The UFC is back in action, as the APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada plays host to yet another card. Headlining the event is an exciting and pivotal matchup in the Bantamweight division, as former Bantamweight Champion T.J. Dillashaw returns from a two year suspension to take on the ‘Sandman’ Corey Sandhagen. A fight that has high implications, as a title shot is all but guaranteed. A fight that is between former stablemates. With the pressure at an all-time high here, I’d advise being a coach potato for what could be an instant classic.

UFC on ESPN 27 Main Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):

135 lbs.: Cory Sandhagen vs. TJ Dillashaw – This is such an awesome fight, one that could of very well have been a Bantamweight title fight had T.J. Dillashaw not chosen the path of taking PED’s . A path that cost him his belt and two years away from the sport. However, the former Bantamweight Champion is back in what is a loaded division. A division that has seen several contenders take center stage. One of them being Corey Sandhagen. An assassin, Sandhagen has laid waste to his last two opponents – knocking out former stablemates Frankie Edgar and Marlon Moraes in spectacular fashion. While a title shot is warranted, Sandhagen welcomed the idea of fighting his former teammate. An idea that I don’t necessarily is bad, but Dillashaw I see has as a tough matchup. Particularly due to the wrestling aspect. It’s something that has plagued Sandhagen, as he boast an abysmal 30% takedown defense. A true weakness, one which cost Sandhagen in his lone UFC defeat to current Bantamweight Champion Aljamain Sterling. And in my opinion, it will be the difference in this fight, as T.J Dillashaw returns to the octagon victorious. Using a mix of striking and timely takedowns for 25 minutes, I see the former Bantamweight Champion winning via decision.

135 lbs.: Kyler Phillips vs. Raulian Paiva – It’s kind of disappointing that Kyler Phillips lost his original opponent in Raphael Assuncao. It would of been a bump in competition, one in which would catapulted himself into the top had he won. Instead, Assuncao pulled out and in entered the former Flyweight Raulian Paiva. A striker, who has shown off an iron chin and pretty good takedown defense. However, I don’t see the takedown defense translating all that up in weight against a good wrestler like Phillips. In fact, Paiva arguably lost his last fight, one in which he was taken down twice. So with all that said, give me the rising contender at Bantamweight to pick up another UFC victory via decision.

145 lbs.: Darren Elkins vs. Darrick Minner – At first, I was all over Darrick Minner in this spot. I just like his style of winging punches and whenever there is a grappling exchange, he searches for a submission – often locking it up too. Then I realized his opponent is Darren Elkins. A man who has only been submitted once in thirty four fights, which was to the current Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveira. A man who lives for fifteen minutes inside that octagon, whether he’s grinding down an opponent or taking punishment by the dish. Either way, Elkins is as game as anyone. And while I see Minner having success, I don’t believe he can keep Elkins down for as long as he did against Charles Rosa. I also don’t believe Minner has the cardio to keep up with the pace that’s going to be put on in this fight. In the end, I foresee Elkins getting his hands raised via a 29-28 scorecard.

125 lbs.: Miranda Maverick vs. Maycee Barber – This fight just has stalemate written all over it. Miranda Maverick has excellent striking volume, but so does Maycee Barber. Maverick has shown excellent wrestling abilities, but Barber has also shown to have excellent takedown defense. Maybe where this fight comes down to is power on the feet, which I would favor Barber. However, given her losing skid and Maverick’s excellent performances so far – I’d go with the momentum. So with that, give me Maverick to win via decision.

135 lbs.: Randy Costa vs. Adrian Yanez – This fight has fireworks written all over it, forever how long it last. Both men are strikers, whom are coming into this fight with back-to-back knockout victories. Oddly enough, both have knocked out their foes, one by kick and the other via a punch. The striking arsenal of both is to be feared for anyone who stands in front of them. In my opinion though, it’s Adrian Yanez who is scarier. While rather inaccurate, Yanez makes that up with volume, sheer knockout power and excellent defensive striking. Randy Costa has the volume and power down, but he gets hit way too often. Against a knockout artist like Yanez, that won’t fly. So with that, give me Yanez to win via knockout.

UFC on ESPN 27 Prelims Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (4 p.m. ET):

185 lbs.: Brendan Allen vs. Punahele Soriano – This is a great scrap at Middleweight, which has big implications for the winner. Brendan Allen is a ground specialist, whom of his five UFC victories, three of which have come via submission. Notably, Allen has submitted Kevin Holland and Tom Breese. Punahele Soriano is a striker, who has had little resistance since joining the UFC. In two UFC fights, not only has Soriano stopped both opponents in the first round, but he has knocked them down four times. In other words, Soriano has legit power. As far as this fight goes, there is some unknown regarding Soriano’s wrestling defense, especially given the Hawaiian has yet to face a single takedown. However, Allen has been falling in love with his striking. It’s been a part of his game that has greatly evolved, yet hurt him in his lone UFC defeat. Against Sean Strickland, staying upright for too long, saw Allen get stopped. Could he make the same mistake twice? Perhaps, but I’m just so bullish about Soriano’s unknown takedown defense to count Allen out. Yet, against my better judgement, I’m going to pick Soriano to win this fight via TKO.

185 lbs.: Ian Heinisch vs. Nassourdine Imavov – This is a welcome step down in competition for Ian Henisch, who has constantly faced top Middleweights during his UFC tenure. It’s a winnable fight too, as his wrestling and Nassourdine Imavov takedown defense show a clear route to victory. One in which I envision via dominant decision for Henisch.

170 lbs.: Mickey Gall vs. Jordan Williams – At first I was on Mickey Gall here, but Jordan Williams checks all the boxes here to defeat Gall. For one, Williams has dropped down from Middleweight to Welterweight. So don’t expect Williams to get bullied against the cage. Two, Williams has excellent takedown defense. With size now at Welterweight, I don’t see Gall taking Williams down. Lastly, Williams has legit knockout power and striking volume that nearly triple Gall’s. Given all that, I’m not sure why I thought it was feasible to see Gall winning this fight. So with that, give me Williams to win via knockout.

135 lbs.: Julio Arce vs. Andre Ewell – While statistically both men are nearly identical in every aspect, its Julio Arce who I favor. The main reason for that is simply body work and leg kicks. Arce is excellent at mixing up his striking arsenal, whereas Ewell favors pumping his jab. In a fight going to take place on feet, I favor Arce’s arsenal over Ewell’s. So with that, I have Adce winning via decision.

125 lbs.: Sijara Eubanks vs. Elise Reed – Despite Elise Reed being undefeated, I find her inexperienced and undersized in this fight. A strawweight, who has fought as low as Atomweight (105 lbs.). Meanwhile, Sijara Eubanks has jumped up and down from Bantamweight to Flyweight. With a clear strength advantage, I really dont see how Reed wins this fight. In my opinion, Eubanks dominates from start to finish – eventually picking up a late TKO victory.

115 lbs.: Diana Belbita vs. Hannah Goldy – I’m expecting this fight to be close, but I forsee Diana Belbita as the victor. While Belbita’s striking defense needs work, her striking volume is excellent. In a past fight against Molly McCann, Belbita was taken down five times and controlled on the mat for a little more than a fifth of the fight. Despite that, she was able to throw 252 strikes, landing 92 of them. In that fight, she also stuffed nine takedowns. Now, Hannah Goldy is striker, so I don’t expect her to spam takedowns. However, I don’t believe Goldy offers enough volume to keep pace with Belbita on the feet. Throw in the fact that Belbita has shown the ability to mix in a timely takedown, and I believe she has the better skill set needed to win this fight. Let’s say, via decision.

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