Post-Fight Thoughts: TJ Dillashaw -vs- Cody Garbrandt 2
The main event of UFC 227, part of a double-bill of highly anticipated rematches, was a short, sweet, and extremely violent affair. TJ Dillashaw needed just 4 minutes to find former training partner Cody Garbrandt's chin and then flurry him with over 100 punches en route to a first round TKO. This brutal win emphatically shuts the door on their rivalry, with Dillashaw going 2-0 over Garbrandt in back-to-back fights, making the immediate rematch between the two seem extremely unwise in hindsight. Unlike the co-main event fight between Demetrious Johnson and Henry Cejudo, this rematch was an immediate do-over despite the fact that Dillashaw decisively won their first encounter whereas Cejudo spent 2 years working his way back into title contention after suffering his own lopsided defeat the first time out.
It's unfortunate that both fights were so brief, as there is little to discuss outside of TJ Dillashaw's dominance in both bouts. Despite the outcomes, I still believe that both fighters are quite evenly matched in terms of skill and talent, but Dillashaw appears to be much more composed and tactical. Garbrandt possesses more pure athleticism, but seems unable to stop himself from getting sucked into exchanges. In their first meeting, Garbrandt seemed to be exclusively hunting for counters, using his speed and footwork to dart in and out as he attempted to land. Dillashaw simply stayed defensive, allowed Garbrandt to fall into a predictable pattern and then inevitably landed his own kill-shot.
The ideal outcomes — at least if you're the UFC brass — were to have Demetrious Johnson retain his title while the winner of this bout just had to win decisively. This would have set the stage for "Mighty Mouse" to move up a division and provide the UFC with another champ versus champ superfight. Instead, Johnson was edged out on the scorecards by Henry Cejudo, so that complicates matters. Dillashaw seemed initially open to the idea of fighting Cejudo, but walked that back the following day (story). While I don't see much appeal in Dillashaw matching up with Cejudo, under the stewardship of WME-IMG I can't rule it out as a possibility.
Realistically, Johnson and Cejudo should rematch and, should "Mighty Mouse" prevail with an uncontroversial win, then they could revisit the superfight possibility. Otherwise, Dillashaw has a number of potential contenders waiting for him, and his divison is far from cleaned out. Raphael Assuncao is perenially overlooked, Marlon Moraes is likely at the front of the pack, and there is still Dominick Cruz as a potential pairing. I don't think Cruz has any claim to a title shot considering he's been inactive since dropping the title Garbrandt, but the UFC seems to love any match-up that includes Dominick Cruz and someone with any sort of connection to Team Alpha Male.
As for Cody Garbrandt, he's now out of the title picture for the foreseeable future. This was my concern with booking a rematch so soon, as now that Garbrandt lost he's going to be in a position similar to fellow Alpha Male member Joseph Benavidez, hovering around the top of the division picking off challengers and staying 0-2 against a champion he will likely never fight again. Rich Franklin suffered a similar fate when he was twice annihilated by Anderson Silva. It's an unfortunate position to be in, and I think Garbrandt should take some time off and rest after absorbing a high number of strikes in this defeat and coming off a KO in their prior battle.
Published: August 5th, 2018.