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Fightweets: On Cody Garbrandt and immediate title rematches

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Cody Garbrandt is now 0-2 against T.J. Dillashaw.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The buzz seems to be back in mixed martial arts, coming off a hot UFC 227 and with the return of Conor McGregor looming. So let’s get right back into another edition of Fightweets.

On Cody Garbrandt and immediate title rematches

@JazzTheJourno: Where does Cody go from here?

@_martinpang: What is your opinion on immediate rematches? personally I’d like a shift away from it.

I’m including both of these questions under the same heading, since they’re tied together.

A week after the superlative double bill atop UFC 227, I’m still struck by the contrast in results in the two title rematches.

Cody Garbrandt went for the quick fix. He got knocked out by T.J. Dillashaw in the second round of their first fight at UFC 217, but since the bout was a back-and-forth affair, he was able to rationalize that he simply got tagged, which can happen to any fighter, and that the result would be different the second time around.

Instead, Dillashaw did the only possible thing he could do that would top the original result: He went and knocked Garbrandt out in the first round. And in doing so, he made Garbrandt look like an opponent who hadn’t learned any lessons coming off his loss.

Henry Cejudo, on the other hand?

I’ll admit, I spent the past two years believing Cejudo got his first fight with Demetrious Johnson too soon in his career. You could tell from the get-go that Cejudo was a potential future champion, and I was concerned that the one-sided beating Cejudo took at UFC 197 would derail his potential.

Instead, with the benefit of hindsight, the loss to Johnson was the best thing that could have happened to him. Cejudo is a guy who has scaled mountains as a wrestler, and he took the info from the loss to DJ and used it to set about improving his game over the long haul. That played out over the past two years and resulted in his tremendous performance in taking the championship from an all-time great titleholder in a coin flip of a fight.

Garbrandt went the other route. And now, he’s just like Joanna Jedrzejczyk before him, losing back-to-back fights to Rose Namajunas. Or, hell, Ronda Rousey going straight back into a title fight after her loss to Holly Holm. One of these days, the newbies over at WME will get it through their skulls that more often than not, immediate title rematches for fighters who get knocked out to lose their titles do more harm than good.

As for what Garbrandt should do? I mean, never count anyone out entirely. We know what Garbrandt’s capable of when he’s on. If he’ll admit to himself after this loss that he’s still got a lot to learn, then he’s got plenty of time to put this episode behind him. Who knows where the division is a year from now? Maybe Dillashaw loses to Cruz. Maybe he loses to Marlon Moraes. Maybe he’s still champ, but a challenger falls out at the last minute, and Cody steps in. Stranger things have happened.

Granted, Garbrandt and Cejudo’s paths don’t make for an apples-for-apples comparison, since it’s not like Cejudo was about to get offered an immediate rematch after losing as a challenger the first time and Cody was champion. That aside, rarely will you see a more vivid demonstration of the difference in the approaches to rematches like we saw in Staples Center last weekend.

What’s next for T.J.?

@Chiufc24: Should Dillashaw fight Cruz or Moraes next? Or should those two fight and winner gets Dillashaw?

Man, those are great questions. I can see the arguments for both.

First things first: The person Dillashaw should not fight next is Cejudo. Hey, I can’t blame the new flyweight champ for trying to get a superfight. He’s goal-oriented, he’s already won an Olympic gold and a UFC title, of course he’s setting his sights on the next one. But ... no. If Garbrandt is the case study in when not to give a former champion an immediate rematch, DJ is the case study in when a former champ absolutely should be next in line: The bout was a decision which could have gone either way, against a champion of nearly six years on a record-breaking run of divisional dominance. Johnson’s leg is jacked, but if he’s ready to go in a reasonable amount of time, he should be next.

The argument in favor of Cruz, if he’s able to go soon, is that you’ve got the two fighters with the best claims to bantamweight GOAT status, who have already fought once, and that, too, was an exciting coin flip of a fight, won by Cruz. Unlike the “been there, done that” feel to Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2, Dillashaw has the motivation of getting back a win from Cruz he felt was his the first time. The argument in favor of Moraes, is, well, have you seen him fight recently? Moraes has been a buzzsaw in knocking out Aljamain Sterling and Jimmie Rivera back-to-back. He’s a fresh face after years of T.J./Cruz/Cody.

If it’s up to me, I book Dillashaw vs. Cruz and have Moraes on standby. But I wouldn’t complain if Moraes got the shot. Considering some of the problems UFC has run into with matchmaking, this one is a good problem for the UFC to have.

What if Khabib gets hurt?

@spacebawz: Who gets to fight McGregor if/when Khabib gets injured?

First things first, here: While I appreciate the many variations of “Who wins Khabib vs. Conor” questions I’ve gotten, I’m putting a moratorium on them until the fight draws close. We’ve still got a couple months left to ponder that one.

So, not to be too glib, but yes, given Khabib Nurmagomedov’s history, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher that they don’t seem to have clear-cut Plan B in place as yet. And it sure seems like that Plan B could have been to place Nate Diaz vs. Dustin Poirier on the same card.

Not only would that have meant more PPV money for Diaz than whatever ends up the main event at UFC 230, but it also would have given Diaz vs. Poirier a level of exposure they’re not going to get fighting on a different card. If things played out right, you’d set up your next megafight on the spot, with the Khabib vs. Conor winner taking on the Diaz vs. Poirier winner.

(Side note: Diaz storming out of the UFC 25th anniversary press conference and sending out angry tweets seems a bit like going to the well once too often, doesn’t it? The lightweight division is stacked and is moving forward. If Diaz actually removes himself from the picture again after two years away, he’s only going to damage himself going forward).

Instead, yes, now we’re gambling. Nurmagomedov indisputably looked great on the scale going into UFC 223, but he’s still got a history of injuries and weight cut mishaps. There’s too much riding on this one to not have a plausible backup or two in place.

Greg Hardy

@TannerRuss2: So we’re really going to let Greg Hardy have his time, huh? Doesn’t seem right.

I wish I had a better answer to this than “that’s just the way things are.” But I don’t. Fighting’s been a business with a dirty side pretty much going back to the day when “the fight business” first became a thing.

If a promoter feels like they can make a dollar with a fighter, well, I mean, you see the footage from Conor McGregor’s van attack on Kahbib Nurmagomedov already getting incorporated into the commercials for UFC 229, right? How much money was made off a mentally ill Mike Tyson, even after he went to prison? How much money was made off Floyd Mayweather?

I’m not saying any of this is morally defensible. But the UFC has decided they’re going in on Greg Hardy, and when Greg Hardy fights, that’s a newsworthy event we have to cover in an evenhanded manner. UFC president Dana White says Hardy is on his “second chance.” If he screws up again, damn right it will make news, and damn right UFC will have to make a choice on what to do going forward. In the meantime, it’s up to each individual viewer to decide whether they want to support this.

Changing GOATS

@shamas2049: Greatest of all Time discussions fizzle every time the current GOAT loses or another GOAT wins. Everyone can’t be the best. So, instead, what is the criteria to make an elite MMA fighter?

See, here’s the thing I think people kind of gloss over a little bit when they talk about how fast the GOAT debate changes in MMA: This sport is still only 25 years old. In baseball, the National League was 25 years old in 1901, which was the year the American League was founded. There was probably a whole lot more turnover in the discussion of who was the baseball GOAT then than there is today, no? Even in a younger league, like the NBA, which was founded in 1946, the GOAT discussion is something which only seems to come up once a generation or so, and not something that changes every year. So yeah, at this stage of the game, it makes sense that the argument over MMA GOAT changes every couple years.

There’s no one criteria in choosing the best. Anderson Silva not only had the longevity, but he went up and challenged himself at light heavyweight when his division was cleaned out. (Then, you know, he’s had that unpleasantness come up in his last years.) Georges St-Pierre absolutely pummeled a string of killers, a fact which gets lost in the fact that so many of those fights went the distance. (He also voluntarily relinquished two championships.) Demetrious Johnson, I mean, who the hell else can suplex someone and catch them in an armbar mid-throw? (His caliber of competition wasn’t the same as the others.)

So there’s three champs with three claims to potential GOAT status who have different highlights and demerits. There’s no one standard for determining the best, so buckle up, because it’s not like the GOAT discussion is ever going away.

Is normal!

@TannerRuss2: Is abusing Marc Raimondi at the end of post fight shows the new normal?

If Angela Hill switch-kicking Marc in the ribs while wearing high heels is wrong, I don’t want to be right.