Cory “The Sandman” Sandhagen: Top 5 MMA Finishes

Cory Sandhagen, (aka “The Sandman”) was born April 20, 1992, in  Aurora, Colorado, and is an American mixed martial artist who currently stands at no.2 in the UFC Bantamweight rankings.

The 29 year-old holds notable wins over Frankie Edgar, Marlon Moraes, Raphael Assunção and John Lineker. Sandhagen’s record stands at 14-2 with 6 wins via TKO/KO and 3 by submission – 7 of those wins having been against the UFC’s elite.

Sandhagen’s fight style is based around using his height and reach advantage; standing at 5’11” (1.80m), with a 70-inch (178 cm) reach whilst competing in the 135lb (61kg) division – being 4 inches taller than former champion Petr Yan and current champion Aljamain Sterling.

With this height advantage against most competitors, Sandhagen makes good use of his signature flying knee that earned him his quickest finish in just 28 seconds against former UFC Champion Frankie Edgar. 

In combination with his devastating flying knee, Sandhagen also uses effective leg kicks to keep fighters at bay and on the end of his reach leverage where he himself can’t be hit. In addition to this, Sandhagen often uses these leg kicks to set-up the finish, often getting the attention of the fighters focused on legs and body prior to coming up top, as seen against Marlon Moraes.

Despite Sandhagen’s professional career only starting in 2015, in just 6 years he has climbed to no.2.

Sandhagen compiled a 7-1 record prior to being signed by the UFC in 2018 and debuted against Austin Arnett in the featherweight division. It only took a couple of rounds for Sandhagen to taste UFC victory; however, after this win, he decided to drop down to the bantamweight division. 

After dropping to bantamweight, Sandhagen put together 4 straight wins and looked to be on the verge of a championship shot until he lost against current champion Aljamain Sterling in a title eliminator fight. Despite this setback, Sandhagen has put together back-to-back Performance of the Night fights against the division’s elite putting himself in title contention once again.

Sandhagen is currently scheduled to welcome back T.J. Dillashaw to the division on 24th July and further his campaign for a title shot. Can Cory take care of Dillashaw? Is a win against T.J. enough for a shot at UFC gold?

Now that you have a brief background into “The Sandman’s” career, let’s take a look at Cory Sandhagen’s Top 5 MMA Finishes! (in descending order)

5. Vs. Mario Bautista – UFC 143 (Jan. 19, 2019)

After 4 consecutive finishes, “The Sandman” looked to make it 5 against Mario Bautista in his third UFC fight.

Sandhagen starts the fight with a high volume of strikes, the majority being straight shots finished with leg kicks at the end of his combinations.

At 1:50 into round 1, the rangy Sandhagen blasts a signature flying knee that lands clean, knocking down Bautista as he tries to finish the show. However, Bautista defends well and gets back to his feet to land a takedown, yet in doing so, lands in a triangle choke.

Again Bautista is able to survive but allows Sandhagen to take top position and execute an armbar. The Sandman gets the tap at 3:31 of the first round.

This quick submission victory made it 5 finishes in a row; what a way to bounce back after receiving his first defeat 5 fights prior!

4. Vs. Iuri Alcântara – UFC 135 (Aug. 25, 2018)

After an impressive UFC debut, Sandhagen decided to drop down to the bantamweight division for the first time since his professional debut.

At the start of round 1, Alcântara blasts forward and lands a short right hook that stumbles Sandhagen before being taken down. As the fight hits the floor, Alcântara threatens a dual triangle choke whilst hyperextending Sandhagen’s arm – the fight looks to be on the verge of being stopped.

However, after defending for almost 90 seconds, Sandhagen is finally able to escape and takes top position with 3 minutes left in the round. He then begins to unleash heavy-duty artillery for 3 minutes straight whilst on top and almost finds his own finish, but the bell chimes before he can do so.

Round 2 picks up where the last one ended, with Sandhagen landing a straight right which hurts Alcântara as he throws a spinning back fist, and another right-hand knocks Alcântara to the canvas.

Alcântara turtles up, while Sandhagen looks to finish the fight, pounding the side of Alcântara’s head until eventually the referee calls the stop at 1:01 of round 2.

Sandhagen’s bantamweight debut started with a bang after being on the brink of defeat to then turn the tide, earning Sandhagen a welcome $50,000 Fight of the Night bonus.

3. Vs. Austin Arnett – UFC on Fox 27 (Jan. 27, 2018)

This was Sandhagen’s UFC debut after compiling a 7-1 record outside of the organization, and he looked to make a mark here.

In round 1, Sandhagen comes out establishing his range with his heavy, debilitating leg kicks, and at 1:30, lands a crushing left uppercut and knee that staggers Arnett.

At 2:15 in, Sandhagen lands a single leg takedown and begins to work from top position but is only able to control Arnett for 30 seconds. With a minute left in the round, both fighters begin to unload, and Sandhagen delivers blows to Arnett’s body causing him to crumple over but he clinches to make it out of the round.

At 0:45 into round 2, Sandhagen comes out attacking Arnett’s body and leg which seems to stop him in his tracks. At 2 minutes in, Arnett trips Sandhagen and takes his back, yet Sandhagen is able to shake him off and gain top control, but it doesn’t take long for Arnett to get back to his feet.

With 1:30 left in the round, Sandhagen delivers a splitting left hook to Arnett’s body, followed by another that gets Arnett folding. The fight is soon stopped at 3:48 of round 2.

This was an impressive first showing for Sandhagen in the UFC, demonstrating promise right from the start, giving clues to the fighter he would evolve into today.

2. Vs. Marlon Moraes – UFC 179 (Oct. 10, 2020)

The then no.4-ranked Sandhagen took on the no.1-ranked Moraes in his search for a shot at the bantamweight crown.

The competitors came out with a game plan based around leg kicks as each fighter targets the lead leg of the other.

Round 1 proves to be very competitive, with neither fighter taking the upper hand but both throwing a variety of strikes.

Later on in the round, Sandhagen begins to unload body kicks to sap the gas tank of the muscle-bound Moraes and in retaliation, Moraes gets a late takedown with 10 seconds left in the round.

Round 2 is another meeting, largely attended by leg kicks, with both competitors inflicting damaging blows here.

At 25 seconds in, Sandhagen throws a question mark kick that immediately creates a mark around Moraes’ eye which leads to a shout from Sandhagen saying “his orbital is broke”. (He later said: “I kicked him and he gave me a reaction. I saw on his face that he reacted to it, which usually means that it definitely got through and did something to his mind. Then I started to see some weird swelling, going at a weird angle.”)

As the remark is made, Sandhagen’s confidence increases, and shortly thereafter he wields a spinning hook kick that lands on top of Moraes’ head. Sandhagen soon finishes the fight with punches at 1:03 of round 2, winning the contest in ecstatic fashion.

This amazing spinning hook kick earned Sandhagen a well-deserved $50,000 bonus, with his kick only slightly being outshone by Joaquin Buckley’s (spinning back kick) K.O. of the year – which happened on the same event no less!

1. Vs. Frankie Edgar – UFC 184 (Feb. 6, 2021)

Sandhagen took on former UFC Lightweight Champion and legend Frankie Edgar as they competed for a step closer to a shot at UFC gold.

In round 1, the bout starts with both fighters trading leg kicks with Edgar pressing forward until at 25 seconds in, Sandhagen unleashes a flying knee that lands flush, flat-lining Edgar just 28 seconds into the fight.

This unbelievable knockout was the fastest of “The Sandman’s” career and earned him a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus as well as MMA Junkie’s K.O. of the Month.

So there we have it folks, 5 of Cory Sandhagen’s best MMA finishes! With a vigorous record of 14 wins, 6 TKO/KO’s, and 3 submissions, where would you say he ranks amongst the world’s all-time best Bantamweights?

What kind of challenge will he give T.J. Dillashaw on his return on 24th July; do you think he has what it takes to be champion? What’s your favourite “Sandman” fight moment from the list above?

…And which fighter should be KFK’d next? Let us know in the comments below; Like, share and join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter & Instagram.

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Joe Petrozzi

Joe Petrozzi is currently studying Sports and Exercise Science in his final year at Staffordshire University. He is interested in all types of martial arts combat, and has been since a young age after his dad introduced him to MMA. He is specifically engrossed with the psychology of being a fighter and the mind of a combat athlete.

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