Following another knockout of Cody Garbrandt, the world proclaimed TJ Dillashaw as the greatest bantamweight of all-time. The division is barely 10 years old and we're way too quick to label things as "the greatest of all-time," but sure. If MMA exploded today -- don't rule this out -- and we looked back and tried to decipher the Bantamweight GOAT, Dillashaw would be at the top of the list.
Of course, at the age of 32, Dillashaw has plenty of time left in his career and his best days might be ahead of him. More importantly, he has a title defense against Not Cody Garbrandt ahead of him. But who deserves to step into the cage with King Killashaw? Let's look at the contenders.
The Case For Cruz: The former bantamweight champion is the last man to defeat Dillashaw, picking up a split decision victory back in January 2016. Instead of getting an immediate rematch, which would have been warranted, Dillashaw had to win two fights. By that time, Cruz had dropped the belt to Garbrandt. If revenge is on TJ's mind, Cruz makes the most sense. Cruz also makes the most sense if the champion is looking for the biggest fight. "Biggest Fight" at bantamweight in 2018 means 175,000 buys instead of 150,000 buys, but it's still the biggest fight. Cruz knows how to sell a rivalry, is a good talker, and has plenty of exposure for UFC on Fox panels.
The Case Against Cruz: He's coming off a loss and hasn't fought since December 2016. He's finished one fight in the last eight years. Given his injury history and inactivity, he's not even reliable to make it to fight week. From a pure sport perspective, Cruz doesn't even belong in the conversation. Fortunately for him, there's little pure about the sport of MMA.
The Case For Cejudo: He just defeated Demetrious Johnson and earned some extra eyeballs by calling out Dillashaw after the victory. In an era where the UFC moves to strike when the iron is just plugged in, doing another champion vs. champion fight makes sense. Furthermore, Cejudo also brings the Spanish market with him. While he's not a proven draw, the potential fanbase is there. If marketed correctly -- this is a very big IF given the UFC's track record -- Cejudo could be everything the company hoped Cain Velasquez and Yair Rodriguez would be. He certainly has the personality, skill, and accomplishments that the UFC should get behind.
The Case Against Cejudo: There's a lot of unfinished business at flyweight. Johnson deserves an immediate rematch given his track record and how close their UFC 227 bout was. Joseph Benavidez could certainly add his name to the list of deserving contenders if he defeats Ray Borg at UFC 229. Even Sergio Pettis, whose last loss was to Cejduo, could throw his name in the mix with a victory over Jussier da Silva at UFC 229. And while he has the potential to be a star, he's not there yet. Conor McGregor got to jump the lightweight line because he's the biggest star in combat sports. Daniel Cormier got a heavyweight title shot because of his past heavyweight success and there being nothing left for him to do at light heavyweight, combined with there being no real contenders for Stipe Miocic at heavyweight. Cejudo is not in the same position as McGregor or Cormier.
The Case For Assuncao: He's 1-1 against Dillashaw, with both fights going to decision. He's 11-1 in his last 12 fights with the only loss coming against the champ. If we're going strictly by resumes, there's not a whole lot of arguing against Assuncao. He's the most deserving contender.
The Case Against Assuncao: In the UFC, your resume means very little. Marketing matters more. And Assuncao isn't all that marketable. He has the wins, but of his 11 victories, only two were finishes. The rest were by decision with three coming via split decision. He's never even headlined a Fight Night event. Brad Tavares has headlined a Fight Night event. Dillashaw vs. Assuncao isn't a pay-per-view caliber headliner. It's barely a suitable pay-per-view co-main event. It's fine as a free TV main event, but does Dillashaw want to go back to free TV main events after getting a small taste of that pay-per-view money?
The Case For Moraes: He just slept Aljamain Sterling and Jimmie Rivera in a combined one minute and 40 seconds. He's an exciting fighter and if you put him in the cage with Dillashaw, we're getting a guaranteed banger for as long as one man stays conscious. Unlike Assuncao, he has headlined a Fight Night event, so his name is out there a bit more.
The Case Against Moraes: He has a loss to Assuncao. However, he's more marketable than Assuncao. While the difference between the two fighters is maybe 5,000 buys, that's still 5,000 buys. A whole $500 extra for Dillashaw if he earns PPV points.
The Case For Faber: It would be Urijah Faber, coming out of retirement, to fight his former friend and training partner. The story writes itself and the bad blood is an easy and truthful angle to promote. In terms of marketable fights, there would be no bigger fight for TJ.
The Case Against Faber: The UFC would have to cover the funeral costs on top of being responsible for a man dying in their cage.
The Case For Garbrandt: Dana White still wants him to be the champion.
The Case Against Garbrandt: People watched UFC 217 and 227.
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