Umar Nurmagomedov Looks to Steal No. 1 Contender Spot from Cory Sandhagen

May 31, 2024
2 weeks

Umar Nurmagomedov is finally set to have his moment on the big stage. Originally, the rising Russian star was supposed to fight Cory Sandhagen in August 2023 in Nashville. However, injury problems caused Nurmagomedov to pull out of the fight with a shoulder injury.

That left Sandhagen, a former interim bantamweight title challenger, with a catchweight bout against solid contender Rob Font. While Font was a game competitor, Sandhagen coasted to a decision, his third win in a row. MMAfighting latest news shows when Sandhagen fights Nurmagomedov in a bantamweight title eliminator fight in August at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, it won’t be something Sandhagen is unfamiliar with.

Sandhagen previously fought Aljamain Sterling in the same type of fight back in 2020. The stage proved too big for Sandhagen, who was submitted in the first round. Sterling went on to win the bantamweight title and defend several times before dropping the title to Sean O’Malley.

Sandhagen is a respected UFC veteran. He has been on the doorstep of a championship several times. If Sandhagen can derail the 17-0 Nurmagomedov, he may finally get an opportunity to fight for the undisputed championship. Nurmagomedov needs a win over one of the top fighters in the division to show his talent matches the reputation that comes with his last name.

Nick Diaz Ready for Five Rounds

Co-main events in the UFC are rarely scheduled to go more than three rounds. But Nick Diaz, and his reputation for having wild fights, demands a more special circumstance if he is going to step back into the octagon. During Diaz’s last UFC fight, a third-round knockout to Robbie Lawler, the promotion also scheduled a five-round co-main event.

Despite Diaz’s age and inactivity, he has only fought five times and last won a fight in the UFC in 2011, the former strikeforce welterweight champion feels like he has something left. Diaz will be tasked with trying to beat Vicente Luque, who is eight years younger than Diaz.

Luque has been a staple of the UFC welterweight rankings for years, but his star has started to fade as of late. All of Luque’s problems started when he dropped a decision to future title contender Belal Muhammad in April 2022. It is the start of a stretch that has been rough on Luque.

He has taken knockout losses to Joaquin Buckley and Geoff Neal. The loss to Buckley in March was surprising because of how Luque was dominated. Diaz missed out on a lot of opportunities over the past decade due to suspensions from failed drug tests.

Chito Ready for Rebound

Marlon Vera earned his opportunity for the rematch with O’Malley at UFC 299. But Vera’s shot at the bantamweight championship was mostly a nightmare. O’Malley peppered Vera for five rounds.

Other than a late Hail Mary knee at the end of the fight, Vera’s performance led people to question if he even deserved a shot at the crown. That had to be tough for Vera, who has compiled a 23-9 career record with marquee wins over Dominick Cruz, Pedro Munhoz and O’Malley.

Beating Vera’s next opponent, former flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo, would be another significant feather in his hat. Figueiredo has found success since bumping up a weight class after he lost the flyweight title to Brandon Moreno in January 2023.

Figueiredo has shown that being up a weight class suits him. Figueiredo picked up his second straight win when he submitted Cody Garbrandt in the second round. Anyone looking at MMA breaking news will see that many people thought Figueiredo was washed up following his series of four fights that took place with Moreno.

Figueiredo still carries plenty of power and is dangerous on the ground. Everyone in the bantamweight division should be wary of fighting this former champion, who was always heavy for his former weight class.

Dern Starting to Slip Down the Rankings

Mackenzie Dern is an elite grappler. No one will argue that her Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is top notch. However, Dern will need to prove against Lupita Godinez in Abu Dhabi that she can improve as a striker and wrestler. Dern sometimes struggles to get opponents to that mat.

Once Dern gets them there, she is as deadly as any fighter in the world. Dern, however, is in a rough stretch of her career. She has lost two consecutive fights, including a TKO loss to Jessica Andrade. 

Godinez is looking to move toward the top of the weight division. She hasn’t beaten a top-ranked opponent just yet. Godinez lost her last fight by decision to Virna Jandiroba. Before the loss to Jandiroba, Godinez had lost her last four fights.

Veteran Fighters Looking For Pick Me Up

Someone should tell Tony Ferguson he needs to retire. Many other fighters would have been on the unemployment line a long time ago. But Ferguson’s former quest for the lightweight crown and his fanbase has kept him hanging around.

But Ferguson has lost seven straight wins and has taken a once respectable record down to 25-10. Ferguson has finished in three of his previous four fights. But Ferguson doesn’t look like the fighter who nearly challenged Khabib Nurmagomedov for the championship.

Ferguson will have his hands full against Michael Chiesa. While Chiesa has also lost three straight fights, he hasn’t taken as many difficult losses as Ferguson did recently. Chiesa is a dynamic fighter who is especially skilled on the ground.

At his peak, Ferguson was an excellent striker who excelled by using creativity. It is hard to imagine that Ferguson still has the same pop. This could be an interesting final match for Ferguson. Anyone looking at the best MMA news site will see that many people think this will be Ferguson’s last fight with the organization. 

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By Dean McHugh.