The rematch between T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt was expected to be competitive due to their bitter rivalry and the back-and-forth action their first fight produced.
It was far from that. Dillashaw made short work of his nemesis, stopping Garbrandt with a massive right hand and finishing him off with a devastating knee at 4:10 of their main event showdown at UFC 227. After having his hand raised in victory, Dillashaw made it clear that he is deserving of a seat at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings.
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It’s an interesting conversation to be had even though it may initially sound farfetched.
Dillashaw currently sits at #6 on the UFC’s official list, behind Georges St-Pierre, Max Holloway, Conor McGregor, Demetrious Johnson and Daniel Cormier. Johnson’s loss to Henry Cejudo in the co-main event immediately drops him behind Dillashaw, so that leaves four people ahead of him.
Georges St-Pierre’s inactivity, despite winning the middleweight title last November, should also force him behind Dillashaw. St-Pierre has fought once since November of 2013 while Dillashaw has fought nine times.
Ahead of St-Pierre is Max Holloway, who has a very legitimate claim to be ahead of Dillashaw. Holloway hasn’t lost in five years, with his last defeat coming at the hands of Conor McGregor at a UFC Fight Night event in 2013. Since then, Holloway has plowed through the featherweight division, eventually becoming the champion after McGregor was forced to vacate the title. His back to back knockout victories over Jose Aldo serve as the highlight of an impressive resume.
On the surface, it sounds like a no-brainer to keep Holloway ahead of Dillashaw. However, Dillashaw’s resume is just as impressive as Holloway’s. For one, Dillashaw also has a pair of knockout victories over a former top pound for pound fighter in Renan Barao. The difference between Holloway’s victories over Aldo and Dillashaw’s wins over Barao is that Dillashaw got his hands on Barao before he was considered damaged goods.
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An argument can be made that Aldo hasn’t been the same since Conor McGregor stopped him in 13 seconds and all the fragments left of Aldo’s legendary career simply needed to be swept away by an exceptional talent. Dillashaw didn’t have that luxury. When Dillashaw and Barao met at UFC 173 in 2014, Dillashaw was a massive underdog — closing at +710 — against the then-number three pound for pound fighter in the world.
Dillashaw dominated and knocked out Barao in what can be argued as one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. Since then, Dillashaw has only lost a pair of razor-thin decisions to Dominick Cruz and Raphael Assuncao, the latter he avenged with a unanimous decision victory at UFC 200. There’s a legitimate argument that Dillashaw’s wins carry more weight than Holloway’s.
Ahead of Holloway is Conor McGregor, who was the first UFC fighter to hold two world titles simultaneously. The issue with McGregor’s run is inactivity. It will be just shy of two years when he steps into the Octagon to face Khabib Nurmagomedov on Oct. 6. It’s nearly impossible to take away the Irishman’s 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo. But he did lose to Nate Diaz the first time they fought. Although the weight was certainly an issue, the fact of the matter is that McGregor lost to an opponent who wasn’t even ranked in the top five. Knocking out then-lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez isn’t quite as impressive, considering that Dillashaw has continued to take out the best fighters available. More than anything else, Dillashaw has been active while McGregor was cashing out against Floyd Mayweather.
Sitting at the top of the list is Daniel Cormier, who became the second fighter to hold world two world titles simultaneously when he knocked out Stipe Miocic. Cormier’s résumé is very difficult to punch holes in because he’s undefeated as a heavyweight, stayed active and has defeated everybody not named Jon Jones.
But how much does losing to Jon Jones hurt? It wasn’t as if Cormier had a narrow decision against Jones the first time they fought. Jones was relatively dominant in that fight. The rematch — although it was officially ruled a No Decision due to Jones’ failed drug test — saw Cormier get knocked out for the first time in his career. If it weren’t for Jon Jones’ outside of the Octagon transgressions, would Cormier even have the opportunity to be a two-division champion?
Dillashaw hasn’t been dominated since being knocked out by John Dodson in The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale in 2011. Since then, he’s gone 12-2, with his two losses hotly contested split decisions. His back-to-back knockouts of Cody Garbrandt, who dominated Dominick Cruz en route to gaining the title, further punctuates the brilliance of Dillashaw.
When it’s all broken down, Dillashaw as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds. He’s only gotten better over the years and may not have reached his peak just yet. Whether the rest of the world agrees or not, there is validity in Dillashaw’s claims as the best in the world.