MMA Review: #653: UFC 227: Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt II

-The UFC’s big August show was headlined by two rematches for UFC titles – and while nobody was really clamouring for Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo II or TJ Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt II, at least the latter one had a nasty rivalry behind it – making this look like a watchable show going in.

UFC 227: Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt II

Los Angeles, California

-Your hosts are Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier.

Middleweight Fight: Thiago Santos vs Kevin Holland

This was a late addition to the card after Alexander Gustafsson’s potential fight fell apart, but I’m always happy to see a Santos fight as the dude is always exciting. Holland had come from Dana White’s Contender Series where he’d beaten Will Santiago, but I couldn’t see him having success against a dude like Marreta – especially not on short notice.

First round begins and both men come out throwing kicks. Jumping left kick lands hard for Santos but Holland takes the shot well. Takedown attempt follows and Holland goes for a flying oma plata, but it goes wrong and Santos ends up on top in guard. Elbows from Santos but Holland slaps on an armbar and it looks tight. Marreta manages to survive though and then OPENS UP with some bombs from the top that have Holland covering up. More vicious shots land for Santos but Holland’s doing a good job of absorbing this punishment. Santos stands up over him and Holland tries some upkicks, but Santos drops back down to nail him with more shots. Santos is crazy aggressive. More shots connect for Santos and this is looking totally one-sided. Holland gives his back for a second, but ends up in guard again and Santos continues to pound on him. Seconds to go and Santos lets him up, and surprisingly enough Holland swings wildly but doesn’t land. Low kick lands for Santos and he NAILS him with a pair of nasty body shots. Holland clinches to end the round. 10-8 round for Thiago Santos.

Second round and Santos opens with another hard body kick. Low blow lands for Santos to follow and the ref has to call time. They restart pretty quickly and Holland comes out swinging and tags Santos with a combo. Big left head kick answers for Santos and Holland drops his mouthpiece for some reason. Ref forces him to put it back in and Santos hits a takedown into half-guard. Full mount now for Santos and he tries to move Holland away from the fence and strangely enough you can hear Holland talking trash from the bottom. Escape from Holland puts him on his feet, where he eats some more kicks from Marreta. Brutal body kick hurts Holland and Santos looks to take him down again. He drags him down and starts to nail him from the back, but Holland stands and takes a knee and an elbow. Holland fires back and actually has Santos hurt for a second, but a clinch slows him down. Takedown attempt from Santos is reversed by Holland and he lands in side mount and begins to drop some elbows of his own! Did not expect that. Full mount attempt from Holland fails, but he’s still in top control. Santos reverses him for a second but that lets Holland go for a guillotine. He lets it go though and ends the round on top. Holland looks EXHAUSTED though as they stand up. 10-9 Santos.

Third round and the crowd are loving this fight. Kick to the body opens the round for Santos and he’s still swinging heavy leather. Head kick follows and he’s just potshotting Holland now. Cartwheel kick lands for Marreta! Holland clinches but gets tripped right down, and Santos lands on top in half-guard. He moves into side mount and pretty much takes the back from there before mounting him. Crowd strangely begin to boo as Santos works for a choke, but Holland bucks him off and then stays on the ground until the ref calls him up. Big combo from Marreta and holy shit Holland has an iron chin. He goes for a takedown but Santos stuffs it and looks for a front choke, but he gives it up to take the back. Full mount again for Santos and he lands some more big shots, while looking for a potential arm triangle. It looks like he might have it locked up, but he can’t quite get the correct angle and Holland manages to survive, and then sneaks free! Anaconda choke attempt follows for Santos but he gives that up to take the back with more punches. Holland is purely in survival mode now. Round ends with Santos on top. 10-9 Santos, 30-26 overall.

Official scores are 29-27, 29-27 and 29-26 for Thiago Santos. Not sure how Holland got a round there but I guess he finished the 2nd well. Really fun fight as Santos threw everything he had at the newcomer, but somehow Holland managed to survive and still had patches of offense, too. If he drops to a more natural 170lbs he could do well I think. As for Santos, he remains one of the most fun fighters to watch on the UFC roster, win or lose really.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: JJ Aldrich vs Polyana Viana

No idea how this one made the main card as there was a nice-sounding prelim between Brett Johns and Pedro Munhoz on FS1, but there you go. Aldrich had won her previous two UFC bouts but hadn’t really done anything to stand out, while Viana had debuted in December by choking out Maia Stevenson. I was taking Viana as that performance at least had been pretty impressive.

Round One and they circle with Aldrich pushing forward but Viana glancing on the early strikes. Clinch from Aldrich and Viana muscles her into the fence. Action slows down as they jockey for position and go down for a second before popping right back up. Literally nothing is happening in this clinch. Crowd begin to boo as they separate with about 1:45 remaining. Aldrich lands a decent right hand and that’s got Viana backing up. Couple of body kicks from Viana. Back to the clinch and they go right back into the fence, where Viana jumps on a guillotine attempt. She loses it and winds up on her back in guard, and the round peters out from there. 10-9 Viana for the better strikes.

Round Two and Aldrich tags Viana with a combination in the opening seconds. Viana’s hands are seriously low. Wild flurry glances for Viana as she rushes forward. Couple of counter shots land for Aldrich as Viana comes forward again and they clinch from there. Nothing happens inside the clinch and they break off, and Aldrich lands a clean right hand. Couple more counters land for Aldrich as Viana tries to swing at her. This is such a weird striking match in terms of technique as Viana is landing shots but leaning way back and all sorts. Exchange continues and this is so dull compared to the previous fight. Less than a minute to go and Viana hits a takedown and gets the back before settling into top control from full mount. Armbar attempt fails though and Aldrich gets on top instead. Round ends there. 10-9 Aldrich.

Round Three and Aldrich lands a clean right hand as Viana rushes forward. She tags the Brazilian a few more times too going backwards as Viana is just rushing in with her chin hanging out. Another big shot lands for Aldrich. She keeps on tagging Viana over and over but it just doesn’t seem like she’s got the striking power to finish her off. Guard pull from Viana changes things up but doesn’t really do her a lot of good as Aldrich seems content to chop away inside there. Aldrich decides to stand and tags her a couple more times, and Viana just has nothing on the feet now. Action peters out on the feet with Aldrich tagging her some more. 10-9 Aldrich, 29-28 Aldrich overall.

Judges have it 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27 for JJ Aldrich. That was unfortunately one of the worst televised fights of the year though as Aldrich tagged Viana so many times but couldn’t really hurt her, and Viana got nothing going on the ground. Pace was super-slow too. Hopefully neither girl appears on the main card of a PPV again in the near future although no offense, they shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Featherweight Fight: Renato Moicano vs Cub Swanson

After a really hot run that’d seen him win 5 of 6 UFC fights with the only loss to top contender Brian Ortega, this was Moicano’s first big shot at a legitimate top ranked opponent as Swanson, despite losing his last two fights, is always a dangerous guy to face. Personally I thought he was slightly past his best, though – and so I was taking Moicano to find a way to win.

Fight begins and Swanson opens with a couple of low kicks. Crowd are way into Swanson. Exchange continues and both men are landing with their early strikes albeit not heavily. Left hook lands pretty cleanly for Moicano. Jab lands for Moicano too and it looks like he’s beginning to outstrike the veteran. Swanson does land a couple of really good leg kicks though. Head kick glances for Moicano. Big combination lands for Cub and that’s got Moicano backing up a little. Flying knee glances for the Brazilian. Both of these guys just look super-calm in there. Suddenly a jab drops Swanson out of nowhere and he’s in trouble! Moicano pounces to look to finish, but Swanson gets back up. Big knee to the body lands for Moicano and he hits a takedown, right into mount. Swanson is in deep shit here. He tries desperately to reverse out but Moicano is just tooling him positionally here. He manages to get back to half-guard, but Moicano’s still all over him and Swanson gives his back. Rear naked choke looks sunk for Moicano and Swanson tries to fight it off but can’t, and taps out there.

Amazing performance from Renato Moicano. Dude might be the best Featherweight in the world behind Holloway and Ortega right now and I’d say he’s worth giving the next title shot to once that Holloway/Ortega fight is done. He just looked phenomenal here, dropping Swanson with a jab of all things and then finishing him off ruthlessly on the ground. Swanson should be back – I think he still beats lower opposition – but Moicano is a fucking killer, dude. This was unbelievable and saved the show after the last stinker.

UFC World Flyweight Title: Demetrious Johnson vs Henry Cejudo

After his last fight against Ray Borg saw him break the record for most UFC title defences, it looked like Johnson would be put into a Superfight for the Bantamweight title next, but instead the UFC decided to go with the Dillashaw/Garbrandt rematch and put Mighty Mouse against Cejudo in a rematch instead. Despite Cejudo clearly improving since that first fight – winning two of three and largely being robbed in the lone loss – I still thought DJ would take him out, largely because the first fight had been so one-sided.

First round begins and Johnson opens with a low leg kick after apparently dodging a glove touch. Lot of movement from both men early and a low kick appears to have Cejudo’s ankle rolled. He can barely stand up and he’s all over the place, but somehow he manages to shrug it off and keep moving. Crowd seem to be slightly in Cejudo’s favour. Body kick lands for Johnson. He keeps on moving around and then lands a head kick, but Cejudo takes it well. Big overhand left glances for DJ. Cejudo hasn’t really landed anything of note just yet. Nice kick to the body lands for Johnson. Cejudo is just finding it hard to get a handle on Mighty Mouse here. Head kick from Johnson is caught and Cejudo gets him down and then lands a quick flurry as he stands, but the champ quickly scoots out to avoid any more offense. Round ends shortly after. 10-9 Johnson.

Second round and they exchange kicks to begin with Johnson grabbing Cejudo’s leg and going for a takedown. Cejudo stuffs that and moves him into the fence, and they separate soon after. Good leg kick lands for Johnson. Couple of big hooks just about miss for the challenger as Johnson continues to bounce around and catch him with glancing blows. Couple of decent counter-hooks land for Cejudo as Johnson throws the low kick. Nice exchange sees both men land some shots. DJ’s leg kicks are looking great. Body kick lands for Johnson but Cejudo fires back with a good right hand. A takedown fails for the Olympic medallist though. 1:30 to go now and Cejudo manages to wrestle the champ to the ground and pass to half-guard. He doesn’t do a lot with the position but he’s keeping Mighty Mouse firmly grounded. Seconds to go and a scramble allows Johnson to go for his own single leg, but Cejudo remains in control and the round ends with him on top. 10-9 Johnson though as I’d say he did more until the takedown.

Third round and Johnson again works the leg kicks but he eats a right hand to the body early on. Johnson continues to press forward and Cejudo has to outright run away at one point. Nice low kick from DJ and he follows with a right, but Cejudo trips him down. Johnson pops right back up and gets caught in a front headlock, but he separates and forces the challenger into the fence. They exchange some knees inside and then break off, and a low kick and a nice left land for Johnson. DJ continues to pick at him from the outside with low kicks and step-in punches, and Cejudo just isn’t doing enough for me. Flurry does back Johnson up but he fires right back. Clinch from Cejudo and he gets a takedown, but in a SICK REVERSAL Johnson somehow scrambles and takes his back for a second before Cejudo explodes to his feet! Whoa. Crowd liked that too. Seconds to go in the round now and Johnson nails him with a body kick. Big knee to the body follows but Cejudo gets a takedown. Johnson scrambles free again though and ends the round standing. 10-9 Johnson.

Fourth round and Johnson again puts the pressure on in the early going. His left leg is looking bad from the low kicks of Johnson too. Front kick from Cejudo leads to a pretty wild combo from Johnson that lands well. Low kick from Johnson is countered by a right and he goes down and eats a knee to the body as he stands, but he fires back and hits Cejudo with a right hand. Nice left hook from DJ. Cejudo is pressing him backwards now though but he takes a hard body kick. INSANE wrestling allows Cejudo to get a takedown and this time he stops the scramble and gets on top in half-guard. He doesn’t do a lot from there but does pin him firmly down. Johnson can’t get out and the round ends with Cejudo working small shots from the top. 10-9 Cejudo.

Fifth round and the crowd seem to be chanting for Cejudo now. Johnson doesn’t seem to care and gets right back to working the leg kicks and moving in and out. Big body kick connects for Johnson and Cejudo needs to do more to pull this out. Good knee to the body lands for Cejudo from a brief clinch. Cejudo’s really pushing the pace now. Counter left lands for DJ though. Low kick follows and Cejudo misses with a huge right hand. Takedown attempt follows though and he gets a rear waistlock. Knees to the legs from Cejudo but he can’t muscle the champion down. Johnson spins him around and forces him into the fence, and they jockey for position and Cejudo trips him down. Johnson immediately reverses up though and they break off. Good left connects for Cejudo. One minute to go and the crowd are LOUD. Head kick glances for Johnson. Takedown attempt is blocked by Johnson and with seconds to go both men start swinging wildly and Cejudo lands some good shots! 10-9 Johnson and I’d go 49-46 for him overall, though.

Judges have it 48-47 Cejudo…..48-47 Johnson…..and 48-47 for HENRY FUCKING CEJUDO! WOW. Do not agree with that decision at ALL and holy shit, that’s one of the best title reigns in UFC history over. I mean, Cejudo fought better than almost everyone Johnson had fought during his title reign, but I just don’t see how he won the fight – sure, he got takedowns but outside of the 4th round – which Cejudo clearly won – he couldn’t keep Johnson down and he was being outstruck consistently. No idea what the judges were watching really. I don’t normally agree with instant rematches and I’m sure the UFC will welcome a new champ at Flyweight, but they should run this one back ASAP. Fight was decent – not outstanding – but that decision will keep people talking for years. I just don’t get it, even two months on. Johnson got the better strikes and controlled 4 of the 5 rounds, surely. I dunno, fucking judges, man.

UFC World Bantamweight Title: TJ Dillashaw vs Cody Garbrandt

Despite many people feeling that Garbrandt didn’t deserve an instant rematch after being KO’d by Dillashaw back at UFC 217 in November 2017, very few fans could deny that this was easily the biggest rivalry in the 135lbs division – basic story is that these dudes HATE EACH OTHER – and so it made some sense at least to just re-run it while it was still a hot angle. I was pulling for Cody to win as I generally side with Team Alpha Male in that whole spat, but it was almost impossible to properly call given how the first fight had gone.

Round One begins and Dillashaw comes out dancing around and hanging his hands way low, surprisingly enough. Garbrandt looks furious. Both men glance on early strikes without landing cleanly. Big flurry misses for Cody. Brief exchange sees Cody land a short right hand. Body kick fires back for TJ. Front kick to the body leads to a combo for Cody that stuns Dillashaw. He recovers quickly though and fires a body kick of his own. Cody tries to pull the Max Holloway trick and points to the mat to attempt to draw TJ into a trade, but he’s having none of that. Smart man! Slip sees Dillashaw go down for a second, and Cody instantly swarms him with punches, but he gets too wild and a pair of counter rights from Dillashaw SEND HIM DOWN! He’s in deep trouble. Cody gives his back and tries to cling onto the leg to recover, but Dillashaw lands some short hammer fists. They come back up and Cody’s still wobbly, but he’s still swinging too. Crowd are BUZZING. Kicks from TJ and he’s stalking but Cody is still swinging big shot. Counter right hand wobbles Garbrandt again though and another right KNOCKS HIM FLYING! TJ gets on him to follow up, and Cody eats a TON OF SHOTS as he tries to get up. Looks like he’s out on his feet. BIG KNEE sets up a vicious combo for Dillashaw and Herb Dean stops it with Cody out against the fence. Jesus.

That was a vicious finish for Dillashaw, really fucking vicious. Fight was actually looking quite even, but the difference was that Cody got too wild trying to go for the KO when he thought he had Dillashaw hurt, and he left himself open to eat huge shots and TJ is a fucking KILLER when he’s got someone in trouble like that. Maybe one of the best finishers in MMA history. Amazing main event, too. Lived up to the hype and then some.

-Announcers wrap up the night’s action and then annoy me by discussing a possible Cejudo/Dillashaw ‘superfight’ which is FUCKING RIDICULOUS given Mighty Mouse deserves a rematch and more to the point, Dillashaw has a top contender and his name is MARLON MORAES who should be 4-0 in the UFC, he’s won three in a row and has been killing dudes. That makes far more sense to me. And it also makes more sense than giving Dominick Cruz a title shot too given he’s been on the shelf since 2016.

Final Thoughts….

Double main event was fantastic here, no doubt, and Swanson/Moicano was really good too. But for as much fun as Santos/Holland was – and it was a fun fight to watch, no doubt – it probably didn’t belong on a UFC PPV in 2018 and certainly Viana/Aldrich didn’t as it was an awful fight. So it’s a thumbs in the middle, leaning up for this one, but you’re better just to check out the two top fights.

Best Fight: Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt
Worst Fight: Viana vs. Aldrich

Overall Rating: ***1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman: