Cody Garbrandt amazed MMA fans during UFC 207 when he upset Dominick Cruz for the UFC bantamweight title.
Garbrandt used Cruz’ own game against him, exhibiting slick footwork, striking, and showboating to defeat the ‘Domin8tr’. This fight was more than just a rivalry between two men; it was a victory for Garbrandt’s camp, Team Alpha Male, who rivaled with Cruz for years.
The bantamweight division belonged to Cruz in the past. Many of the contenders in the division trained with Team Alpha Male, Uriah Faber’s team. After his WEC debut, a rivalry formed between Faber and Cruz. Cruz submitted to Uriah Faber (the single loss of Cruz’s career until Garbrandt), only to beat Faber’s teammate, Joseph Benavidez, twice and eventually avenge his loss to Faber in his UFC debut. Cruz mocked the gym and called them, ‘Team Alpha Fail’.
He was planning to rematch Faber until he was injured in 2012, sidelining Cruz until 2014, only to injure his ACL again. However, Cruz rebounded in 2016 to reclaim his division, defeating former Team Alpha Male member, TJ Dillashaw, and prevailing against Faber once more. Cruz losing to Garbrandt was exactly what the team needed to gain the last laugh.
TJ Dillashaw is embroiled in this controversy after abandoning Faber’s team in order to train with Duane Ludwig. Faber discovered Dillashaw in high-school and had been mentoring him ever since. Recently, ill words have been exchanged between Dillashaw and his former mentors at Team Alpha Male. Although we could see an immediate rematch between the current champion and Cruz, a fight between Dillashaw and Garbrandt seems more plausible, especially now that Garbrandt is the new blood of Team Alpha Male.
In the past, former champions have received immediate rematches but, the method Garbrandt used to trounce Cruz may lead to another path for the former champion. Cruz will need to fight either Jimmie Rivera or Bryan Caraway before another title shot.
Rivera has only one loss in his pro MMA career, and is ascending to the top of the division with momentum, after defeating Faber in September of 2016. Caraway fought once last year, defeating Aljamain Sterling in May. Cruz fighting Rivera is the best decision; Rivera has the more impressive UFC record and has been a more active fighter when compared to Caraway, whose only fight last year was a split-decision win against Sterling. Rivera also seems like the only other person in the division who has the potential to fight with the elite bantamweight warriors. Cruz will become a top contender once again if he is able to defeat either of these two men.
Cruz and Garbrandt may happen regardless of whether Dillashaw wins or loses. Although more money would be made if the rematch was for a championship, Cruz vs. Garbrandt II is still a fight people will want to see.