With the cancellation of UFC bantamweight title fight between the champion Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw at UFC 214, Dillashaw proposed a scenario in which he drops down to the flyweight division to challenge longtime reigning flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. Dana White stated he likes the idea should Garbrandt be unable to compete in July, but then where does that leave the flyweight division?
The flyweight division will soon be approaching its five year mark of existence and yet it appears the UFC aren’t worried about what happens next should they grant Dillashaw a title shot sometime in August as he proposed. Dillashaw has never made 125 lbs and as easy as he makes it sound, weight cuts have proven to be unpredictable when it comes down to losing the final couple of pounds. Anthony Pettis was the latest fighter to describe how what seemed to be an easy weight cut turned into a nightmare prior to missing weight in his interim featherweight title fight against Max Holloway at UFC 206.
Dillashaw hasn’t made it clear if he intends on sticking around at 125 should he defeat Johnson. If he manages to end Johnson’s 10 title defense run, a rematch is almost always the next step and if that’s the case then what happens if he defeats Johnson twice? Johnson can either move up to bantamweight, a division that has proven to be a lot tougher in terms of size disadvantage, or wait until Dillashaw decides to move up. Dillashaw like many other fighters probably has an eye on capturing UFC titles in two divisions, but if he does manage to pull off the feat, does that mean fans are supposed to remain interested in watching Johnson accept defeat and re-earn the flyweight title by default should Dillashaw leave the division? It’s hard enough getting fans invested in the division that is still developing.
Dillashaw on the other hand could go down and lose to Johnson, but does that mean he’d be back in line for a shot at Garbrandt’s title? Or could Garbrandt rematch Cruz in the mean while and Dillashaw could potentially kill off a contender at 135 or sit and wait for the winner? It won’t look good either way. The Dillashaw-Garbrandt rivalry has reached its peak with the season 25 of TUF currently on every Wednesday night, it’d be odd if the UFC abandoned a title fight with so mach bad blood attached to it.
Garbrandt’s mysterious back injury, which led to the UFC sending him to Germany a week or so ago for more stem cell procedures, which they hoped could save his fight in July. Garbrandt revealed that a previous back injury nearly took him out of his fight against Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 202 on the MMA Hour today. The timetable for his return is still unknown.
“It’s really hard to say. I feel good, but I’m not trying to get too excited… I’m not overexerting or prolonging this injury, I have a lot of ass whoopings to give out in the 135 division.”
Although, Garbrandt did mention a plan on defeating Dillashaw in July and then going after the 125 title against Johnson in November and now that his plans are foiled he stated that he’d be willing to drop down to 125 and take the title off of Dillashaw should he win in the potential fight against Johnson.
Johnson’s reputation has taken a hit since the possible title fight against Dillashaw was brought up. Johnson wasn’t keen on Dillashaw skipping the line at 125, which nobody seems to mind since Ray Borg – the likely next contender in line – has missed weight twice in his last four bouts and is only on a two fight winning streak. Johnson doesn’t view the potential bout as worthy enough since it’s not a champion vs champion fight, which could mean a higher purse. Johnson did say he would accept a fight against Dillashaw should he win a fight at 125 first. Something Dana and company don’t seem to care about. Johnson is one win away from breaking Anderson Silva’s title defense record, which many believe should warrant a tough competitor like Dillashaw to make him earn his place in UFC history.
The problem again lies on whether or not Dillashaw could compete at his best after cutting to a weight he never had to before in his MMA career. Also, nobody seems to have a problem with Dillashaw moving down a weight class and demanding a title shot against a smaller competitor. I don’t hear anyone calling him a coward or questioning his manhood the way fans currently are doing to Mighty Mouse.
If the UFC does book Johnson vs Dillashaw in the near future, there is no question that Dillashaw would be taking the more winnable fight since he’d be fighting against somebody who already lost at 135 lbs before while Garbrandt is undefeated in his MMA career at that weight. Garbrandt is a power puncher who could turn one’s lights out seconds in a fight while Johnson is not known for his KO ability, although he could still knock Dillashaw out. Garbrandt has shown excellent boxing and wrestling skills in his win over Dominick Cruz at UFC 207, two areas that Cruz had the advantage against Dillashaw in their title fight at UFC Fight Night 81.
Sure, MMA math doesn’t work, but on paper Dillashaw is walking away from one challenge to face another one with lesser risks and here we are willing to give him a pass just because the flyweight division isn’t as exciting. Also, a Borg-Johnson title fight could make for some great competition despite what many believe. And the Dillashaw-Garbrandt can still be booked in the near future, at least that’s the hope.