We break down what exactly is at stake when TJ Dillashaw looks to record another win over Team Alpha Male’s Cody Garbrandt at UFC 227 tonight.
TJ Dillashaw in three words: Creative, Confident, Sniper
Notable wins: Renan Barao x2, Raphael Assuncao, John Lineker, Cody Garbrandt
Highest high: His win over Cody the first time around was amazing, don’t get me wrong, but despite the late-career highs he has been able to reach, his first victory over Renan Barao was a truly legendary performance and one that virtually no-one saw coming.
Dillashaw was fluid, he was quicker to the shot and above all else, he was consistently dominant against the Brazilian who hadn’t lost in his last 32 fights – showing a level of composure facing a pound-for-pound great that will see him live long in the memory as the man behind one of the sport’s greatest upset wins.
Lowest low: He’s been knocked out in the final of the Ultimate Fighter by the former-flyweight contender John Dodson and while the fight that saw him lose his belt against Dominick Cruz was a bitter pill to swallow, it spurred him on to reclaim it in stunning fashion so we’re going with his brutal KO at the hands of the two-time flyweight title-challenger.
Recent form: That decision loss to Cruz was honestly about as close a matchup as you will ever see in this sport and even then, TJ was slowly starting to cause the legend some problems.
His victories over Raphael Assuncao and in particular John Lineker were outstanding and after earning a brutal KO win over his great rival Garbrandt, I think it’s safe to say that TJ is fighting at his very peak right now.
Cody Garbrandt in three words: Fiery, Ferocious, Powerhouse
Notable wins: Takeya Mizugaki, Thomas Almeida, Dominick Cruz
Highest high: Cody’s finest performance to date was definitely his shock upset victory over the former-champion Dominick Cruz. For years, even while on the sidelines, Cruz was seen as one of the finest fighters the sport has ever known – utilizing a unique footwork system that baffled some of the best 135lb-rs on the planet.
Garbrandt wasn’t given anything more than a puncher’s chance against the experienced champion and yet, when the fight went down – he managed to execute the perfect gameplan, outmanoeuvring ‘the Dominator’ to a unanimous decision victory to win the belt.
Lowest low: Garbrandt’s young career hasn’t exactly seen him experience too much in the way of lows but, of course, at UFC 217, he was knocked out in brutal fashion by his greatest rival and he will for sure be hoping that it doesn’t get any worse than that.
Recent form: UFC 217 aside, Garbrandt has been nothing short of superb. His 2016 rise to the very top of the bantamweight division was simply astonishing and while he hasn’t exactly fought and beaten the best of the best outside of Cruz, his destructive run has been very impressive.
What’s at stake? Well, their rivalry has to be considered as one of the most intense in MMA history.
Sure, the split between Dillashaw and Team Alpha Male was overblown, but it still managed to serve up a fun pairing and above all else, an unmissable stylistic clash.
Of course, the UFC’s bantamweight title is the main thing at stake here but if Cody were to lose again, we would be deprived of another addition to the sport’s great trilogies – for now, at least.
It would certainly put the brakes on his title-challenge.
The loser would also miss out on potentially fighting flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson in a super-fight for the ages.
Loser’s prize: If it’s Dillashaw then a rubber match with Garbrandt could be on the cards right away but if not, I would imagine either Jimmie Rivera or Dominick Cruz would be pegged for a top-contender fight.
Winner’s prize: We could well see the winner paired up with Demetrious Johnson at some point for a super-fight. If Cody wins, he may well take an immediate rematch with Dillashaw to finish off the trilogy and if it’s TJ, perhaps a rematch with Cruz will be on the cards.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena