By Raphael Garcia
So far, the headlines after UFC 207 have tended to focus on Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey, but there’s another storyline that deserves attention: the coming-out party for Cody Garbrandt. Not only did the Team Alpha Male fighter become the first man to defeat Dominick Cruz in nearly ten years; he also let everyone know that he’s a champion that can become a big star for the UFC. In 25 minutes of action he displayed technical skill that few recognized before this fight, but the moments after that are equally as special.
In the lead-up to this fight, Garbrandt seemed like he was out of place. He was flustered during live interviews and unable to keep up with Cruz’s verbal attacks. However, he didn’t seem out of place when the Octagon door closed on Friday night. For five rounds Garbrandt made Cruz do something that was never forced to do up to this point: chase. As Cruz continued to pursue, Garbrandt remained a step ahead of him, not biting on the champion’s feints and movement on the outside. Instead, he waited patiently to counter, time after time, rocking and dropping Cruz later in the fight. In the end, this was a performance that many were not expecting to see from the knockout artist that had stopped 9 of his 11 wins via finish.
There’s a saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” That phrase works well when describing Cody Garbrandt at this point in his career. The multiple tattoos and visible frustration during pre-fight interviews do not mean it’s impossible for him to become a fighter that fans can get behind. Garbrandt has already shown his ability in the cage, and his developing likability outside of it could be the key to becoming a star.