Emerging victorious in his first fight in over two years, TJ Dillashaw inserted himself back into the UFC bantamweight title picture after edging out Cory Sandhagen in a razor-close five-round clash.
Getting the better of Sandhagen when it came to controlling positions against the cage, the former champion would leave with his hand raised despite looking the worse for wear after eating some powerful blows from ‘The Sandman’.
After sustaining a deep cut on his eyebrow in the second round as well as a suspected knee injury earlier on, Dillashaw’s toughness, experience and tactical acumen would prove vital in making it the full 25 minutes as well as leaving with the victory.
Elsewhere at UFC on ESPN 27, a back-and-forth clash in the co-main event would take home ‘Fight of the Night’ honours as Raulian Paiva earned a majrity decision against Kyler Phillips after entering the contest as a short notice replacement.
Withstanding a sizeable about of damage in the first round, Paiva would rally back against Phillips in a fight that saw both men exhausted come the final buzzer.
Saturday’s event would also see Darren Elkins and Adrian Yanez pick up TKO wins on the main card while four out of six preliminary bouts also came to an early conclusion.
Now with another Apex Center event on the horizon, here are five fights for the promotion’s matchmakers to quickly take into consideration:
TJ Dillashaw vs. Sterling / Yan Winner
While the result of Saturday’s main event was certainly contentious and will be debated amongst fans, for TJ Dillashaw to jump straight back into the deep end of a stacked division and put on that type of performance is a credit to the former champion.
With a win over the #2 ranked contender in his back pocket, Dillashaw should be in immediate title contention and a fight with the winner of the upcoming championship rematch between Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan should be up next.
Raulian Paiva vs. Adrian Yanez
While a draw should have probably been the correct outcome, Raulian Paiva was given the nod over Kyler Phillips to extend his record to 21-3.
At 25-years old, Paiva could have a big future ahead of him and with a notable win in his UFC bantamweight debut, he will likely be matched with another tough contender at 135 lbs next time out.
Thankfully for the promotion’s matchmakers, they shouldn’t have to look much farther than the opening main card bout from Saturday night.
With Adrian Yanez staying cool and collected after an electric start by Randy Costa, Yanez would pick up his third straight stoppage win in as many bouts for the UFC and he too deserves to be knocking on the door of the top 15.
Darren Elkins vs. Billy Quarantillo
Having the commentary team compare your trademark fighting style to that of Homer Simpsons’ boxing career probably isn’t the best sign for Darren Elkins’ health but ‘The Damage’ sure knows how to turn the tide of a fight.
With Darrick Minner tiring himself out after a quick-paced first round, Elkins’ grappling would take over in the second stanza before a barrage of ground and pound saw the bout waved off.
Now with a two-fight winning streak, Elkins is perhaps best suited to a gatekeeper role to the top 20 or so at featherweight and with Billy Quarantillo’s own brand of high-output fighting, a fight between Elkins and ‘Billy Q’ would promise excitement.
Maycee Barber vs. Andrea Lee
Maycee Barber was very fortunate to get her hand raised against Miranda Maverick as nigh-on every spectator scored the bout in Maverick’s favour barring two ringside judges.
Nevertheless, Barber’s two-fight skid is now over and she will likely retain her spot in the flyweight rankings.
As for what’s next for ‘The Future’, a fight with Andrea Lee would see two fighters looking the climb the ladder pitted against one another while making sense for both women.
Nassourdine Imavov vs. Bruno Silva
Showcasing some slick striking before piling the pressure onto a hurt Ian Heinisch, Nassourdine Imavov bounced back into the win column in impressive fashion.
With such a quality stoppage victory, Imavov should be paired with another similarly dangerous foe and a fight with Bruno Silva would see the winner really start to turn some heads at 185 lbs.