The former bantamweight champion of the world gave his take on UFC 217’s enthralling co-main event showdown between Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw.
UFC 217 is upon us ladies and gentlemen. In just a few short hours, Madison Square Garden will play host to one of the greatest fight cards we have ever had the pleasure of seeing and while the night will be stacked from top-to-bottom with potentially thrilling encounters, one bout in particular has the fight fans torn down the middle.
Sure, the night’s middleweight main-event fixture between champion Michael Bisping and the returning Georges St-Pierre will steal the headlines, but for many, the most captivating fight of the evening will take place in the co-main in the bantamweight matchup between Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw.
The rivalry that has existed between Team Alpha Male’s Garbrandt and his former-training partner Dillashaw has been well-documented at this stage but with us just hours away from finally seeing the fight become a reality, fans seem to be split down the middle as far as making their pick for who they feel will emerge the winner in what is one of the most evenly-matched contests of the year, on paper, at least.
On man who is perhaps in the better position than most to judge the fight as a spectator is the one guy who has actually shared the octagon with both men, Dominick Cruz, who, of course, lost his belt in stunning fashion to Cody at UFC 207 in what was a massive upset defeat.
Cruz managed to defeat the former-champ Dillashaw back in 2016 in one of the year’s greatest fights but having went to war with both men over a combined ten rounds, there only seems to be one potential winner in his mind, something he detailed during a recent interview with MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani.
“I do think that Cody beats Dillashaw. It’s because I think that he’s kinda in the head of TJ with the whole team. You’re not just fighting Cody. If you were just fighting Cody, [Dillashaw’s] got a good support system, it wouldn’t be as difficult for TJ. But he’s fighting that whole team who knows everything there is about him, so they know how to get under his skin.
They know what to say to [Dillashaw] when he’s in there to piss him off and get him off-track. They know what to say before the fight to piss him off. They know his weaknesses, they know his strengths. And TJ knows all that stuff, so I think that’s what makes it so tough for TJ are those facts, not necessarily his skillset.
“If you look at the skillset versus skillset, TJ absolutely has everything he needs to go in there and beat Cody. He kicks, he’s fluid, he’s got good movement, all these things. He doesn’t seem to be rushing as much. He’s calmed down a lot since the fight with me. He kinda sits back, waits, uses space well. That will help him. His patience will help him in that fight against Cody.
“Things like that will help him, and he has the matchup. I honestly think just the mindset is just going to get him a little bit when it comes down to his former teammates, his former — as they put it, literally brothers. Like, you’re going and fighting your brother in battle. I don’t care who are, it’s going to effect you in different way. The question is how, right?”
While Cruz believes Cody’s mental edge will see him through against the incredibly skilled and versatile Bang Muay-Thai product, his own fight with TJ was among the closest contests you could ever put together in an MMA fight. Dominick got the decision the night but really, it was about as evenly matched as you could get and with a title on the line, it seemed a shame that one man had to be declared the victor over the other.
If either of Cruz’s matchups against these two is anything to go by, Garbrandt/Dillashaw could well be a classic. It certainly has all of the ingredients to be a truly unmissable spectacle.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena