Cory Sandhagen -200 Vs. T.J. Dillashaw
As we examine the headline event for UFC Vegas 32, we note that Cory Sandhagen boasts several physical advantages over T.J. Dillashaw. For one, Sandhagen lords a six-plus year age advantage over 35-year old Dillashaw. Per the BetMMA.tips database, fighters that are at least five years younger than their competition have emerged victorious 61% of the time (1127-715)...importantly, this tendency holds true across weight classes. In fact, of 249 contests at 135 pounds that meet this criteria, the younger fighter prevailed 62% of the time.
Further, Sandhagen vacillates between orthodox and southpaw stances. According to the same source, switch fighters are 463-338 (58%) facing orthodox opposition.
Separately, most recently Sandhagen stopped Frankie Edgar in the first round in his most recent action at UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Volkov in February, while Dillashaw fell to Henry Cejudo early in their UFC Fight Night main event clash (some 30 months ago). These momentum trends too bode well for Sandhagen's effort Saturday, as fighters off wins are 533-431 (55%) facing combatants that lost their prior engagement.
Relatedly, we are alert to the potential that Dillashaw's defeat at the heavy hands of Henry Cejudo marked the start of T.J.'s fade into the sunset. That Dillashaw's last out ended by KO--for the first time since his UFC debut (which can be excused)--supports this thinking, in our view. Rationalizing our bias against aged fighters, the ability to absorb punishment diminishes as the years pile on. This reality is largely why we backed Miesha Tate, off a multi-year layoff, to send Marion Reneau into retirement on a low note in their UFC Vegas 31 meeting last week.
Taken together: Back to April 2013, switch-stance fighters that won their last fight are 22-6 (79%) facing orthodox opposition at least five years older, coming off losses.
This win rate proved statistically significantly different than the 67% required to breakeven at average odds of -202 for fighters in this spot, at a 90% confidence level.
As such, while not cheap in absolute terms, history suggests substantial value with Sandhagen -200 Saturday.
Expert analyst, Reed Kuhn, expects stand-up action will be tightly contested Saturday evening, as Sandhagen's edges in accuracy and range are pitted against Dillashaw's superior pedigree. On the other hand, Kuhn gives Dillashaw the advantage on the ground, thanks to his collegiate (D1) wrestling background.
But at odds with Dillashaw's high-level wrestling ability, we note a reticence to resort to the ground game. For example, in the first meeting with Cody Garbrandt at UFC 214, Dillashaw didn't attempt a single takedown, despite absorbing the worst of the stand up action in the opening round (Garbrandt landed 15 of 42 significant strikes to Dillashaw's 9 of 49). Instead, T.J. doubled-down on his striking game--and ultimately dispatched Garbrandt in the second round.
More broadly, Dillashaw has attempted 1.68 takedowns per 15 minutes over his UFC career, but these attempts failed almost two times out of three. We hypothesize that the physical and mental drain related to trying, to no avail, to force the opponent to the mat dissuades Dillashaw from a more activist takedown game. Accordingly, we discount this advantage, even though Sandhagen's takedown defense is notoriously shabby (Cory is taken down a bit over once per fight, on average; but this deficiency has not impacted outcomes, as Sandhagen's sole UFC loss occurred in a match where no takedowns were scored).
Given the favorable environmental context outlined previously, related to Dillashaw's advanced age, Sandhagen's (modest) perceived edge striking, and our view that Dillashaw may be traumatized by prior failures to secure takedowns, we are laying the -200 and backing Cory Sandhagen for the win.
BestFightOdds.com reports a mean opening level of -161 for Sandhagen two months ago. The line has since widened to -191 as of the time of this writing, with most of the movement unfolding this month. Thus inclined bettors might want to get down on Sandhagen sooner than later, as the line may well continue to swell. The following graphic offers an indication of how the line has moved for each of the bouts on the UFC Vegas 32 card.