When Cody “No Love” Garbrandt (11-0) met Dominick Cruz at UFC 202, a lot of fans were livid. He’d starched Thomas Almeida and Takeya Mizugaki, but it was a little early to have him talk his way to a match against the best bantamweight of all time. Then he spent 5 rounds making Cruz look lost to win the belt in one of the most shocking upsets of all time.
Garbrandt has a very short reach for the bantamweight division at 65″, but uses this to his advantage. As we’ve talked about before, shorter limbs are faster and easier to throw power shots with. His right hook has always had the touch of death, turning men into cartoons with one shot. He has a wrestling background, but prefers to use it defensively to keep the fight on the feet.
The scary thing is that Garbrandt is getting better. In the Cruz fight alone, he showed a nifty jab that’s uncommon among men with a short reach. He also has a wicked closing left hook, one that surprise Cruz multiple times as he tried to exit after a combination. His slips somehow got cleaner and Cruz was hitting air with entire combinations. He showed thudding leg kicks.
As he’s undefeated, we’re not sure what it takes to defeat Garbrandt. We can hypothesize that he’s never fought a strong, dedicated wrestler, so it’s possible his punches can be timed for takedowns.
Had the title fight with Dominick Cruz lasted one more round, TJ Dillashaw (14-3) would still be the bantamweight champion.
Seemingly overnight, Dillashaw went from being a typical boxer-wrestler to one of the best movers and strikers in bantamweight history. His ability to enter and exit on angles while throwing counters and kicks through openings is astounding. This guy made Renan Barao looks like a fish out of water after the latter man had virtually cleaned out the division.
He doesn’t have one-shot knockout power, but every shot hurts enough that it stops an opponent in their tracks. It’s not quite death by a thousand cuts, but it’s darn close. Against Lineker, Dillashaw showed he’s still willing to be a wrestler and repeatedly grounded the dangerous brawler for a decision win.
There’s no real Dillashaw weakness; rather, he has things that he doesn’t do well as others. He’s great off the counter, but noticeably less impressive against fighters who can either move with him or are economical with their striking. He’ll still win but he won’t make the highlight reel.
Dillashaw has some distinct advantages in this match up. He’s a better mover and has more variety in his strikes than Garbrandt does. As we haven’t seen Garbrandt get into a real wrestling match, it’s possible Dillashaw is the superior grappler as well. Plus, Dillashaw is more explosive and harder hitting than Cruz.
But Garbrandt’s striking defense is crisp. Dillashaw’s slip and rip is good, but Garbrandt’s is lethal. His decorated amateur boxing background shows as he’s able to chase people with punches in ways few others can. Dillashaw could hurt Garbrandt but Garbrandt will definitely hurt Dillashaw.
Look for the champ to retain his belt in a close fight.
Garbrandt via Decision
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