Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look ahead to the main event of UFC 227 as TJ Dillashaw defends his bantamweight championship against Cody Garbrandt in Los Angeles, California. This bout is a rematch of their UFC 217 bout in which Dillashaw knocked out Garbrandt to win the championship.
TJ Dillashaw (Record: 15-3, -130 Favorite, Power Ranking: A+)
The former collegiate wrestler turned MMA fighter had trained at Team Alpha Male before heading to Colorado to join striking coach Duane Ludwig full time. Dillashaw made significant strides in his striking while training under Ludwig which elevated him to an elite level. Dillashaw is on great form coming off clear decision wins over fellow top ten bantamweights Raphael Assuncao and John Lineker before knocking out Cody Garbrandt to reclaim the bantamweight title.
Under the tutelage of Duane Ludwig, there aren’t many fighters who have improved as much in the past few years as TJ Dillashaw. He averages a heavy 5.26 significant strikes per minute while absorbing just 2.91 strikes per minute. That difference of 2.35 strikes per minute is one of the highest in the UFC and translates to a 59 strike difference over the course of a 25 minute title fight. Dillashaw’s game has evolved into a great blend of aggressive, volume combination striking. Ludwig has done a terrific job at turning Dillashaw into a great MMA striker and into an elite fighter in this sport. Dillashaw matches that striking prowess with a collegiate wrestling pedigree. He averages 1.73 takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon. This is a key for Dillashaw as he has a history with Cody Garbrandt dating back to his days training together with him at Team Alpha Male and a victory here would close the book with Garbrandt and he’d be able to move on to face the likes of Dominick Cruz, Marlon Moraes, or perhaps even a bout with flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.
Cody Garbrandt (Record: 11-1, +100 Underdog, Power Ranking: A+)
The Ohio-born-and-raised-Garbrandt was a high school wrestling standout winning a state championship in his freshman year. Garbrandt has been fighting professionally for just over five years. His first career loss came in his last outing when he was knocked out by Dillashaw to drop his bantamweight title.
In addition to his wrestling accolades, Garbrandt was an accomplished amateur boxer with a 32-1 career record. He started his career in Ohio, but he made a big decision to move west in 2014 and train at Team Alpha Male. That decision completely changed his career path as he would go on to be the most recent UFC Champion at the illustrious Urijah Faber ran Sacramento, California camp. Garbrandt has successfully secured 38% of his takedown attempts in the UFC with just over one takedown per 15 minutes in the octagon. Furthermore, he’s never been taken down in his UFC career with 100% takedown defense. He combines his wrestling prowess that with a boxing focused striking attack in which he lands 3.45 significant strikes per minute, while only absorbing 2.99 strikes per minute. His punching power is near the top of the division as nine of his eleven career wins are by knockout. For Garbrandt, his success comes down to power and movement. He believes he punches harder than the rest of the division. His power forces opponents to fight more tentative and more on the back foot. In his bout with Cruz, he showed tremendous head movement avoiding much of the punches from the volume heavy former champion. In order to have success he needs to combine those attributes and avoid being countered as he has been hurt in previous fights and doesn’t have the durability of some of the other top bantamweights.
In a highly anticipated rematch, Cody Garbrandt looks to reclaim the bantamweight title when he takes on champion and former teammate TJ Dillashaw. In addition to the bad blood between the two fighters, it really is a fight between two extremely skilled bantamweights that are at their fighting peaks. Having gotten their roots at Team Alpha Male, they both have similar games. They both have very good hands, while each has strong fundamental wrestling. The main difference between them is their approach on the feet. Dillashaw is more of a combination striker, while Garbrandt is a knockout artist. I expect this fight to be fought on the feet just like their first bout with each fighter keen to show who the best striker is in the division. Given how each fighter experienced adversity in their first bout, I expect a more cautious approach in the UFC 227 main event. Both fighters understand the stakes and will not want to see a repeat of being hurt early in the fight. With that caution in mind, it should be close early in the fight. Dillashaw is the more durable of the two fighters and I expect him to take fewer risks in this bout. Garbrandt’s aggressiveness will cost him as he will be exposed on the counter. Dillashaw finished Garbrandt in the last fight and that confidence will pay dividends. Look for Dillashaw to land convincing punches in the middle rounds against the over aggressive Garbrandt and to put him away with strikes. Dillashaw Inside the Distance pays out at +150 and is worthy of a bet on this card.