With Cory Sandhagen’s nearly flawless performance against Marlon Vera to win the main event, the top of the bantamweight division simultaneously became clearer and murkier.
We were unsure of the precise stakes going into the battle between Sandhagen (16-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC) and Vera. We just knew that the winner would be able to make a large request because it was such a significant battle for the division.
In fact, Sandhagen used his platform to denounce Merab Dvalishvili, who at 135 pounds serves as the boogeyman, after his split decision victory. In an ideal world, that would have been ideal, and from the standpoint of matchmaking, it’s the most sensible fight to put together.
But once more, the tense bond between Dvalishvili and the current 135-pound champion Aljamain Sterling comes to light. It would be absurd to position Dvalishvili to stop Sandhagen from gaining momentum as a contender if the two decide not to fight. The UFC isn’t in the business of making moves with no clear payoff.