As Cody Garbrandt floored TJ Dillashaw with his trademark right hand, it looked as though the champion’s hot-streak was set to continue. “No Love” had made an incredible ascension, climbing the Bantamweight ranks in no time and taking the UFC crown in stunningly decisive fashion. This of course was his first defense, the highly anticipated grudge match opposite an old stablemate in Dillashaw. After some tense opening minutes, it seemed as though Cody had tightened his grip on the title, perfectly landing that aforementioned right hand.
However, before Garbrandt could close the show, the buzzer sounded. Dillashaw would live to fight another round but Cody’s confidence seemed unmoved. Instead he walked back to his corner looking more assured than ever, seemingly ready to retain his title as soon as the 2nd stanza begun. On the other hand, there was quite clearly a stumble in TJ’s step. This was visibly more than just a flash knockdown, Dillashaw had been genuinely hurt and had only 60 seconds to recover.
In actuality, TJ did far more than that, re-finding his feet and dropping Cody with a razor sharp high kick. Dillashaw was now the man on the prowl, pushing the pace against a suddenly stunned Garbrandt. The finish soon followed too, with TJ sitting in the pocket and landing a power punch of his own, closing the show with some follow-up ground and pound. Just minutes prior, Cody looked at the height of his powers, a young champion seemingly at the start of his own reign of dominance.
The sound of the buzzer had closed that chapter though, and the next one wasn't so smooth for Garbrandt. In an instant, his belt had been taken from him in the most dramatic of circumstances. For Dillashaw, it was the perfect end to this story. After so many rounds of verbal sparring, TJ had regained the UFC title, finishing his ultimate foe in the process. At its core, MMA is built on the most minor of details. A matter of inches, with singular moments making or breaking careers.
This memorable title clash perfectly captured that element too. It’s hard not to ponder a world in which that crisp Cody right hand lands just 30 seconds earlier but in the same way, it’s unfair to Dillashaw to use that as a remaining question mark. Regardless of ifs and buts, TJ fought that 2nd round like a champion, coming out and steadying the ship before wrapping things up in grand style. His victory was a brilliant one and it should certainly be treated as such.
On the other hand, as Cody enters the octagon for their UFC 227 rematch, he certainly knows that he too has the ability to hurt Dillashaw. Though the result may have been emphatic last time around, the fight itself brought an intensity that’s only possible with parity. Garbrandt had a chance to win that fight and this Saturday night, he’ll get another one. Unfortunately for him, his foe enters with a confidence that’s only possible with the know-how of a prior success.
Regardless of all the details that emerged along the way, Dillashaw finished Cody last time and that simply has to impact the sequel. Cody certainly enters with sufficient evidence to be confident but for Dillashaw, there’s no guess work necessary. He’s danced this dance before and for him, it ended in triumphant glory so the focus naturally shifts to Garbrandt. Was this a tale of overconfidence costing Cody or instead, the story of a buzzer preventing Garbrandt from his only chance at conquering his superior foe.
Maybe it’s neither of those obvious extremes but one thing is for sure, this Saturday’s rematch will tell us a lot about this pair’s personal pecking order. With a win here, TJ has gone from surviving an early scare to vanquishing Cody, and sending to the back of the line. For Garbrandt, it’s about erasing Dillashaw’s prior comeback and regaining his UFC crown. In truth though, whilst the belt’s importance can’t be understated, at its roots this is bragging rights of the highest order. The hunt to prove their supremacy to the world and more importantly, to each other.