Dillashaw wins narrow decision over Sandhagen in UFC return

Former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw smiles after a win. (Chris Carlson/AP)

What’s old is new again in the UFC’s bantamweight division.

Former champion T.J. Dillashaw returned to competition for the first time since January of 2019 following a two-year banned substance suspension, narrowly defeating his former training partner Cory Sandhagen in a five-round split decision in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.

Sandhagen out-landed Dillashaw 128-110 in significant strikes and inflicted more damage throughout the 25-minute bout, however Dillashaw had two takedowns and won the cage control battle, especially when the pair worked along the fence.

Two judges scored the main event 48-47 (three rounds to two) in favour of the former two-time champion while the other had it 48-47 Sandhagen.

Dillashaw, who holds two wins over both Cody Garbrandt and Renan Barao, was found with recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO) in his system when he moved down a division to challenge then-flyweight champion Henry Cejudo. Dillashaw lost his 125-pound debut to Cejudo via first-round technical knockout and was levied a stiff suspension for the failed drug test and shortly thereafter relinquished his bantamweight title.

However, Dillashaw never did lose his belt at 135 pounds and proved against Sandhagen he can still compete with the division’s best fighters post-suspension.

The 35-year-old said he hopes to face the winner of the upcoming Ajamain Sterling vs. Petr Yan rematch, which is expected to take place at UFC 267 on Oct. 30.

Yan is currently the No. 1 contender and consensus top fighter in the weight class despite the fact Sterling is the reigning titleholder. Sterling won the belt after Yan was disqualified for landing an illegal strike on Sterling in a fight Yan was thoroughly winning back at UFC 259 in March.

Dillashaw (17-4) has only lost twice at 135 pounds since 2011, losing split decisions to Rafael Assuncao (he later avenged that loss) and fellow former champ Dominick Cruz.

Meanwhile, Sandhagen (14-3) remains firmly in the title conversation due to the close nature of the loss.

Here are the complete results from the event that took place at the UFC Apex.

-- T.J. Dillashaw def. Cory Sandhagen by split decision
-- Raulian Paiva def. Kyler Phillips by majority decision
-- Darren Elkins def. Darrick Minner by TKO
-- Maycee Barber def. Miranda Maverick by split decision
-- Adrian Yanez def. Randy Costa by TKO

-- Brendan Allen def. Punahele Soriano by unanimous decision
-- Nassourdine Imavov def. Ian Heinisch by TKO
-- Mickey Gall def. Jordan Williams by submission (rear-naked choke)
-- Julio Arce def. Andre Ewell by TKO
-- Sijara Eubanks def. Elise Reed by TKO
-- Diana Belbita def. Hannah Goldy by unanimous decision

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