Reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight titleholder T.J. Dillashaw and Team Alpha Male standout Cody Garbrandt stepped into the cage for a second time in the UFC 227 headliner on Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The rematch saw Garbrandt attempting to avenge his first career defeat and looking to regain the championship he lost to his former stablemate at UFC 217.
Dillashaw was clear about his desire to prove he was the best bantamweight in UFC history, and he made a statement to that end with a fast-and-furious first-round knockout.
Similar to their first encounter, the two rivals took the center of the Octagon from the start, traded heavy punches and looked to land a kill shot. Dillashaw was first to draw blood, as he caught the challenger with a counter overhand right and drove him to the canvas in a dazed and wobbly state. The champion swarmed on Garbrandt with fast punches in a bid for a quick finish. “No Love” stumbled back to his feet, only to eat another right hand that planted him back on the canvas. Garbrandt again rose, but Dillashaw refused to relent and put their rivalry to bed with a knee strike from the clinch and a few follow-up punches.
Afterward, Dillashaw declared his belief that he was the greatest bantamweight of all-time. Perhaps only Dominick Cruz, the last man to defeat him, can argue otherwise.
A King Dethroned
In the UFC 227 co-main event, Henry Cejudo made history by defeating reigning champion Demetrious Johnson to become the promotion’s second-ever flyweight titleholder. Cejudo was awarded a split decision after a back-and-forth affair that will go down in the annals as one of the most compelling -- and debated -- title fights in the history of the 125-pound weight class. He found far more success in his rematch with Johnson, as he utilized well-time takedowns and suffocating grappling to dictate where much of the fight took place. Those tactics did not allow “Mighty Mouse” to settle into the rhythm to which he has grown accustomed as champion.
Their fight played out over five closely contested rounds. Johnson tried to stay on his feet, where he could tee off on “The Messenger” with kickboxing combinations and stay at range. Cejudo, meanwhile, intended to close the distance and utilized the freestyle wrestling skills that brought him an Olympic gold medal in 2008. Once it was over, the cageside judges rendered a split verdict: Sal D’Amato and Ron McCarthy scored it 48-47 for Cejudo, while Marcos Rosales saw it 48-47 for Johnson. The loss ended Johnson’s record-setting run of 11 consecutive title defenses.
In the aftermath, Cejudo set his sights on bigger game and called for a shot at the bantamweight title, though it seems his head-to-head series with Johnson, now tied at 1-1, is far from over.
Renato Carneiro and Cub Swanson faced off in a featherweight showcase at UFC 227. Carneiro was seeking his first win over a Top-5 opponent, while Swanson was looking to rebound from consecutive defeats and avoid the first three-fight losing streak of his career. Their battle ended with a bang, as “Moicano” dropped Swanson with a left jab and moved in for the kill. After transitioning to Swanson’s back, Carneiro latched onto a rear-naked choke and sent the hometown favorite home with a first-round submission loss.
Both fighters started by sticking to the outside, where they looked to test range with jabs and leg kicks but appeared tentative to commit to power shots. “Moicano” seized control midway through the first round, as he pumped a stiff jab into Swanson’s face and planted him on the canvas. Carneiro swarmed with hammerfists before achieving full mount, moving to the back and hunting the rear-naked choke. Before long, the Brazilian’s arms were in place and Swanson had no choice but to tap out.
“Moicana” remained humble in victory, as he took the time to bow graciously to Swanson. The 29-year-old has rattled off back-to-back wins since suffering the only setback of his career -- a July 2017 submission loss to the unbeaten Brian Ortega.
J.J. Aldrich and Polyana Viana Mota fought to a decision in their featured women’s strawweight clash. Aldrich took a unanimous decision, handing Mota her first loss in the UFC. Aldrich used excellent distance control and striking to keep the fight on the feet and outpoint Viana over three rounds … Thiago Santos defeated Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series alum Kevin Holland via unanimous decision in a middleweight feature. Santos controlled the majority of the fight with his grappling prowess, planting Holland on the canvas multiple times over three rounds, all while applying heavy ground-and-pound … Pedro Munhoz bested Brett Johns via unanimous decision in a featured bantamweight prelim. The shining moment in the fight came for Munhoz in the second round, where he drove Johns to the mat with a crushing liver shot that had the Welshman turtled and eating shots. Munhoz opted to shoot for a guillotine attempt instead of looking to pound out his opponent. Johns escaped and fought on but fell short on the scorecards … Ricky Simon topped short-notice replacement opponent Montel Jackson via unanimous decision on the undercard. Simon pushed a heavy pace on Jackson that made it difficult to keep up, as he mixed striking and grappling seamlessly, kept Jackson guessing throughout and rendered him unable to get into any sort of groove.