TJ Dillashaw looking to make a statement in return from two-year suspension

Former two-time UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw will return to the Octagon at UFC Vegas 32 this weekend after serving a two-year suspension.

By Stone Lexington

Updated: July 21, 2021 • 12:00 PM ET

tj dillashaw.jpg

Tj Dillashaw - Wikimedia Commons

After serving a two-year suspension, former UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw will return to the Octagon at UFC Vegas 32 on Saturday to face No. 2 ranked bantamweight Cory Sandhagen.

Dillashaw was on top of the world in August 2018 after defeating Cody Garbrandt, for a second straight time, by first-round knockout to retain the bantamweight title at UFC 227. The win was Dillashaw’s fourth straight overall, and it seemed like he was prepared to reign over the bantamweight division for years to come. Then 2019 arrived, and Dillashaw’s career took a devastating turn.

Attempting to become a double champion, Dillashaw challenged flyweight titleholder Henry Cejudo in January 2019, but lost the fight by TKO just 32 seconds into the first round. And if that defeat wasn’t bad enough, Dillashaw temporarily lost something even bigger three months later — his career.

In April 2019, the United States Anti-Doping Agency suspended Dillashaw for two years for violating their anti-doping policy after he tested positive for recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO) prior to the fight with Cejudo. The positive test and suspension stained his legacy, and the former two-time bantamweight champion will now attempt to repair his reputation and earn his way back to becoming a three-time titleholder. The 34-year-old Dillashaw, however, has to make up for lost time, quickly.

Dillashaw’s return is certainly the headline heading into Saturday’s bout, but he won’t be facing an easy opponent in his first fight back. Entering the UFC in 2018, Sandhagen has had an impressive run in the promotion thus far. The 29-year-old has won seven of his eight UFC bouts with his only loss coming by submission to current bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling in June 2020 at UFC 250.

Since that loss, Sandhagen has won his last two fights, which include a second-round TKO victory over Marlon Moraes and a superb first-round knockout of Frankie Edgar via a flying knee. If Sandhagen defeats Dillashaw this weekend, it will be impossible to deny him from a fight with the winner of the Sterling and Petr Yan title bout, expected to take place later this year.

A loss for Dillashaw on Saturday would bring about serious questions, whether they would be fair or not: Can he still defeat top contenders without performance enhancing substances? Are his previous championship runs tainted? Is he done competing for titles in the UFC?

Dillashaw, though, can quiet his doubters with a victory over a very tough opponent this weekend.

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