Cody Garbrandt finds himself on a quest to reclaim what was once his.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight titleholder will try to check off the next box in his reclamation project to-do list when he confronts Rob Font in the UFC Fight Night 188 main event on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Garbrandt owns a 7-3 record in 10 appearances inside the Octagon and held the 135-pound championship from Dec. 30, 2016 to Nov. 4, 2017. He has delivered 10 of his 12 career victories by knockout or technical knockout, seven of them inside one round.
As Garbrandt prepares for his high-stakes showdown with Font, a look at five of the moments that have come to define him:
1. Proving Ground
An unbeaten and unproven prospect at the time, Garbrandt made his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut and dispatched Marcus Brimage with punches in the third round of their featured UFC 182 prelim on Jan. 3, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The Octagon rookie drew the curtain 4:50 into Round 3, scoring the third-latest knockout in the history of the UFC bantamweight division. Brimage connected on occasion but lacked the oomph necessary to give the promising Octagon rookie real pause. Garbrandt picked his shots, countered effectively and had the American Top Team rep reeling at the end of Round 1. In the closing seconds of the third round, he went to work again. Garbrandt floored a desperate and overzealous Brimage with a clean right hook, swarmed with punches and backed him towards the cage once he returned to his feet. A final salvo, capped by a right hook-left hook combination, sent Brimage to the mat again and forced referee Herb Dean to act.
2. Spreading His Wings
Garbrandt graduated from prospect to contender in a little more than three minutes, as he cut down Thomas Almeida with punches in the first round of their UFC Fight Night 88 headliner on May 29, 2016 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Almeida, who entered the cage with a perfect 21-0 record, bowed out 2:53 into Round 1. Speed was the difference. Garbrandt routinely beat the Brazilian to the punch, forcing him to take more of a defensive approach. He rattled Almeida with a left hook, swarmed with follow-up shots and then reset before launching his next assault. Later, Garbrandt backed him to the fence with punches, dropped him with a right hook and mopped up what was left with punches and hammerfists.
3. Code Breaker
“No Love” cracked the Dominick Cruz code, as he captured the bantamweight championship with a five-round unanimous decision in the UFC 207 co-main event on Dec. 30, 2016 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Garbrandt swept the scorecards with 48-46, 48-47 and 48-46 nods from the judges. Cruz could not cope with the challenger’s speed, power and precision. Garbrandt attacked the legs early on and then went headhunting. He opened a horrendous gash on Cruz’s left eyebrow in the third round and floored him twice in the fourth, first with a clean right hook and later with a left. Needing a finish, Cruz spent the final five minutes trying to chase down the Uhrichsville, Ohio, native. His pursuit appeared to win him the round but failed to net the desired result. The loss was Cruz’s first since March 24, 2007 and closed the book on his 13-fight winning streak.
4. A Nemesis Emerges
T.J. Dillashaw took out his former Team Alpha Male stablemate with second-round punches in the UFC 217 co-headliner, becoming the undisputed bantamweight champion for a second time on Nov. 4, 2017 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Dillashaw finished it 2:41 into Round 2. Garbrandt had the Elevation Fight Team standout in real trouble near the end of the first round, where he knocked down Dillashaw with a clean right hook and swarmed with follow-up punches until the horn sounded. The challenger retreated to his corner on unsteady footing but came out for Round 2 with a renewed sense of purpose. Dillashaw sat down an off-balance Garbrandt with a head kick, allowed him to rise to his feet and got back to work. A blinding exchange ensued, and Dillashaw found the mark with a right hook. Garbrandt collapsed to the canvas, where he was met with a volley of unanswered blows that closed the deal. They met for a second time nine months later atop UFC 227. There, Dillashaw felled Garbrandt with a knee and follow-up punches 4:10 into the first round.
5. Buzzer Beater
Garbrandt recorded his first win in 1,254 days and did so in utterly spectacular fashion, as he knocked out Raphael Assuncao with a sweeping right hook in the second round of their UFC 250 co-feature on June 6, 2020 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Assuncao melted into the canvas 4:59 into Round 2, the concussive blow landing as the buzzer sounded. Garbrandt kept the respected Brazilian at bay with damaging leg kicks and lightning-quick hands. “No Love” drifted to the fence late in the middle stanza, changed levels and decked Assuncao to close the book on a three-fight losing streak.
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