When Cody Garbrandt beat Dominick Cruz for the title, he looked unstoppable. He evaded Cruz’s strikes easily and knocked him down repeatedly. As a young prospect, Garbrandt seemed ready for a long title reign, but has slumped ever since. Having defeated Trevin Jones, where does Garbrandt stand in today’s bantamweight division?
At UFC 285, Garbrandt looked fantastic for the first two rounds. He stayed defensively responsible and avoided pocket brawls, unlike in his Pedro Munhoz fight. Moreover, he showed a much more well-rounded skillset. He picked his shots more creatively. He used far more body kicks. He mixed in takedowns beautifully. Most importantly, he looked fast, confident, and disciplined.
Unfortunately, the third round was a scare. Jones rocked Garbrandt badly and nearly finished him. Ultimately, Cody still won on the scorecards, but this diminished his performance. Having said that, he did win. But where does Cody go from here?
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Despite Cody’s improvements, he still has glaring weaknesses. In this fight, he looked understandably gun shy after several knockout losses. But more importantly, his gas tank once again seemed to fade in the third round. In his fight against Rob Font, Cody also faded in the later rounds. Many speculated that getting COVID-19 affected him for that fight, but his cardio nevertheless appears to remain an issue. Furthermore, although he has tremendous reflexes and head movement, Garbrandt has always struggled to weave his defense into his offense. When he commits fully to avoiding shots, he can evade fantastically. However, during extended exchanges he commits entirely to offense and leaves himself open. His defense flags even more when he gets hit clean. This weakness showed itself in the third round, as he could not evade Jones’s follow up strikes after getting tagged.
Garbrandt’s main strength has always been his speed, and he clearly still has that. Moving forward, his ability to diversify his skillset is encouraging. However, at the moment, he remains far from making another title run or even cracking the top ten. The bantamweight division is more competitive than it has ever been. Only time will tell if it still has a place for former champion Cody “No Love” Garbrandt.
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