Can the Former King Regain His Throne
They say you can’t go home again. Well, Saturday night we’ll see how TJ Dillashaw looks after his two-year suspension for EPO. The last time we saw him in the octagon, he was getting starched by Henry Cejudo at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York. And a lot has changed in that time.
The bantamweight division looks completely different, low leg kicks are now a thing, and Dillashaw himself is a different person. Although he still is a freak when it comes to health, nutrition, and focus. He now helps run a business away from the cage where he doesn’t “need” to fight. CLEAN JUICE is a food truck, as well as a brick-and-mortar company with the healthiest foods on earth.
But there is one thing that doesn’t seem to change. He’ll be fighting someone he has ties to. Now, it might not be a personal vendetta-type fight like the Cody Garbrandt wars were like, nor get as personal as the Dominick Cruz battle. However, Cory Sandhagen is red hot right now; and Dillashaw is jumping the queue at 135.
And like Garbrandt, “Sandman” is a former training partner. The word in gyms is Dillashaw goes 100% all the time. Something many don’t like but never bothered Sandhagen. But as he puts it, practice like you play.
How Will Dillashaw Look
In this opponent, Dillashaw might have his present equal, despite being 35 years old now. Sandhagen comes just as hard. His pace is impressive at landing 6.44 strikes per minute. So the cardio freak will have to be on his bike. The UFC offered him opponents outside the top-10. But he insisted on a top-five, saying “I need the best to get my belt back”. And by fighting, and possibly beating the second-ranked bantamweight, it puts him on the doorstep to become a three-time champion.
When you “pop” for something so heinous as EPO, it’s a stigma that will never leave. No matter what he does from this point forward. And he’s come to terms with that. The first six months of the suspension he told Brendan Shaub were the toughest on him. Besides hearing everyone’s opinions, there was double-arm surgeries to recoup from.
How Will Dillashaw Look: To the Fans
Consider it a smart move by Dana White and the UFC booking the fight at the UFC Apex. Sure there will be a small amount of fans in the building (less than 500), but nowhere near the amount that are in full arenas. So there won’t be the level of disdain that there could be. And make no mistake about it, that was done on purpose. There’s no reason, first time out to put him in front of 35,000 plus people.
It’s a tough fight to predict. But; one thing is for certain, it’s going to be a phone-booth type fight, with Aljamain Sterling being called out at the end of the night.