The UFC’s Bantamweight Division has been somewhat of an enigma in 2017, but rest assured, in the final two months of the year, we will likely all be salivating for 2018 to get her asap.
The year kicked off with a bang, as the hangover being felt from Cody Garbrandt’s stunning title victory over Dominick Cruz on December 30th was still sending shockwaves everywhere. It was to be Cody’s year, with former teammate TJ Dillashaw itching to get his chance to regain the title as well.
Instead, the UFC decided to use them as coaches for The Ultimate Fighter. A somewhat of a smart move, as the show was used to further showcase the rivalry between the two, with the personalities of both fighters shining during every episode. The feud is real. The rivalry is raw and it was the fight I most looked forward to in 2017.
Unfortunately, a back injury to Garbrandt postponed the eventual matchup, pushing it eleven months to UFC 216, set to take place November 4th at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The two bitter enemies will finally settle their differences, with their future opponent already in training camp preparing for their right to fight the winner. Former champion Dominick Cruz, who holds a victory over Dillashaw and lost the title to Garbrandt, will square off against surging 135 lbs phenom, Jimmie Rivera at UFC 219, December 30th, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
It will be exactly one year to the day, that Cruz will compete in the action. For some, that would be a very long layoff, but to ‘The Dominator’, it’s almost second nature. Having endured multiple knee injuries over his career, he is unfortunately all too familiar with inactivity but has proven time and time again, that the layoffs do not impede his performances.
Then again, Rivera has only competed once in 2017, a unanimous decision victory over Thomas Almeida on July 22nd. It was a performance that raised many eyebrows and one he made clear he deserved a crack at UFC gold, or at the very least, a fight with a man who recently held the title. That man was Cruz, who Jimmie singled out after his victory, chirping the former champ from inside the octagon, while Dominick performed his broadcast duties cageside.
The win earned Rivera third place on the UFC rankings. Above him, TJ Dillashaw. Above TJ, Dominick Cruz, with the kingpin being the champion Cody Garbrandt.
What we have year, in the span of less than two months, are the four top bantamweights on the planet, competing for the right to own 2018.
While so many things can happen in MMA, both in and outside of the octagon, the various results from these two fights will have us talking non-stop, all the way up to New Year’s Eve.
What if TJ wins? Will Cody be given a rematch? Will he rematch Cruz? Or will he take on new blood in Jimmie Rivera? What if Cody wins? What if … what if … what if.
I cannot wait for these two shows and two fights to take place. The end of the calendar year promises to be an amazing one for all UFC and MMA fans that I’m sitting here at the end of September salivating at what the MMA Gods have in store for us.