TJ Dillashaw settled his bitter rivalry with Cody Garbrandt stopping the former unbeaten champion in the second round and became a two-time UFC bantamweight champion on an exhilarating night at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The feud between the pair has been building since Dillashaw followed his coach Duane Ludwig to Colorado leaving Team Alpha Male where he trained alongside Garbrandt and both camps have been embroiled in a war of words ever since.
Garbrandt claimed the title last December when he beat Dominick Cruz on points in what was a sensational performance, but this time he was fighting against emotion as he looked across at his former training partner.
He kept it under wraps however in a tight first round which exploded into action midway through as they began to let their hands go, with Garbrandt getting the better of the exchanges. A right hand before the buzzer dropped Dillashaw and the two still had to be separated when the round was over.
TJ wandered back to his corner on wobbly legs and was urged by Ludwig in the corner to pepper Garbrandt with kicks. Luckily for him, he listened, smashing the champion with a head kick which turned the momentum of the fight and in the next exchange he put him down with a solid counter right hand.
Dillashaw unleashed a barrage of strikes on his downed opponent, who had no answer and saved very quickly. The new champion celebrated with glee right in the face of Garbrandt, who looked stunned as he was helped up and the two shared a brief, albeit forced embrace.
Following the emotional win, Dillashaw told the crowd: “He’s a hell of a fighter, he’s young, he’s going to be back. The kid’s tough, he hits hard. You can condition your chin. I got caught with a big right but I bounced right back. This belt was around my waist the whole time in my head.”
He also set his sights on his next target, UFC Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson adding: “Demetrious Johnson, I’m coming for you, you’ve got that record that’s fake, you dodged me, and I’m coming for that belt and you know it.”
The history just kept being made in New York as Rose Namajunas became the third new champion of the night, flattening Joanna Jedrzejczyk and leave MSG as the UFC women’s strawweight champion in a scene reminiscent of Ronda Rousey’s demise at the hands of Holly Holm in 2015.
Jedrzejczyk spent all week trying to get under the skin of Namajunas who always met the Pole’s taunts with an icy stare, as she waited to let her actions do the talking.
Unfortunately for Joanna, who was on course to equal Rousey’s record of six title defences, she did. “Thug” Rose pressed forward and put the now former champion down with a solid right hand before jumping on her as she went for her favoured rear-naked choke.
Jedrzejczyk survived this time, but it was her warning shot. Namajunas bided her time, before detonating a left hand on the Pole’s chin and then ended the fight with some nasty ground-and-pound which Jedrzejczyk had no answer for. After this week, it’s hard to say she didn’t have it coming.
On the undercard, Stephen Thompson got past Jorge Masvidal in a battle of ranked welterweights, putting on a striking masterclass to put himself back into title contention. “Wonderboy” took it 30-27 twice and 30-26 on the scorecards.
Brazilian middleweight Paulo Costa lived up to his new “Eraser” nickname, as he dominated former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks and stopped him in the second round. The size difference and Costa’s power were evident from the first minute and he seemingly couldn’t miss. When the stoppage came, it had always been just a matter of time and at 1-23 of the round, most were glad it was over.
James Vick continued his good form, as he got past “Irish” Joe Duffy, stopping him with a second left of the second round. The Irishman started well, but visibly slowed in the second as Vick got on top. He finished the job with some nasty striking to add to the argument that he should be in the top 15 of the lightweight division.
British heavyweight Mark Godbeer finally got his fight with Walt Harris after last month’s late cancellation at UFC 216 and left with a win, although not the way he would have wanted it. Harris cracked him with a head kick after the referee called break in the first and was immediately and rightly disqualified.
Ovince Saint Preux threw his name back into the hat of future light-heavyweight title challengers, ironing out Corey Anderson with a vicious head kick in the third round to add to his highlight reel. Anderson was on course for the victory but he dropped his hands and OSP did not let the opportunity go to waste.
Randy Brown won the battle of Dana White’s Lookin’ For A Fight alumni, defeating fellow welterweight Mickey Gall by unanimous decision. It was a battle for top position with Brown taking the first and third, whilst Gall, who rose to prominence with wins over former WWE star CM Punk and Sage Northcutt, took the second. The scores were 29-28 twice and 29-27.
Curtis “Razor” Blaydes was also victorious, albeit in bizarre circumstances, over Aleksei Oleinik in the meeting of ranked heavyweight’s. Blaydes appeared to clock the downed Russian with a head kick in the second and the fight was stopped on the advice of the doctor. However, replays showed that he had only grazed his ear and the ruling was overturned and ruled a TKO win for the Chicago man.
Finally, to start the night Aiemann Zahabi was flattened by a stunning spinning elbow by Ricardo Ramos after an entertaining affair. Ramos had gone for the elbow a few times previously but he finally landed it after 1-58 of the third, separating Zahabi from his senses and kicking off what turned out to be a historic night.