Freelance: 2017 UFC Odds—Cody Garbrandt vs T.J. Dillashaw Preview and Pick

The story of UFC bantamweight (135-pound) champion Cody “No Love” Garbrandt and former bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw is a familiar one:

The former Team Alpha Male teammates are at odds when the then-champion Dillashaw left the camp with Duane “Bang” Ludwig, a coach that Dillashaw helped him the most in route to winning the title, to train at Elevation Fight Team in Colorado. Garbrandt, who still represents the California-based Alpha Male, and his remaining temmates and coaches feel disrespected and the bad blood is now currently being shown each week on The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption (season 25) on FS1.

“I don’t mind whooping T.J.’s a**,” Garbrandt said in early 2017. “He was a cancer to our team and having what he tried to do — destroy it — to make that s—t personal too. I’ll spare everybody 60 bucks to buy the pay-per-view and put out the video of me knocking his ass out when I was 1-0. 1-0. He [was] saying that he made me cry in practice. That motherf—-er never made me cry. I wasn’t the one looking at the ceiling, being on my back looking at the ceiling, knocked out. So he’s just trying to do anything - the guy’s a horrible trash talker. Horrible.”

Garbrandt called out Dillashaw after winning the bantamweight strap against former champion Dominick “The Dominator” Cruz. Dillashaw has since said that he feels no ill will regarding his former camp and simply expressed a desire to get his title back. After dominating John Lineker during his own UFC 207 bout, the NCAA Division-I wrestler earned that desired title shot.

The two rivals will now collide as the main event of UFC 213 on July 8 during the UFC’s annual International Fight Week.

What’s the Issue Here?

Team Alpha Male and Dillashaw are looking at their present situation through two very different lenses. Alpha Male is publicly emphasizing their family bond and betrayal (to be fair, Dillashaw had been with the team after being recruited during high school.) Dillashaw sees the situation as a businessman, as a professional athlete. He initially wanted to divide his time between California and Colorado to still be able to be coached by Ludwig.

He went on to claim that Alpha Male banned him from the gym while they say he “sold out” and left on his own free will. Regardless of if Dillashaw did something shady, being the “snake in the grass” that he is perceived by some to be, this was still a business decision overall and Alpha Male’s reaction to this situation is making the former champion come across as a sympathetic baby-face on television.

Garbrandt then unexpectedly sustained a back injury post-TUF 25 filming but the fight is still scheduled to go ahead as planned.

“It’s not off. Cody Garbrandt is having back issues and we sent him to a place for stem cell [injections] and apparently, that didn’t work so we’re putting him on a plane and sending him to that place in Germany that I go to. If this doesn’t work, he’ll be the only athlete that I’ve known of that it didn’t work. It works for Kobe Bryant and it works for A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez] and soccer players. Every athlete I’ve ever known to go there and come out healed,” UFC President Dana White told Fox Sports’ website last week.

“…Cody’s not confident because when you’re in the kind of pain that he’s in, you don’t believe that you can be fixed that easily but I know the credentials of these guys in Germany. I’m 100-percent confident that he will be better and he will fight [in] July.”

The Odds: Despite the injury to his back, the early betting odds from Bovada show Garbrandt as the -140 favorite against the +110 underdog in Dillashaw.

Side-by-Side Stats

These early numbers are a bit misleading though as Dillashaw actually leads the champion in a number of areas in a FightMetric, LLC bout preview. He lands 5.38 significant strikes per minute compared to “No Love’s” 3.58, slightly edging him out in accuracy as well (41 percent to 37 percent.) Both average about one takedown per every 15 minutes but Garbrandt’s takedown defense rate is at 100 percent just like his flawless 11-0 overall MMA win-loss record, which might explain a lot about how Vegas sees this contest.

This bout is a return to the old days of the world leader in MMA (in a manner of speaking)—a clash of styles: a boxer in Garbrandt going up against a wrestler in Dillashaw. Dillashaw has largely been a striker since his time in college, but Garbrandt started as a boxer during childhood under the supervision of his uncle.

While the numbers from FightMetric might not show stellar success for Garbrandt when it comes to exchanging leather, his figures say otherwise. Of his 11 victories, nine have come by way of KO/TKO against just two decision wins (a staggering 82 percent finish rate.)

Dillashaw’s 14-3 record shows that he finishes the overwhelming majority of his victories (nine, 64 percent) but he has not ended a fight utilizing the ground game combination of wrestling/ Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since a win over Vaughn Lee by neck crank in 2012 and has not had a finish by striking since he won his second bout against Brazil’s Renan Barao on July 25, 2015 during his initial title run.

The Key to Victory

Although Garbrandt was able to come out on top against Cruz, he looked like the more emotional fighter during all of the promotional build-up. A significant portion of the MMA world saw him get into a confrontation with Dillashaw that ended with Garbrandt grabbing him by the throat before the two were separated.

For Dillashaw, he needs to manipulate the emotions of the champion in similar fashion to “Notorious” Conor McGregor. If Garbrandt can deceptively stay level-headed against his heated rival as he did with Cruz, the fight should go his way as he should be able to stuff Dillashaw’s takedown efforts and control the striking. The speed of “Killashaw” should allow him to remain competitive though. Over the course of a partial four rounds in the second Barao fight, he threw 273 total strikes and landed 170 (117 of 212 significant strikes, a respectable 55 percent.) This will be close!

Pick: (C) Cody Garbrandt retains by way of a unanimous decision.

Should this fight fall apart due to Garbrandt’s injury, Dillashaw revealed to White last week that he’s interested in a flyweight (125 pounds) bout opposite champion, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson that appears to at least be in the works as far as a “Plan B.”

Stay tuned.