UFC 227: Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 Preview
A preview of Saturday’s UFC 227 card, set to take place in Los Angeles.
Updated: Aug. 1, 2018 • 7:25 PM ET
Los Angeles will host an action-packed UFC 227 card on Saturday.
The UFC is heading to Los Angeles’ Staples Center for UFC 227 on Saturday, when two fighters will renew their bad blood in the main event. Bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw will defend his title against former champion Cody Garbrandt in a rematch from UFC 217, where Dillashaw defeated Garbrandt by second-round knockout.
Dillashaw and Garbrandt are former teammates and training partners, and their disdain for one another became public when the two opposed each other as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter last year. The constant, heated, back-and-forth squabbles between the two and their teams created a great storyline for UFC 217, where Dillashaw seemed to be unfazed by the trash talk.
The same could have been said about Garbrandt, if he managed to retain his title, which he nearly did after rocking Dillashaw at the end of the first round. Yet, Garbrandt didn’t have enough time in the round to get the finish. In the end, Dillashaw became a two-time champion by defeating Garbrandt, solidifying his position as a top pound-for-pound fighter.
Dillashaw’s first title reign came to an end at UFC Fight Night in 2016 to Dominick Cruz by split decision. Many people thought Dillashaw deserved to win the fight, and one has to wonder what the division would look like if he didn’t lose that decision to Cruz.
Still, Dillashaw bounced back from the title loss with two straight victories that earned the shot at Garbrandt, who had just taken the title from Cruz. We could easily see a third fight between Dillashaw and Garbrandt if the former were to lose on Saturday, and Garbrandt has already said that he would grant Dillashaw an immediate rematch, regardless of how he wins.
Dillashaw has defeated a who’s who of contenders in the bantamweight division, including Renan Barao (twice), Raphael Assuncao and John Lineker. He’ll have no easy task keeping the belt if he wins on Saturday, as the top 10 of the division is one of the best in the UFC. Aside from Garbrandt, Cruz should be ready to fight soon, so a rematch with either Dillashaw or Garbrandt would make sense.
Then there’s Assuncao, who has won four straight since losing to Dillashaw and believes he has earned a title shot. Then there’s surging contender Marlon Moraes, Jimmie Rivera, Lineker, and the only man to finish Dillashaw, John Dodson.
A giant question heading into this fight is: can Garbrandt fight a less emotional fight and not get caught in wild exchanges like he did in the first fight between the two? Both fighters are technical strikers, and it seems that they’re evenly matched. Garbrandt showed impressive movement and footwork for five rounds against Dominick Cruz and didn’t get overly aggressive after a knockdown. Against Dillashaw, it certainly appeared that after dropping him in the first round, Garbrandt smelled blood, leaving him open for a high kick that eventually led to his defeat after getting caught in one of those wild exchanges.
Garbrandt is only 27 years old and with a victory on Saturday, he can set himself up for a bright future in the bantamweight division and possibly another weight class, as he has talked about facing flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. However, another devastating knockout loss will push him down the title line and be difficult for fans to erase from their memories.
Saturday’s co-main event will also be for a title, as flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson will take on No. 1 Henry Cejudo in a rematch. Johnson defeated Cejudo by first-round TKO at UFC 197 in 2016.
Johnson will defend his title for the 12th time, and he’s in the discussion for the greatest MMA fighter of all time, not just in UFC history. His last loss was to Dominick Cruz at bantamweight in 2011 and if there’s one obvious thing that Johnson has focused on improving since that fight, it’s his takedown defense.
Johnson has defeated every top contender in the flyweight division and in his last fight against Ray Borg, he had one of the best finishes you’ll ever see in the Octagon. There seemed to be serious talks of him fighting Dillashaw for the flyweight title, but Johnson was portrayed as the reason those talks stalled. Johnson, though, claims he was offered the fight and accepted, but suffered an injury that required surgery and was never offered the fight again.
“The fight wasn’t offered to me after I got injured,” Johnson said in a recent media conference call. “When they offered it to me, I accepted it, then I got injured, got surgery, and then when it came time to fight again, from my understanding, from my management’s standpoint is that T.J. got offered to fight Cody (Garbrandt) with a brand new deal, so God bless him for taking a new deal to fight Cody.”
If Johnson wins on Saturday, defending his title in the division or fighting the winner of the main event would make the most sense for his next fight. A win in a superfight would cement his legacy and his position as the greatest of all time.
Cejudo has improved with every fight after losing to Johnson and has certainly earned a second title shot. The former Olympic wrestling gold medalist has shown significantly improved striking, making him a dual threat for any fighter in the flyweight division. He’s riding a two-fight winning streak, which includes a unanimous decision over rising contender Sergio Pettis and a second-round knockout of Wilson Reis at UFC 215.
Even with a loss on Saturday, the 31-year-old Cejudo will remain at the top of the division. But he knows the time is now if there’s going to be a new champion.
“I’m seizing the opportunity,” Cejudo told MMAjunkie last month. “I’m smarter now. I’m faster. I’m more intelligent.
“The UFC and everybody sees my improvements, and they’re willing to give me a second chance. I was knocked out in my first fight. I was stopped in less than three minutes. Who would ever get a rematch getting put out like that? The way I see it is, there’s an opportunity for redemption.”
Also on the main card
The main card will also feature a featherweight fight between No. 5 Cub Swanson and No. 10 Renato Moicano.
Swanson is trying to rebound from two straight losses after being about as close as you can get to a title shot. A victory over Brian Ortega in December would have earned him a title shot, but Ortega submitted Swanson in the second round. The 29-year-old Swanson followed that performance with a unanimous decision loss to Frankie Edgar in April.
Swanson has defeated fighters such as Dooho Choi, Jeremy Stephens, Dennis Siver, Dustin Poirier, and Charles Oliveira. If he wants to stay in title contention, however, he’ll need to win on Saturday.
It won’t be easy, as Moicano is 4-1 in the UFC and coming off a unanimous decision victory over Calvin Kattar in April. Moicano has also defeated Stephens, and his only loss was to Ortega in a fight that he dominated until Ortega submitted him in the third round. A win over Swanson would make him a serious contender in the featherweight division.
The main card will also have a strawweight fight between Polyana Viana and JJ Aldrich. The 26-year-old Viana successfully made her UFC debut in February, defeating Maia Stevenson by first-round submission. The Brazilian is known for her jiu jitsu skills and is 10-1 overall.
Aldrich, 2-1 in the UFC and 6-2 overall, is riding a two-fight winning streak. She most recently defeated Danielle Taylor by unanimous decision in January, and the 25-year-old from Colorado is a third-degree Taekwondo blackbelt and has shown a diverse striking attack in all three of her UFC fights.
Rounding out the main card will be a middleweight fight between No. 13 Thiago Santos and Kevin Holland.
Santos is trying to rebound from a first-round knockout loss to David Branch in April. The loss followed a four-fight winning streak, during which Santos won all four fights by knockout. Santos is 9-5 in the UFC and has notable victories over Nate Marquardt, Elias Theodorou and Anthony Smith. A win on Saturday will put him back on track and possibly send him back into the top 10 of the middleweight division.
Holland competed on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series in June and defeated Will Santiago Jr. by unanimous decision. He’ll make his UFC debut on Saturday against a seasoned veteran during a pay per view event, which could be a lot to ask of the 25-year-old. We’ll find out on Saturday if he’s up for the challenge.
Bantamweight fight - No. 9 Pedro Munhoz vs. No. 14 Brett Johns
Bantamweight fight - Ricky Simon vs. Montel Jackson
Bantamweight fight - Ricardo Ramos vs. Kyung Ho Kang
Featherweight fight - Matt Sayles vs. Sheymon Moraes
UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims
Flyweight fight - Alex Perez vs. Jose Torres
Strawweight fight - Danielle Taylor vs. Weili Zhang
Bantamweight fight - Marlon Vera vs. Wuliji Buren
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