August 25, 2016

UFC 202: Dominick Cruz vs. Cody Garbrandt Creates Immediate Intrigue In the Bantamweight Division

By Raphael Garcia

When the question comes up about the MMA divisions with the most depth, the men’s bantamweight division isn’t the first to come to mind. Dominick Cruz continues to prove that he’s the stalwart ruler of the weight class, and he’s looking for a compelling challenge. Right now, that man seems to be Cody Garbrandt. As fans get excited about that potential matchup, the question turns to whether or not Garbrandt’s truly the man to rise to that occasion.

In 48 seconds at UFC 202, Garbrandt blasted Takeya Mizugaki and finished the fight without breaking a sweat. With his fifth-straight UFC win, Garbrandt pushed his career to a perfect 10-0 and stepped into the spotlight as the man that should get the next shot at the 135-pound title.

His resume screams spectacular. In four years of professional experience, Garbrandt has only been pushed outside of the first round three times. His ability to shut his opponent’s lights out has transitioned well, as four of those five wins have come by a form of knockout stoppage. His win over Mizugaki at UFC 202 was even more astounding than the way he put Thomas Almeida out less than two months ago at UFC Fight Night 88. Garbrandt is ready for the moment, but that brings to light the fact that he’s facing a star in Cruz – a man who’s nothing like anything he’s competed against at this time.

What makes Cruz so special is that his elusive style makes him a hard target to touch. It’s true that Garbrandt has fight-stopping power in nearly every shot that he throws, but we’ve yet to see if he has the technicality needed to land shots on someone like Cruz. While MMA stats are always questioned, it is worth noting that according to FightMetric, Cruz has a 75 percent striking defense rating, proving that he has the ability to make his opponents miss. Garbrandt has the power to end the night at a moment’s notice, but the question is whether he will be able to find Cruz for long enough to deliver the blow.

In five UFC fights, the youthful Garbrandt has proven to possess the personality that’s attractive to mainstream fans coupled with the fight ability that hardcore fans crave. However, he’s still a far ways off from earning the opportunity to be the next name that should be put in front of the dominant Cruz. That doesn’t mean this fight won’t be made, however, as rankings and exposure consistently trump rankings. That said, in this instance, there shouldn’t be much outrage, as Garbrandt brings enough backstory and intrigue to make this fight work, regardless of whether he “deserves” the shot.

UFC 202
Cody Garbrandt vs. Takeya Mizugaki: Cody Garbrandt def. Takeya Mizugaki via TKO (punches) at 0:48 of Round 1.

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UFC 202: Diaz vs. McGregor 2 took place on August 20, 2016 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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