Garbrandt Looking To Continue Good Form at UFC 269
Former bantamweight champion and fan favourite, Cody Garbrandt returns this weekend on the UFC 296 prelims. It’s an understatement to say that No Love has been out of form in recent years, suffering through a 2-5 record since capturing the belt, with four of those losses coming via knockout. Even a stint down at flyweight wasn’t enough for Garbrandt to re-find his previous, dominant form.
We can’t ignore the fact that he went from unranked to world champion in a single year and did so in a dominant fashion. He returns this weekend and looks to pick up back-to-back wins for the first time since winning the belt in 2016. He takes on the out of form, Brian Kelleher.
Rise and Sharp Decline
Unfortunately for No Love, fewer people have had as sharp a decline in successes than the former champion. Progressing to 5-0 in the UFC in a little over a year and a half, Garbrandt, deservedly gained a world title shot.
The title opportunity came against long-time champion, Dominick Cruz. Cruz was enjoying a 13 fight winning run and held a record of 22-1. He was fresh off a dominant win over Garbrandt’s teammate and coach, Urijah Faber. There were plenty of eyes on this match-up due to the bad blood between the two men, as well as it being the co-main event to the return of Ronda Rousey.
The performance from No Love was spectacular. Not only did he win the fight, but he did so in style. It was, without a shadow of a doubt one of the greatest championship performances we’ve seen in UFC history.
He was the combat sports GOAT for 25 minutes pic.twitter.com/cr1uTobpqi
— 𝘼𝙧𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙔𝙖𝙣 🎄 (@Petr_is_Art) December 11, 2023
That proved to be the pinnacle for the former Team Alpha man, who would go on one of the most drastic losing streaks we’ve seen. His decline started with his rivalry with former long-time teammate, TJ Dillashaw. After an exciting, heated build-up, which included a stint as the opposing captains on The Ultimate Fighter Season 25.
Their first encounter saw TJ knock out the champion, despite being knocked down in the first round. It was a repeat in the second match-up between them, with TJ Dillashaw again finishing No Love, even quicker the second time around.
There were questions over the fight IQ of Garbrandt, who appeared to enjoy the firefight too much and leave himself open. Such was the case in his next fight with Pedro Munhoz. Yet again, he fought well, got caught in a wild exchange and was knocked out.
Having begun his career 11-0, he declined, losing three straight, all via knockout. He did momentarily look to be back to his best with a vicious knockout against Raphael Assuncao, however, his next outing was arguably his worst performance to date. When he had previously lost fights, it was by knockout, this time, in a main event slot, he was thoroughly beaten. Across all five rounds, Garbrandt appeared to be out of ideas and was beaten up by the much better, Rob Font. 48–47, 50–45 and 50–45 scorecards saw the former champion drop to a record of 1-4 at bantamweight since capturing gold.
He did what all out of form fighters seem to do, move weight classes and looked for success at flyweight. He was instantly thrown to the wolves and would face Kai-Kara France in his 125lbs debut. No Love would have no luck down a weight class, being finished in the first round.
Bounce back at UFC 296
After 16 months out, he returned to bantamweight to face Trevin Jones, who took the fight on short notice at UFC 285 in Match of this year. Garbrandt’s output would be far lower than usual in this one, throwing just 40 strikes across 15 minutes. With that being said, he was still able to pick up the victory, his first since June 2020.
His UFC 296 opponent, Brian Kelleher will be hoping that he doesn’t re-find his lost form as they clash, again at bantamweight. Kelleher is 0-2 in his last two fights, dropping back to back rear naked choke losses to Umar Nurmagomedov and Mario Bautista.
Garbrandt must be careful not to overlook Kelleher, however, as he’s extremely well-rounded and can finish the fight wherever it goes. He’s picked up eight knockouts and 10 submissions across his 24 career wins.
No Love will be looking to put a run together, starting in Las Vegas and potentially have one last shot at the title down the line. At 32 years old, he still has a lot left in the tank, but that potential title run begins at UFC 296.