For the second time in his career, TJ Dillashaw is the champion of the UFC's bantamweight division. The 31-year-old reclaimed his throne by beating Cody Garbrandt via second-round TKO in the co-main event at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday.
The fight started with an extended measuring period between the former teammates. The first frame was light on action, but when the two collided, Garbrandt's speed and power carried the exchanges.
The highlight of the first five minutes was a knockdown from No Love to put the exclamation on a good beginning for the champion:
OHHH @Cody_NoLove ROCKS Dillashaw at the end of round 1!!! Right hand on the button!! #UFC217 https://t.co/RG2ndJZzlJ2017-11-5 03:57:08
Dillashaw wasn't to be counted out, though. The challenger opened the second round with a head kick that floored Garbrandt. Although he got right back up, it was sign of things to come.
The former champion became the new champion when he knocked down Garbrandt with a right hook and rained down a flood of strikes in their next exchange.
Dillashaw's method of standing in the pocket to pick up the win was not the way most thought it would go. Jordan Breen of Sherdog praised Dillashaw for taking punishment to deliver the strikes he had to:
Jordan Breen @jordanbreen
Dillashaw took some serious heaters in R2 to set up the finish. Simply awesome stuff and hard to believe it's the last fight between the two2017-11-5 04:03:34
After the bout, Dillashaw set his sights on Demetrious Johnson once again, per MMA Fighting:
Dillashaw: I am the champion. This is my belt. Demetrious Johnson, I’m coming for you. You dodged me. I’m stopping your reign. #UFC2172017-11-5 04:05:34
This is likely just the first chapter in a bitter rivalry between the new champion and Garbrandt. The two haven't been shy about their disdain for one another. The former Team Alpha Male teammates have gone back and forth about Dillashaw's public fallout with the Sacramento-based group.
The two fighters' status as top contenders in the division is reason enough to believe their paths will cross again.
For now, Dillashaw can once again claim to be the best bantamweight in the world. The last time he won the title, it was in shocking fashion as he dominated longtime champion Renan Barao in May 2014. He then defended the belt twice—once each against Joe Soto and Barao. When he beat Barao again in July 2015, it looked like it was his division to lose.
But Dominick Cruz's return had something to say about that. Cruz came back from a 15-month layoff to beat Dillashaw.
Since then Dillashaw has defeated the No. 4 and 5 fighters in the division in Raphael Assuncao and John Lineker, respectively. After this win over Garbrandt, Dillashaw has two obvious choices for his next bout: Cruz or Johnson.
A rematch with Cruz makes sense. He lost the first bout, but he has the belt again and Cruz remains the No. 1 ranked bantamweight.
The other option is one that's been in the works before: Dillashaw could move down to 125 pounds to take on pound-for-pound No. 1 Johnson.
"He's the pound-for-pound kingpin and on top of the world right now," Dillashaw said on the MMA Hour (via Dave Doyle of MMA Fighting). "I definitely feel that he's a winnable fight. I definitely feel I could have stopped him from breaking the record and it could have been something great, big-money fight for himself. Yeah, that's something I'd love to do. Big-money fight, and especially knowing that I can definitely make the weight. ... That's definitely something that's in my crosshairs."
With Dillashaw's win over Garbrandt, it's a matchup the fans would clamor for. He's already been the champion of this division. An attempt to become a two-division champion makes sense as his next endeavor.