Cody Garbrandt stated after defeating Dominick Cruz to win the UFC bantamweight title belt that he wrote down a goal to win that belt by 2016 and within hours of 2016 saying 'later bo' Garbrandt had achieved his mission. There was an air of something special going down in Las Vegas at UFC 207 and with his little homie Maddux who had beat cancer, by Garbrandt was part of a trio of performances that perfectly reflected a year in the UFC.
The way in which Garbrandt dispatched the funky movement and mind games of Cruz was the work of a master, which when aligned with TJ Dillashaw's victory in similar fashion over John Lineker sets up the bantamweight division for an epic 2017. Dillashaw and Garbrandt couldn't get the finish with both their fights going the distance (five rounds for Garbrandt, three for Dillashaw) but the control they displayed over their opponents didn't allow for Cruz and Lineker much hope.
Garbrandt used his boxing nous to keep Cruz moving towards him, ignoring Cruz's faints and fakes, pouncing on Cruz as Cruz missed Garbrandt with punches. The bobbin' and weavin' of Garbrandt ensured that Cruz missed him plenty and this gave Garbrandt many opportunities to take the piss out of Cruz; whether he was busting a move when Cruz missed or allow Cruz to get back up and ignoring an opportunity to mount Cruz, Grabrandt's skill meant he had ample chance to play up to the crowd.
Cruz and Lineker did have something in common as they showed off incredible chins, absorbing heavy shots without much impact on their performance. This was far more evident in Lineker as Dillashaw had him troubled with his movement and striking (which resembles that of Cruz), however Dillashaw was emphatic with his takedowns and there were moments in that fight when Dillashaw was on top of Lineker, landing clear punches and elbows with Lineker appearing to ask for more. Garbrandt caught Cruz with shot after shot as well, yet Cruz got back up and kept on coming.
The funk here sits in the departure of Dillashaw from Garbrandt's Team Alpha Male, headed by the now retired Uriah Faber. Dillashaw left Alpha Male and Garbrandt quickly became the alpha dawg of the team in the octagon, which sets up a cheeky rivalry at the top of the bantamweight division. Cruz will stick around and add to that as he's now got history with both Garbrandt and Dillashaw; you've got to imagine that with Dillashaw winning against top-ranked fighters, he'll get the first title shot and Cruz will be next up.
Brutally dismantled, Cruz and Lineker played their part in making these fights rather epic as they went the distance. Cruz also showed class in defeat, similar to how Conor McGregor accepted defeated against Nate Diaz earlier in the year which can only be viewed as admirable, especially when put up against how Ronda Rousey has dealt with back to back defeats.
Rousey was kinda terrible against Amanda Nunes and didn't stick around to talk through it with anyone after the fight, unlike Cruz. Nunes is a heavy-hitter and Rousey invited an immense tirade of punches, not bothering to move her head, nor did she implement any sort of footwork to combat Nunes. This was a complete, utter domination at the hands of the Lioness.
We can now respectfully move past Rousey and embrace the new star of the women's bantamweight division in Nunes. There's all sorts of striking wizardry in Nunes' work and as she showed against Rousey as well as in previous victories; if Nunes clips you with a punch or two in the opening exchanges, you're going to struggle.
This wasn't just an ambush though, there was craft in the way that Nunes avoided the clinch of Rousey and slid to the side to line up the perfect shot. Rousey's only hope against such a striker was to close the distance, get her hips up against Nunes' hips and then let her judo do the talking. Instead, Rousey sat within arm's reach and when she attempted to throw a jab at Nunes, Nunes either followed with a jab at a closer range or she would angle to the side and throw punches inside Rousey's jab.
Nunes was very quick to highlight that Rousey and her coach Edmond Tarvedyan had made a mistake in hyping up Rousey's striking ability, which obviously wasn't close to being good enough against a premier striker in Nunes. It wasn't just that Rosey lacks the power of Nunes, her movement in evading strikes and setting up strikes with clinical footwork didn't resemble that of a UFC champion.
Mainstream media will drum up noise about Rousey's probable departure from the UFC, or at least the upper echelon of women's MMA in having a negative impact on the UFC. Rousey has been a bank-able star and while her role in building women's MMA is unquestioned, in Nunes, the UFC has its first openly gay champion and someone who has the personality to match a highly entertaining fighting style.
The quality of an individual is often visible in the position they leave their team, or organisation (UFC). What Rousey has done for the UFC is there in front of us with Nunes and two UFC women's divisions, although Nunes has blasted past Rousey's level of MMA, that Nunes can fight with such freedom and earn pay-per-view cash is testimony to what Rousey has done in her career.
Now it's the time of the Lioness and if that means more of what Nunes has shown in her career, I'll be tuning in.