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I just got home after a great holiday weekend and had the pleasure of sitting down to watch Cody Garbrandt’s curb-stomping of top Brazilian prospect Thomas Almeida on the big screen. I have to say, it was just as brilliant the second time around.
It was a career-defining performance for the unbeaten Ohio native, who hung the first “L” on Almeida’s previously untarnished ledger in emphatic fashion. Let’s just hope enough people tuned in or can find the replay, because that knockout was a beauty.
That raises the question about having a couple relatively unknown bantamweights headlining a card on Sunday night of a holiday weekend. I can’t help but wonder what a fight like that would have done for Garbrandt had it been the co-main on a bigger card. Don’t get me wrong: he’s gotten a tremendous push inside the MMA bubble. I just wonder if an opportunity was lost to expose this young terror of a fighter to as many casual fans as possible.
I’m guessing he’s going to be fighting before a much bigger audience and under a brighter spotlight from here on out, so long as he keeps putting on performances like Sunday’s.
Going into Sunday, Almeida was the favored fighter, looking to knock down the door to the bantamweight top five, while Garbrandt was the lesser known of the two. “No Love” threw that notion out the window in just under three minutes. I imagine Garbrandt will find himself in the top 10 as soon as the UFC rankings are updated. He may well find himself near the top of the Sept. 10 pay-per-view card in Cleveland, a card headlined by fellow Ohioan and newly minted heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic.
I was a tad bit critical of Garbrandt and Almeida as headliners for a UFC show, but at least they weren’t relegated to the UFC Fight Pass prelims like the other 135-pound contenders on Sunday’s card. Brian Caraway, who is likely a rung or two ahead of Garbrandt on the divisional ladder, had his upset win over highly touted Aljamain Sterling digitally buried under five hours of Fox Sports 1 programming. Caraway overcame a rough first round -- one that very well could have been scored 10-8 -- and battled back to take the final two frames to tally a unanimous decision that should have him in the title conversation.
That discussion will probably start out with Caraway being mentioned as one part of a title eliminator, because I’d guess the winner of T.J. Dillashaw and Raphael Assuncao is going to get the next crack at Dominck Cruz. Yeah, I know, Cruz has to still beat Urijah Faber, and yeah, I’m completely taking that for granted.
I wonder what UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby thinks about a potential Garbrandt-Caraway scrap for a crack at the belt. It makes a ton of sense to me: they’re the two best 135-pounders without a scheduled fight at the moment. The only problem is if Shelby doesn’t want to burn one of them.
They’re both going to have to fight, so why not see who really deserves that early-2017 title shot? Bantamweight doesn’t have the deepest roster, but we all love the “sink or swim” approach when there are two clear-cut contenders looking to stake their claim.
The worst-case scenario is Caraway sends the young and talented Garbrandt to the back of the line. If that happens, Garbrandt will have more time to develop and will undoubtedly come back even stronger. In the best case, you get a young, charismatic fighter with even more seasoning, ready to challenge for a title. The fire can only help steel the youngster for even tougher battles that lay ahead. It truly is a win-win situation for the division.
Either way, the promotion has to be licking its chops at the prospect of Garbrandt getting in front of the cameras over the next couple months. He seems like he may have that “it” factor. His fighting style definitely possesses the combination of violence and “don’t give a f---edness” that seems to put MMA fans into a lather.
Could we be witnessing the birth of another potential headliner? A real headliner, one that can put asses in the seats and stimulate television viewers to push the buy button. Though he’s not there yet, he has a good shot to find his way into that group if he can mature on the microphone while continuing to bag up his opponents.
Sherdog.com Executive Editor Greg Savage can be reached by email or Twitter @TheSavageTruth. If you would like to have your question or comment answered in the weekly Postal Connections mailbag, please submit them by Wednesday evening each week.