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UFC 227: Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 - Winners and Losers

In a great night of fights, it wasn’t enough for TJ Dillashaw to dispel of longtime rival Cody Garbrandt in the first round for the bantamweight title. So who was the biggest winner of UFC 227?

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On paper, UFC 227 was a very top-heavy card. There’s no doubt the top of the card was the best. However, the rest of the card pulled far more weight than anyone expected them to. In fact, several losers on the card walked away with improved stock than when they walked into UFC 227. Of course, the biggest story of the night was the end of the long running reign of Demetrious Johnson at the hands of former Olympic gold medal wrestler Henry Cejudo. That was the only thing that could possibly overshadow the end to the long-running TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt feud… if it is indeed ended. Regardless, the UFC has to be ecstatic about how well the card played out. Does that mean they walked out a winner? I don’t know for sure, but it’s an easier call to say some of those who did walk out that way.

Winners

TJ Dillashaw: You’ve got to have a lot of confidence in your chin if you’re willing to stand in the pocket with Garbrandt, a notorious heavy hitter. Dillashaw did take a couple of bombs, but he also landed a few of his own and Garbrandt responded much worse to the heavy artillery than Dillashaw. With the victory, Dillashaw has a strong case to be the most dominant bantamweight in the history of the sport. Hell, it could be argued that he hasn’t definitively lost a fight since he was KO’d by John Dodson all the way back in 2011. I suppose the mantel of best bantamweight would be contested with Dominick Cruz who took the title from Dillashaw in 2016, though many – myself included – believe Dillashaw was the rightful winner. Whether you believe Dillashaw is the greatest bantamweight, just being in that conversation is a great accomplishment.

Henry Cejudo: Was there any doubt Cejudo would land here? It isn’t everyday you snap the longest streak of consecutive title defenses. Regardless of whether you believe Cejudo won that fight, he deserves mad props for his performance against the most dominant champion in UFC history for simply making it a competitive contest. If you remember Cejudo’s loss to Johnson in their first contest, it makes it that much more impressive. I’m anxious to see the trilogy play out.

Demetrious Johnson: If you want an example of how to lose your title in a graceful manner, look no further than Mighty Mouse. First of all, Johnson has a very strong case that he won that fight. Secondly, Johnson was all class when the decision was announced, calmly applauding Cejudo’s victory. When interviewed by Joe Rogan, rather than boldly demand a rematch for the title or beat his chest and declare he deserved the victory, Johnson spoke of how he was going to go home and prepare for his third child with his wife. Here’s hoping he won’t have to make a case for an immediate rematch. After 11 consecutive title defenses, I’d say he’s earned it.

Renato Moicano: People would have been impressed had Moicano beat Swanson via decision. Instead, he floored the action fighting veteran with a jab – a jab!? – to spell the beginning of the end for Swanson. Moicano’s proceeded to dominate a rocked Swanson on the ground before finding the RNC. I knew it beforehand, but now everyone else knows too: Moicano is legit.

JJ Aldrich: I’ll admit her fight with Polyana Viana was boring as hell, but Aldrich deserves props. Many thought she was a strong candidate to wash out of the UFC when she first came aboard, myself included. Instead, after dropping her first UFC contest, she has now won three in a row. Her fight with Viana may not have been enjoyable, but Aldrich has done more than many thought she would do.

Thiago Santos and Kevin Holland: Very little was known about Holland prior to this contest as his performance on the Contender Series wasn’t very memorable. He made a hell of an impression on the UFC audience with his gutsy showing against a hard hitter in Santos. Santos did everything in his power to put away the talkative youngster, but Holland wouldn’t go away. It resulted in a fun and quirky contest that raised the stock of Holland and put Santos back on the winning track. Good result for both fighters.

Pedro Munhoz and Brett Johns: Fans love nothing more than two fighters willing to stand in the middle of the cage and throwdown. Munhoz and Johns did just that. It was a one-sided contest with Munhoz emerging the victor, but Johns’ grit and toughness may have done more to win fans over than Munhoz’s domination. Regardless, much like the contest between Santos and Holland, mad respect for both fighters for their performance.

Sheymon Moraes: Less because Moraes performance was brilliance and more to make a statement: Moraes deserved the win despite what Joe Rogan said. Matt Sayles made a nice comeback in the final round, but it was too little, too late. Moraes was the deserved winner… period!

Alex Perez: There isn’t a flyweight prospect that snuck up on the MMA media more than Perez. A year ago, he was a ho-hum prospect who made his way into the organization through the Contender Series. Now, he’s secured two finishes in three appearances after dispatching Jose Torres.. Some may say he’s fought lower level competition, which is fair. However, it’s should be noted he fights at flyweight, a division not noted for finishing fighters. Against Torres, Perez landed over 100 significant strikes… within a single round. Yeah, it’s safe to say he’s for real.

Marlon Vera: While it was hardly a flawless performance from Vera, he woke up in the second round to start piecing up his opponent, Wuliji Buren. However, it was the brutal body shot that crumpled his opponent to give Vera the victory. Given Vera took the fight on short notice, it only makes it that much sweeter.

China: Does anyone remember TUF China? A yoga instructor without any fighting experience made his way onto the initial cast. That was about five years ago. Now, China is sending over legit prospects with regularity, Weili Zhang – who won against Danielle Taylor -- and Buren providing the example on this card. Plus, they’ve also sent Xiaonan Yan, Wu Yanan, Pingyuan Liu, Guan Wang, and Song Yadong are further examples. They may not have a title contender amongst those names, but they’re started to send some real talents now.

Brazil: Perhaps not as obvious given their history, but Brazil had a pretty damn good night, walking out of the event with a 5-1 record, the lone blemish being Viana. Combine that with Jose Aldo’s comeback from last week, I’d say Brazil has bounced back quite well after a rough stretch that left the country with a solitary champion in Amanda Nunes.

Losers

Cody Garbrandt: After his win over Cruz at the end of 2016, it looked like Garbrandt would be a long-reigning champion. After all, he was only 25 and had styled on Cruz. Since then, Garbrandt has been KO’d twice by Dillashaw, the second time being a gift-wrapped opportunity to regain the title. He couldn’t have asked for more from Uncle Dana and couldn’t make good on it. Now, so long as Dillashaw is champion, Garbrandt is highly unlikely to ever receive another title shot. Ouch. It’ll be very interesting to see what role he’ll have during Dillashaw’s reign.

Cub Swanson: Swanson has been losing to the cream of the crop of featherweight in Brian Ortega, Frankie Edgar, and Renato Moicano, but the bottom line is Swanson has lost three fights in a row. It’s fair to question whether Swanson is a top five featherweight anymore. Even worse: Swanson was finished in the first round in front of his friends and family.

Polyana Viana: Most people didn’t know who she was heading into her main card contest with Aldrich. Hell, most people still don’t know who she is. Or at least they wish she didn’t. Viana’s janky striking didn’t translate well over the course of three rounds and she gassed long before the fight was over. Not an inspiring performance for the Brazilian.

Matt Sayles: I know I’ve already mentioned Rogan’s bias towards Sayles – no doubt based on Rogan’s association with Dominick Cruz, Sayles’ teammate – but it doesn’t do Sayles any favors. If fans feel a fighter is getting an undeserved push, they’ll turn on said fighter. Just ask Sage Northcutt. Given it isn’t Sayles’ fault, here’s hoping he doesn’t get any backlash. Given his lower slot on the card, I doubt he does… but you never know.

Jose Torres: As admirable as it was for Torres to endure as much punishment as he did in such a short amount of time, he still endured an incredible amount of punishment in a short time window. The community favorite hasn’t lived up to the heavy expectations placed upon him thus far. Though he’s young enough he can still turn things around, Torres needs to change things up in a hurry.

Danielle Taylor: A lack of urgency has been a common theme in Taylor’s fights. It’s been bad enough that she very easily could have been 0-4 as the judges saw something else than most other observers in the two wins Taylor picked up. You’d think something might change going into her fight with those issues. Nope. Despite being outpaced at a 2-to-1 clip, Taylor never started pushing the action and dropped another fight.

Jussier Formiga: After being used as a final stepping stone to get a crack at the belt, he looked like he was closer than ever to finally receiving that shot. Instead, Cejudo – someone Formiga already lost to -- ends up taking the belt. Yeah… it’s safe to say Formiga isn’t ever going to get that crack.

Team Alpha Male: I don’t have an issue with Urijah Faber and the gang, but Garbrandt’s loss backs up what Dillashaw has been saying all along: sometimes a fighter has to move somewhere else to get over the hump. Is it possible their relationship with Dillashaw thaws now that the rivalry with Garbrandt is over? I wouldn’t count on it.

Neither

Ricky Simon: The lone member in the category this week, I don’t want to be ripping on Simon’s performance as he dominated Montel Jackson with wrestling, but never has style been more favored over substance than in today’s UFC. He made an effort to secure some highlights with slams, but Jackson’s resilience made it difficult to make the impact he was going for. Here’s hoping the UFC doesn’t hold it against him.