On Saturday 25 March, Dana White saw what only one judge missed: Cory Sandhagen had a decisive victory. The bantamweight contender won a split decision over Marlon Vera at UFC San Antonio, but the result had many of his contemporaries scratching their heads.
White was one of the witnesses who thought Sandhagen deserved top marks for his efforts.
“I was literally coming out of the bathroom and I was like, ‘What the f***?’” White said at the evening’s post-fight press conference when asked if he was surprised by the main event verdict. “Were you surprised? It could have been 5-0, it could have been [4-1], but split? Wow, that’s pretty scary.”
Sandhagen seemed to have Vera on the defensive for the majority of the fight, using a combination of wrestling and expert range striking to keep “Chito” at bay. The fight was decided by a split decision, with two judges awarding it to Sandhagen.
White was impressed even though Sandhagen was never even close to finishing the long-lasting Vera. White remarked, “[Sandhagen] looked incredible.” He cut him off abruptly. Fantastic agility. Shifting laterally. Takedowns. He was completely set.
Check out the tweet provided by MMAFighting:
Dana White blasts split decision in UFC San Antonio main event: ‘That’s pretty scary’ https://t.co/yownFxvuWC
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) March 26, 2023
With victories in his previous four bouts and ten of his previous twelve, Vera entered Saturday’s main event on the cusp of a title shot. This was White’s first defeat since December 2020, and he wishes Vera had made more of an effort to win the last two rounds.
“Up until the point where he caught [Dominick] Cruz and knocked him out,” White said, “Chito looked really slow in that fight.” Even his corner told him, “You’ve got two rounds to end this man,” so I was waiting for the final two rounds. You need to finish this fight.’”
Questionable judging or not, White believes that Sandhagen is squarely in the mix at 135 pounds. Sandhagen has previously competed for an interim title at UFC 267, where he lost a five-round decision to Petr Yan. At UFC 288, taking place on May 6 in Newark, N.J., reigning bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling is set to defend his title against former two-division champion Henry Cejudo.
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Sandhagen suggested a rematch with Merab Dvalishvili, a close friend and training partner of Sterling’s, in his post-fight interview. White didn’t say whether that was up next for Sandhagen, but he doesn’t think it’s out of the question that Sandhagen will challenge for a UFC crown again anytime soon.
“Yeah, we there’s no doubt about it,” White said. “He looked really good tonight and, obviously, he beat the No. 3 guy in the world. That wasn’t a split decision. Whoever scored that fight a split decision should be — I don’t even know, I’m not even going to go there. He absolutely dominated tonight and put himself in a really good position.”
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