Who is the Breakthrough Fighter of the Year?

Cory Sandhagen (5-0 in UFC) is still fairly unknown to the UFC fanbase. 

This should change if he gets the opportunity to fight Frankie Edgar on Jan. 25 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Edgar is a fan favorite and former UFC lightweight champion moving down to bantamweight. The fight with Edgar is in danger, with Frankie scheduled to fight on December 21.

Per ESPN: The UFC is saying Edgar is going to compete in both fights, but that seems like an awfully quick turnaround. Sandhagen is annoyed.  

Sandhagen Had a Breakthrough 2019 in the UFC

Cory started 2019 off with a fight against Mario Bautista in January 2019. He won that fight via arm bar submission in the first round. Bautista was making his UFC debut coming from Legacy Fighting Alliance. 

Later in 2019, Sandhagen had a major step up in competition when he faced John Lineker.

Lineker was 15-3 in the UFC at this time and was then the #8 ranked bantamweight in the organization. Although the fight between Lineker and Sandhagen was not a sexy fight on the UFC Sunrise card, it was a fight that should help shape the future of the bantamweight division. Sandhagen would go on and defeat John Lineker by split decision to remain undefeated in the UFC. The fight was fun to watch as both fighters mixed it up in a striking battle. The difference in the fight was Sandhagen’s height, slick striking game and his reach advantage.  

With that win, Cory jetted into the top ten of the bantamweight division, as he was ranked eighth. There was a new lion in the division, and he was ready to roar and seize control.

Next up for Sandhagen on August 17 was the #2 ranked Raphael Assuncao. Assuncao was 8-2 in his previous ten fights, losing to TJ Dillashaw and Marlon Moraes. Assuncao had fought the likes of Pedro Munhoz, Aljamain Sterling, Rob Font and Bryan Caraway.  

Sandhagen won the bout with Assuncao via unanimous decision. Once again showcasing his dominant striking attack and shockingly showed his grappling game. Sandhagen used effective leg kicks as well, while never taking much damage when Assuncao would try to manage some offense. Sandhagen was on the attack from the opening bell as he stalked Assuncao while unleashing some stiff combinations as he mixed up shots to the head and body.

With his convincing win over Assuncao, Sandhagen moved up to #4 in the bantamweight division.  

“The Sandman” is now a force to be reckoned with at 135, with two top-10 victories in 2019. Sandhagen could be the future at bantamweight, and if he is, that means he would have fought his way to the top.

A new contender has emerged. There is no doubt, the UFC Breakthrough Fighter of the Year is Cory Sandhagen!

Get familiar.

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The Scrap’s Lee Brown is a 22-year Air Force Vet, fan of all sports – especially UFC, NFL & NBA, and cohost of Lee N Keys Real Talk Podcast. You can follow Lee on Twitter (@Levanstian757) and Instagram (@Va121Lee).