It didn’t take any persuading to get bitter rivals and former teammates Cody Garbrandt and T.J. Dillashaw to sign the bout agreements to meet at UFC 213 in July after coaching opposite each other on The Ultimate Fighter. A back injury to Garbrandt pushed the fight back until the UFC 217 co-main event on Saturday, and the rivalry was finally settled.
Their dislike of each other can’t be understated. Garbrandt released footage yesterday of himself knocking Dillashaw down with a right hand when they were training partners at Team Alpha Male. He refused to touch gloves with Dillashaw prior to the fight.
Both fighters were cautious through the first 90 seconds of the title bout, but that flew out the window midway through the frame. Garbrandt pressed forward with a flurry that got Dillashaw’s attention. During an exchange late in the round, Garbrandt dropped Dillashaw with a perfectly placed right hook. Dillashaw immediately looked for a takedown and the round ended. He was on shaky legs walking back to his stool after the round.
In the second frame, Dillashaw started throwing much more kicks. He caught Garbrandt in the side of the head with a left high kick and Garbrandt crashed to the canvas. He quickly got back to his feet, but Dillashaw didn’t let him off the hook. In the next exchange, Dillashaw landed a right hand that sent Garbrandt down for the second time. The former champion followed Garbrandt to the ground and finished with a series of left hands.
Following the knockout, Dillashaw had nothing but good things to say about his former teammate. “He’s a hell of a fighter. He’s young. He’s going to be back. I’m going to see him again. This isn’t the end of Cody Garbrandt,” he said.
Dillashaw emerged with the bantamweight belt and became a two-time UFC champion, but he had to overcome being dropped in the first round. It was a testament to Garbrandt’s blazing hand speed and punching power.
“The kid is fast. He hits hard. You can condition your chin. The better shape you are and the better chin you have. I got caught with a big right hand, but I bounced right back,” said Dillashaw of the knockdown. “I was still there the whole time.”
The two knew each other well. They knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses and tendencies. Landing a head kick was part of Dillahsaw’s game plan.
“I knew that head kick was eventually going to open up, get him to drop his hands. He holds his hands a little bit low anyway, so I was looking to take advantage of it,” said Dillashaw.
Dillashaw lost the bantamweight title to Dominick Cruz in January 2016 by split decision. Despite what the judges said that night, Dillashaw always felt like he was the champion. With the bantamweight belt back, Dillashaw has his eyes set on the flyweight title.
“That belt has been around my waist the whole time in my mind. I was fighting number one contenders. I should still be the champion. I am the champion. This is my belt. Demetrious Johnson I’m coming for you. You got that record and it’s fake and you know it. You should have been fighting me,” he said. “I’m coming for you. I’m getting that belt. I’m coming to 125’s and I’m stopping your record.”