The wild ride that has been 2016 in regards to MMA reached its end and a new champion emerged,in the form of yet another underdog.
Cody Garbrandt was handed the role of the underdog who constantly fell for the champion Dominick Cruz’s head games and was even mocked by fans across the web. The problem with head games is that they are most effective inside the octagon where fist meets head. That was certainly the case in the co-main event as both men landed significant blow over the course of five rounds, but in a lot of cases it was Cruz who was swinging and missing haymakers while Garbrandt literally danced around the former champion. The relaxed challenger showed off crisp and tight boxing while switching stances and countering the aggressive Cruz. Although Cruz was able to outscore Garbrandt in the overall striking numbers, the new champion scored the harder shots that nearly ended the fight before the final bell.
The speed advantage was evident and the impressive head movement was what most expected to come from Cruz, but the young up-and-comer rose to the occasion. The sole take down landed in the fight belonged to “No Love” as he managed to remove wrestling from the equation after stuffing several attempts from the former champ. An unfamiliar sight to see, Cruz was on the end of swift punches and leg kicks while being out of range in his attempts to score right back. Instead Cruz was made to feel foolish inside the cage as Garbrandt provided his foe with a variety of dances and taunts that could potentially land him a gig on Dancing With The Stars. Cruz appeared to be frustrated with the younger bantamweight as he fired off hard shots in an attempt to make him pay for his arrogance. The one-dimensional Cody Garbrandt was nowhere to be found, instead his powerful punches put Cruz down at least three times and rather than go for the kill, “No Love” settled for some more showboating.
Although an unfortunate headbutt caused a large cut over Cruz’s left eye in the third round, it never deterred the “Dominator” who continued to come forward and even made a case for winning the final round of the affair despite being hurt and bloodied. The close to his impressive winning streak wasn’t a pretty one, but what made Garbrandt’s victory so grand was the fact that Cruz is one of the greats the sport has been fortunate enough to have. What the former champion needs is some much needed rest and perhaps a fight against someone like Michael McDonald or the winner between Jimmie Rivera and Bryan Caraway next month.
Garbrandt on the other hand jumps from the top ten to the number one fighter in his division and next in line is a familiar face in former Team Alpha Male teammate and former UFC bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw.
The potential showdown clearly favors Garbrandt and the buildup could be just as entertaining as the one fans witnessed leading up to UFC 207. The fight between both striker friendly fighters screams classic and fans will be in for a show.