Overshadowed by the main events of the night, TJ Dillashaw had his own showing against the dangerous top 5 bantamweight John Lineker at UFC 207, as he made a case for him being the next title contender. But it is not his performance alone that could secure him a title shot. As his former teammate Cody Garbrandt now holds the gold, an intriguing narrative is there to be told.
Dillashaw left Team Alpha Male, the gym Garbrandt is fighting for, in autumn of 2015. Comments by Conor McGregor on the 22nd season of The Ultimate Fighter that Dillashaw is “a snake in grass”, insisting he would be betraying his team, and a public quarrel with Team Alpha Male leader Urijah Faber added fuel to the fire.
Dillashaw is now training at Elevation Fight Team under the tutelage of Duane Ludwig, the former head coach of Team Alpha Male. Ludwig taught his protégé the tools to become one of the most exciting in the UFC. Before both came together, Dillashaw was a talented prospect with a decent record. His two TKO wins over Renan Barao in 2014 and 2015 suddenly showed that the California-native had developed a unique footwork and unusual use of stances.
Often compared to Dominick Cruz and sometimes accused of copying his style, Dillashaw lost a razor close split decision against Cruz in a title defence last January and has not been granted a rematch for the title yet. After his dominant win over Lineker last night, the 30-year-old once again argued for a title shot and his wish will probably be fulfilled, now that there is a new champion in the bantamweight division.
Prior to the event, Dillashaw and Garbrandt already exchanged words in the media. Garbrandt referred to both Dillashaw and Lineker as “easy fights” prompting an immediate reaction by his foe.
“He knows that’s not true because I made him cry multiple times after practice,” Dillashaw stated talking about their time together at Team Alpha Male. “So, he can say as much as he wants, but he knows it’s not true. I remember him getting ready for the [Marcus] Brimage fight [at UFC 182] and he just lost it because I just beat the sh*t out of him.”
Yet both had also some nice words to say to each other after their respective fights last night. That, of course, will not stop any trash talk to hype up their potential title fight.
And after the build-up, MMA fans could experience a world-class battle, should both compete at their best once the cage door is locked. Garbrandt turned from a quick power puncher into a head movement wizard as he proved in his star-making performance against Cruz. Dillashaw, meanwhile, negated the power of Lineker. He took the Brazilian striking specialist down several times and reminded fans and UFC brass that he is, despite his loss to Cruz, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world and deserves another shot at the title.