Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight strikers Cody Garbrandt and T.J. Dillashaw will collide this Saturday (Nov 4, 2017) at UFC 217 inside Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.
After a long layoff because of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and a back injury, 2016’s “Fighter of the Year” returns. Last year, Garbrandt rose from unknown to champion, proving himself a complete fighter with insane potential. Because of those impressive accomplishments, it’s been easier than it should be to look past Dillashaw. In the last three years, his only loss came in the form of a split decision opposite Dominick Cruz, spending the rest of that time outclassing top-ranked contenders.
It’s one of the year’s best fights, so let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Dominick Cruz (UFC 207), Thomas Almeida (UFC Fight Night 88), Takeya Mizugaki (UFC 202), Augusto Mendes (UFC Fight Night 83)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Garbrandt is one of the sport’s finest boxers, an accomplished amateur boxer with a record of 31-1 in the ring. He accomplished most of those wins and won a state championship in wrestling before graduating high school, giving him an excellent base from which to build his mixed martial arts (MMA) game.
“No Love” is in just his fifth year as a professional fighter.
Garbrandt has pretty much one end goal in the cage: To land those heavy hands and add another knockout win to his record. He’ll occasionally land takedowns, but he’s a boxer first and foremost, and that has yet to change.
Opposite another great striker in Dillashaw, Garbrandt might be best-advised to copy his strategy from the Cruz victory. Over time, Garbrandt realized he could frustrate Cruz at range with kicks and fast combinations. When his opponent started to feel pressured to respond, Garbrandt stood his ground and fired lightning fast counter strikes. Cruz is a damn difficult fighter to hit, and this strategy found his chin repeatedly. Against a fighter who loves to attack and hangs in the pocket to trade, it should be easier to land heavy shots.
Key Wins: Renan Barao (UFC on FOX 16, UFC 173), Raphael Assuncao (UFC 200), John Lineker (UFC 207), Joe Soto (UFC 177)
Key Losses: Dominick Cruz (UFC Fight Night 81), Raphael Assuncao (UFC Fight Night 29)
Keys to Victory: A collegiate wrestler, Dillashaw pretty quickly developed into an excellent and crafty kickboxer. He’ll still happily grab a takedown when the opportunity presents itself, but Dillashaw prefers to break his foe down with extended combinations of kicks and punches, switching stance all the way.
In this bout, Dillashaw would be best-advised to avoid hanging around the pocket for too long. Bouncing in at an angle, landing, and exiting at another is a core part of his game, and that doesn’t have to change. However, he sometimes goes beyond technical exchanges, hanging around longer than necessary in order to get one last punch or kick in.
That could get him in a lot of trouble.
Instead, Dillashaw’s ideal strategy would be to do damage with kicks to the body and legs. In order to land such powerful shots, Garbrandt does plant his feet and commit to strikes, which in turn leaves him vulnerable to having his legs punted. The speed and power disadvantage is Dillashaw’s biggest problem in this match up. If he commits to scoring with kicks to the leg and body, it will have an effect in slowing down his opponent and help Dillashaw deeper into the fight.
Bottom Line: It’s a among the highest level fight possible, one that’s unlikely to disappoint.
Garbrandt is on his way to becoming the sport’s next big star. He’s been featured prominently in major events on purpose, as the knockout artist has a fan-friendly style and is quickly picking up momentum. If he can end this grudge match with style, it will go a long way in establishing him as a dominant champion and figure in the main stream.
It also potentially sets up a bout with Flyweight kingpin Demetrious Johnson.
For Dillashaw, it’s his moment to reclaim the belt he feels he’s never lost. Dillashaw has more than earned this shot, and at one point it was him who was seen as the future of Bantamweight. Dillashaw is young, marketable, and in the hunt for a face off with “Mighty Mouse” as well, so it’s clear that there’s a lot on the line regardless of the bad blood. Meanwhile, the man who comes up short is sent back to the title mix. There will likely be a rematch somewhere down the line, but Bantamweight is stacked with talent at the moment. It will not be easy to earn another title shot at 135 pounds, particularly for Dillashaw since he would have lost his previous two title fights.
At UFC 217, Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw will settle their beef with a title on the line. Which fighter will leave the cage strapped with gold?