UFC 227 SAT. AUG. 4, 2018 DILLASHAW VS GARBRANDT 2 10PM/7PM ETPT Los Angeles, California
Analysis and picks for UFC 227 “Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2,” set for Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles: UFC Bantamweight Championship T.J. Dillashaw (15-3) vs. Cody Garbrandt (11-1)
ANALYSIS: When Dillashaw won the UFC’s bantamweight title from Renan Barao at UFC 173, it was one of the biggest upsets in UFC history and a huge moment for Team Alpha Male. Dillashaw had been a top prospect since debuting with the UFC two and a half years prior, but in the Barao fight, his striking game fully clicked into place under the tutelage of coach Duane Ludwig. After years of unsuccessfully chasing the likes of Barao, Dominick Cruz and Jose Aldo, it also marked the first UFC championship for Team Alpha Male; unfortunately, it went downhill shortly thereafter. Dillashaw’s title reign was a bit of a dud. While he looked excellent inside of the cage, a rematch with Barao was repeatedly delayed due to injuries to both men, which left the bantamweight division stuck in stasis for over a year. Dillashaw soon had an acrimonious split with Team Alpha Male. Ludwig and camp founder Urijah Faber had a falling out, and when Ludwig returned to his native Colorado, Dillashaw decided to leave with him. Dillashaw wound up losing his title to Cruz in the latter’s stunningly successful return from multiple knee injuries but struggled to get a rematch, as the UFC’s attention seemed set towards building up the latest apple of Team Alpha Male’s eye: Garbrandt.
Garbrandt also became a top prospect upon his promotional debut, but it was still surprising when the UFC decided to put him in a headlining spot against Thomas Almeida just nine fights into his career. Up to that point, Garbrandt had shown little more than his power punching ability, but as it turns out, that was all he needed to make his way to a title shot. Garbrandt put down Almeida within a round, did the same to Takeya Mizugaki and was placed in a co-main event slot opposite Cruz at UFC 207. Most figured that fight would expose Garbrandt, but instead, it was his coming-out party. Garbrandt used his power and reflexes to shut down Cruz’s entire game. Whatever Cruz tried, Garbrandt either absorbed or evaded it and hit back twice as hard until the bout was over and he had won three one-sided scorecards.
Dillashaw and Garbrandt finally met at UFC 217, and the result was outstanding, even if it only lasted a shade under eight minutes. Most of the first round served as a feeling-out process, but at the end of the frame, Garbrandt hit one of his counters and nearly finished Dillashaw. However, before Garbrandt could turn up the pressure for a stoppage, his former teammate was saved by the bell and staggered back to his corner. From there, Dillashaw followed the advice of his corner, managed to adjust, threw more kicks and sat down on more powerful strikes -- until one finally clipped Garbrandt. Dillashaw swarmed on his fallen rival and reclaimed his title.
It does feel like the UFC is rushing Garbrandt back into an immediate rematch, particularly with the bantamweight division being particularly deep with other options, but this still might be the best fight the promotion can put on at 135 pounds. The first encounter showed they were evenly matched, as either man could have walked away with the knockout. It also put a dynamic between the two in stark contrast: Dillashaw has more options, but Garbrandt has the lightning-quick reflexes and knockout power needed to mask his deficiencies.
ODDS: Dillashaw (-115), Garbrandt (-105)
THE PICK: I tend to favor Dillashaw in the rematch. The current champ seems like the smarter fighter, and if there has been one historical criticism of Team Alpha Male, it has been its inability to make the little adjustments to get most of its fighters over the championship hump. “No Love” can ruin all of Dillashaw’s planning with one big punch, but look for the champion to break down Garbrandt and score a finish in the second half of the fight.