Over a month away from UFC 217 seems a little early to be discussing what could go down. The event is not even the next scheduled card with UFC 216 featuring great fights which include; the main event Tony Ferguson vs Kevin Lee and a rescheduled flyweight title match up which will see Ray Borg attempted to stop Demetrious Johnson defend the strap for the 11th time. The reason UFC 217 is the topic of discussion is not even the blockbuster main event which will see England’s own Michael Bisping go up against MMA royalty in George St-Pierre. Even though this match up is interesting there is a fight on the card that gets fight fans even more excited.
The supporting act for UFC 217 is a fight that runs way deeper than any shallow rivalry whipped up to create a few more pay per view buys. Cody Garbrandt will defend his bantamweight title against former team mate and California born TJ Dillashaw. The pair were never friends, by Dillashaw’s admission, and by the time Garbrandt came to the team Dillashaw was already on his way out. TJ believes that head of Team Alpha Male, Urijah Faber, is the reason so much annomosity remains between Dillashaw and the team. The Californian followed former Alpha Male head coach Duane Ludwig to Denver to train with him.
It’s complicated. That is for sure. But it does offer something special to the fight. It feels a lot more personal and as if there is a lot of emotion going into fight night. Such a public fall out does not often get such a thrilling finally. The build up with the fight will feature all the people who were involved and affected by the split. Old anger and bitterness will spill out. Dillashaw believes he made the correct decision leaving the team especially after The Ultimate Fighter series in which he featured.
As if TJ’s departure did not cause enough fuss The Ultimate Fighter added more fuel to the fire. In January 2017 it was announced that the two would be opposing coaches in the series. All the way through the series the two clashed and exchanged words.
Sparks flew on numerous occasions during the show and Garbrandt put his hands around the neck of his opposing coach. It felt tense and as soon as Garbrandt said the fight was going to happen excitement grew. At the end of the day we do not know exactly what has happened and how it happened between the two camps. Stories are offered from both sides but the true meat of the story will never become public knowledge. And we do not need to know. The combat sports community will be given a spectacle when the pair come face to face in the octagon.
So what can we expect on fight night? With any bout that involves so many raw feelings there will be the chance that the action could let fight fans down. With this one it will live up to the hype. Both men are quality fighters. Garbrandt is undefeated winning 11 fights out of 11 and 9 of those due to stoppages resulting from strikes. He had a career as an amateur boxer before switching to MMA and was a state level wrestling champion.
Dillashaw has a pretty similar skill set. Also a very good wrestler at university level his aggressive come forward style contrasts Garbrandt’s stand up game. If Dillashaw can come forward and not be overly concerned with what his opponent is throwing he may be able to put pressure on the champion like he has never experienced before.
The problem is Cody has power. He has quick hands and is an expert counter puncher so if Dillashaw is planning on getting close and being aggressive he will have to do so with care and concentration. He cannot go in there and expect to just walk him down, some method and skill must be used.
Garbrandt may be the champion heading into the contest after a career highlight win against Dominick Cruz at UFC 207 but his opponent has successfully defended the belt before. This is Garbrandt’s first defence of the title which will potentially changed his mindset. His opponent won the belt and successfully defended it twice before losing on a split decision to Cruz. So much here will come down to mentality. Who deals with the pressure of the situation more, how will Garbrandt react to being champion, can Dillashaw reclaim the belt? There is a lot to think about for both men.
When the bell rings at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden, New York anything could happen. The circumstances surrounding the contest have deep roots and involve numerous people. The fighters themselves are two of the best and most exciting active men on the roster. Expect non stop action and both competitors to go to lengths they have never been pushed to before.
So much is at stake, pride, honour and respect. Will Garbrandt claim supremacy for Alpha Male? Can Dillashaw justify leaving the team by reclaiming the bantamweight title? It truly is up in the air. This is what the UFC is all about and it is why we love it.
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