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UFC 217 fight card primer: Cody Garbrandt vs. TJ Dillashaw

UFC 217 sees a world title grudge match when TJ Dillashaw faces former teammate Cody Garbrandt.

Dillashaw, Garbrandt, ufc 217 Esther Lin

UFC 217 is back in Madison Square Garden, and for the big return, the UFC is presenting three world title fights, including a Bantamweight clash between champion Cody Garbrandt (11-0 MMA; 6-0 UFC) and former champion T.J. Dillashaw (14-3 MMA; 10-3 UFC). The UFC rankings have Dillashaw as the division’s #2 contender, with the champ at #6 on the pound for pound list. UFC 217: Bisping vs. St. Pierre airs live from MSG this Saturday night, November 4. The main card airs on PPV with a fight time of 10:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. PT, with the prelims starting at 8:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 and 7:00 p.m. ET on Fight Pass.

This is a world title fight between an unbeaten champion and a former champion looking to reclaim the belt he somewhat controversially lost. That alone is enough reason to watch. But what really sells this fight is the very legitimate animosity between the two men. The former Team Alpha Male teammates had a serious falling out when Dillashaw either was kicked off the team, or chose to leave, depending on whose side of the story you want to listen to. Garbrandt and his TAM crew took serious offense and now, after more than a year of verbal conflict, they finally make it physical.

How do these two stack up?

Garbrandt: 26 years old | 5’7" | 65" reach
Dillashaw: 31 years old | 5’6" | 67" reach

What have these two done recently?

Garbrandt: W - Dominick Cruz (UD) | W - Takeya Mizugaki (KO) | W - Thomas Almeida (KO)
Dillashaw: W - John Lineker (UD) | W - Raphael Assuncao (UD) | L - Dominick Cruz (SD)

How did these two get here?

One year ago, Garbrandt was a much hyped undefeated prospect heading into his first world title fight. But he was also seen by many as somewhat one dimensional - a great headhunting KO artist, but still a headhunting KO artist. In that title win over Cruz, he showed the depth of his game with great defense, excellent and well-timed takedowns, and the kind of overall game that makes him so much more than we knew him to be. He completely tooled Cruz in a way very few expected. He’s coached TUF opposite Dillashaw since, and an injury has kept him sidelined until now.

TJ Dillashaw became an unlikely world champion when he upset Renan Barao in 2014. He had two title defenses, then lost a close and mildly controversial decision to Cruz in January 2016. Now working exclusively with former Alpha Male head coach Duane Bang Ludwig, Dillashaw is 2-0 since the title loss, looking every bit the champion he was. Like Garbrandt, he has excellent movement and wrestling skills he can draw on if needed. What he doesn’t have is the kind of one punch KO power we see in the champion.

Why should you care?

This is my pick for fight of the night. Two superb technicians who just hate each other. It’s going to be bananas.