The bitter rivalry almost boiled over completely during the most recent edition of The Ultimate Fighter, where the pair were the two coaches, and has been building ever since Dillashaw followed his coach Duane Ludwig to Colorado and left Team Alpha Male, the camp which Garbrandt calls home.
Dillashaw won the belt after a stunning performance to topple then dominant champion Renan Barao and defended it twice before running into Dominick Cruz, the nemesis of Team Alpha Male and one of the greatest fighters in MMA history.
Cruz, who once again got the better of Garbrandt’s mentor Urijah Faber during his second reign, then ran into Garbrandt, who was on a tear at the time. Many thought it would be too early for Cody, however he upset the odds and put on one of the best performances by any fighter in 2017 to rip the title from Cruz’s grasp and finally hand Alpha Male a win over “The Dominator”.
On the same night, Dillashaw put on a controlled display as he proved too much for the heavy handed John Lineker and the two were finally destined to meet from that moment on. The first scheduled meeting at UFC 213 fell apart due to an injury to Garbrandt, but now the pair will clash in what should be a can’t miss fight.
Garbrandt, a former amateur boxer, carries some serious power in his right hand and goes in still undefeated, a rarity in MMA. He has the most knockdown’s in the history of the bantamweight division and is currently riding a six fight win streak.
He has also never been taken down in the UFC, something Dillashaw, a former Division 1 wrestler, will be looking to land during the fight. TJ has gone for a submission more than anyone else in the bantamweight division and has landed at will in his most recent performances against Lineker and Raphael Assuncao.
He is a fluid fighter, who effortlessly switches stances and is as capable of fighting equally well in southpaw and orthodox. This makes him incredibly difficult to adapt to during the fight, although Garbrandt overcame arguably a tougher test when he got the win over Cruz, who is as awkward as they come.
Cody hardly wastes a shot and sets his feet when throwing his strikes to get the full effect, unlike others who are on their toes and looking to move away. However, with that he leans forward on his lead leg, which could play into Dillashaw’s hands as he pursues the takedown on his rival.
He has terrific head movement, so catching him clean is no easy feat, however Dillashaw is confident when fighting in the pocket and this could well be the catalyst for fireworks. However, expect Dillashaw, who has sparred with Garbrandt numerous times during their time together in Sacramento, to use his lateral movement, as he refuses to take that risk early on.
This fight has everything that draws people in. Two superb fighters at the top of their game and a narrative that makes you want to see what happens next. There is nothing fake about this rivalry, it is as real as it comes and the hatred, in particular for the Garbrandt camp, has been bubbling for a long time.
It has now reached boiling point and Madison Square Garden is the perfect place for it to go over the top. I’m edging towards the experience of Dillashaw to get the job done, providing he comes through an early storm from Garbrandt, who will not only be fighting Dillashaw but his own emotions.
Dillashaw will take it by a close, probably split decision over five rounds.
Rounding out the title fights will be Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s potentially record tying title defence of the UFC women’s strawweight title against the highly regarded “Thug” Rose Namajunas. A win for the Pole will see her tie Ronda Rousey at six defences for one of the women’s UFC titles.
Joanna has dismantled everyone in her path since winning the title against Carla Esparza in 2015 and is amongst the best striker’s in the whole of the UFC. She is still undefeated and if you want to her take her down, then you’re in for a hard time as she has the 2nd best defence in the history of the division.
If you do get her down, then that’s only half the battle, as keeping her down is an even tougher task and she has proven that she has the ability to adapt during a fight in tough situations, when she lost the first two rounds to Claudia Gadelha last year, before bouncing back to dominate the last three to retain her belt.
But, in Namajunas she can expect the most unpredictable test of her reign so far, as the 25-year-old “Thug” has the tools to combat what Joanna brings. She has the most finishes in the division, all by way of the rear-naked choke, which she works for and at times makes look effortless.
She’s chaotic and wild, but very well rounded, whilst remaining composed at all times. This was evident during the recent press conference and the stare down between the pair, usually a time Joanna aims to get one over her opponent with her trash talking. This time she was met by an icy glare from Namajunas, which is far away from what she is used to.
Jedrzejczyk has the edge in striking though, having built her game around a solid Thai boxing base, which has served her well so far. Her recent move to American Top Team in Florida has seen her grow once again as a fighter and that mean streak and the way she manages her distance to land her strikes will make her the favourite against anyone.
She forces her style on you and makes her opponent adapt to what she does, usually remaining in total control of her fights, as she proved in May against Jessica Andrade, who was billed as a genuine threat. Joanna put on a clinic as she cruised to victory, so what can Rose do to topple the long reigning champion on the verge of history.
Namajunas is a constantly improving fighter and has bounced back from defeat during her short career, but for me I don’t think there is any strawweight that can stop Joanna at the moment. I’m anticipating that she retains her title once more, despite some difficult moments from the spirited challenger, probably by unanimous decision.
Whether Jedrzejczyk goes for the record or moves up in weight to the new flyweight division, who will all be hoping she doesn’t, it won’t matter because we are looking at potentially the best women’s fighter of all time. Rose will come again, but after this occasion, she’ll be licking the wounds of defeat for a fourth time. The gold will be around her waist soon, just as soon as Joanna decides she has bigger fish to fry.