Before and after his fight, with Cruz in attendance as part of the FS1 announce team, “No Love” had his eyes on the champ. He even called out Cruz inside the Octagon after his win over Takeya Mizugaki.
Since then, it’s been a waiting game for fans as well as for Garbrandt and former champion TJ Dillashaw, who has been doing all he can to campaign for his rematch against Cruz.
But Garbrandt won out and now gets his crack at Cruz in the co-main event of UFC 207 in Las Vegas, right before the anticipated return of Ronda Rousey in the main event.
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Garbrandt earned his shot after compiling a perfect 10-0 record that includes an unblemished five-win run in the UFC.
“No Love” is a finishing machine, ending his last three bouts by knockout. He’s only gone to the judges one time in his UFC career and his last three fights were all stopped in the first round.
What does he get for all that hard-hitting success inside the Octagon? He’ll face Cruz, who is the most hard-to-hit and invincible champion in the UFC today. True, Demetrious Johnson makes a strong case, but Cruz beat him, too.
“The Dominator” has won 13 in a row and his only loss came in 2007 against Garbrandt’s mentor, Urijah Faber, by guillotine choke in his WEC debut. Nine years is a long time to go without a loss, but it’s important to remember that Cruz was forced out of action for three of them by a litany of career-threatening injuries.
But when he returned, Cruz looked as unbeatable as ever. His style is predicated on speed, movement and precise footwork. He is never fearful of fighting a powerful puncher because he doesn’t think they’ll be able to hit him with the big punches.
Dillashaw was successful at times against Cruz because he employs a similar style that was derived from playing the role of Cruz in fight camps for fellow Team Alpha Male fighters preparing to fight Cruz.
An analytical look at Garbrandt’s fight style reveals a more abrupt and straightforward ideology. He isn’t as concerned with making guys miss as he is with pushing the pace and landing the two missiles he wields in both side pockets.
Critics claim that Garbrandt’s fast, aggressive game plan will fall short against Cruz because the champion will force the challenger to miss and push him into the later rounds where it’s always been Cruz’s advantage.
Garbrandt isn’t worried about his cardio and he has supreme confidence is his ability to test Cruz’s chin and finish the fight. Many have tried and failed against Cruz, but Garbrandt brings youthful power, talent and confidence to the Octagon.
When he gets there he has an opportunity to take out the man who has reigned for almost a decade, on the year’s final fight card – one that has quickly rivaled the collection of fights going down at UFC 205 in New York City.
This is going to be one hell of a ride to close out 2016.
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on twitter at @MattParrinoUFC