in the bout to determine the inaugural UFC Women’s Flyweight Champion, but she was pulled after suffering kidney issues relating to the weight cut. She also missed the flyweight limit for a fight against Roxanne Modafferi, so she was forced to move to 135 lbs., where she went 2–4. She’s coming in on a two-fight losing skid, so she needs to win this if she wants a future in UFC. Reed is still early in her career, as she’s only been fighting professionally since October 2019 and has just four fights under her belt. However, she’s undefeated in those four fights, with two wins by stoppage, and she’s a plenty-capable late replacement here.

The scale may be the tougher opponent for Eubanks in this one, as Reed is a natural strawweight fighting up a weight class against a former bantamweight. I’ve never been impressed with Eubanks, and she tends to be in ugly, uneventful fights. She’s gone the distance in every one of her UFC fights, and is a tough test. Reed is a talented fighter, but she’s still just so young and raw in her career, though she is well-rounded with some power. Eubanks can eat a shot, though, and is going to look to use her wrestling and takedown game in this one. This one will probably not be pretty, but at least it is early in the card. I think Eubanks wins this one in a boring and grind-it-out fashion.

Women’s Strawweights: Diana Belbita vs. Hannah Goldy

Overall Records: Belbita 13-6, Goldy 5-1

UFC Records: Belbita 0-2, Goldy 0-1

Last Fight: Jojua def. Belbita–R1 SUB–UFC On ESPN 13 (7/15/20), Granger def. Goldy–UDec–UFC On ESPN 5 (8/3/19)

Last Five Fights: Belbita 3-2, Goldy 4-1

Betting Odds: Belbita -110, Goldy -110

Preview: A late addition to the card takes place in the strawweight division as Belbita and Goldy meet in a battle of two women looking to score their first UFC win. Belbita is looking to bounce back from losses to Molly McCann and Liana Jojua in her first two UFC bouts. She was impressive during her run on the regional scene, being signed on the heels of four straight wins and finishes in ten of her thirteen wins. Goldy is still young in her career as she’ll be fighting for just the seventh time in her career. She started her career 5–0, including a win on the Contender Series, and made her UFC debut on short notice. She dropped a decision to Miranda Granger in that debut, which came in August 2019. She hasn’t fought since then, as she’s had three fights fall through due to injury and positive COVID-19 tests. She’ll be looking for her first win since June 2019.

It will be interesting to see if Goldy has improved in her time away, as she had shown plenty of power prior to her injuries. Belbita is aggressive and comes forward, but she also gets hit a lot. It will be interesting to see if her pressure will force Goldy out of comfortable striking range. Belbita will be looking to take it down, as that is her best path to winning, but her aggression on the feet may cause her to get pieced up by Goldy. Goldy has good counters and is a powerful athlete. I see Goldy wearing Belbita down on her feet and scoring a decision in this one.

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