T.J. Dillashaw left no doubt about his being the better man.
Dillashaw retained the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight title and improved to 2-0 against his archrival, as he put away former Team Alpha Male stablemate Cody Garbrandt in the first round of their UFC 227 headliner on Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Garbrandt succumbed to blows 4:10 into Round 1.
Staying technical despite the heated emotions involved, Dillashaw countered his kick-heavy challenger at every turn. He floored Garbrandt with a clean right hook, swarmed for a potential and then reset. Another Dillashaw right -- it landed more like a clothesline than a punch -- had “No Love” teetering on the brink. The champion followed up with punches, allowed Garbrandt to stand and uncorked a knee strike that prompted referee Herb Dean to intervene.
In the aftermath of UFC 227 “Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
T.J. Dillashaw vs. Marlon Moraes: Dillashaw has pieced together a four-fight winning streak, and with Dominick Cruz still on the shelf and Garbrandt out of the picture, he finds himself entrenched as the sport’s premier bantamweight. Since his controversial split decision defeat to Cruz in January 2016, he has beaten Raphael Assuncao, John Lineker and Garbrandt (twice) in succession. Moraes has compiled a 3-1 mark since arriving in the UFC in 2017, a disputed decision loss to Assuncao his only misstep. The former World Series of Fighting Champion last competed at UFC Fight Night 131 on June 1, when he knocked out Jimmie Rivera with a head kick and follow-up punches in just 33 seconds.
Henry Cejudo vs. Demetrious Johnson: Cejudo overthrew the longtime king by the narrowest of margins, as he dethroned Johnson by split decision in the co-main event and became the second undisputed flyweight champion in UFC history. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist struck for takedowns in the second, fourth and fifth rounds and paired them with top control, helping to offset the damage he absorbed to the legs and body from repeated Johnson kicks. The loss was the first for “Mighty Mouse” at 125 pounds and ended his historic reign atop the division at 2,142 days. Considering the close nature of the rematch and Johnson’s status as a true all-time great, a trilogy bout appears to be in order with their head-to-head series now tied 1-1.
Renato Carneiro vs. Mirsad Bektic: In perhaps his best performance to date, Carneiro submitted perennial contender Cub Swanson with a rear-naked choke 4:15 into the first round of their featherweight feature. The 29-year-old Brazil has rattled off back-to-back victories since his June 2017 submission loss to Brian Ortega, steadying himself in an increasingly deep 145-pound weight class. Bektic, 27, finds himself on a two-fight winning streak after taking a split decision from Ricardo Lamas at UFC 225 on June 9. Long hailed as a future champion at 145 pounds, the Tristar Gym export owns a 6-1 record inside the Octagon and has shown no ill effects from his upset loss to Darren Elkins in March 2017.
Pedro Munhoz vs. Manny Bermudez: Munhoz won for the fifth time in six appearances, as he took a unanimous decision from Brett Johns in the featured prelim at 135 pounds. The former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion trashed Johns’ lead leg with kicks and had him reeling on multiple occasions with kicks to the head and body. To his credit, the Welshman stayed alive until the final bell but nevertheless wound up on the wrong side of 30-26, 29-28 and 29-27 scorecards. Stock in the undefeated Bermudez continues to soar. The South Shore Sportfighting prospect moved to 13-0 at UFC Fight Night 134, where he choked Davey Grant unconscious with a first-round triangle on June 22 in Hamburg, Germany. Bermudez, 24, has delivered 10 of his 13 professional victories by submission, nine of them inside one round.
Thiago Santos vs. Antonio Carlos Jr.-Elias Theodorou winner: Leaning on a combination of guile and brute force, Santos rebounded from an April 21 knockout loss to former two-division World Series of Fighting champion David Branch with a unanimous decision over Kevin Holland in a three-round middleweight showcase. Scores were 29-27, 29-27 and 29-26. Santos navigated some considerable difficulty in the second round, fought through fatigue, tore into Holland with kicks and kept him off-balance with takedowns and ground-and-pound, threatening with a few arm-triangle chokes along the way. Carlos Jr. will collide with Theodorou at UFC Fight Night 137 on Sept. 22 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.