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DGS Main Event MMA Fighter of the Year: Cody Garbrandt

Photo Credit: Jeff Bottari/ZUFFA LLC/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Jeff Bottari/ZUFFA LLC/Getty Images

I’ll be honest, this was not the fighter that 24 hours ago I was planning on writing about tonight but with less than seven hours left in the year, the new UFC bantamweight champion Cody “No Love” Garbrandt earned this in my mind. (Also, after watching Dominick Cruz’s post-fight scrum, I’ve accepted that he lost and come to peace with it)

This is going to be some long tale about the trial and tribulations of Garbrandt’s up-bringing. This is about how far this young fighter, still yet to enter his prime years, has come from the start of 2016 to last night.

Garbrandt started 2016 as an undefeated, un-ranked UFC bantamweight. Coming up on his two-year anniversary with the promotion in January, the 25-year old has been on a tear of first round knockouts in three of his four fights this year. The most remarkable victory happened last night when he defeated, and stylistically embarrassed, former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.

After Garbrandt knocked out Thomas Almedia, at the time his toughest challenge to date in the octagon, the campaign to give “No Love” a shot at the champ started. At the time though, his Team Alpha Male leader Urijah Faber was set to meet Cruz the following week at UFC 199 for his shot at the title. Cruz retain the belt via decision.

The UFC wanted to give Garbrandt one more test, Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 202 in August. Once he knocked him out in just :48 seconds into the first round, earning Performance of the Night, there was no question that Cruz vs. Garbrandt had to be next.

Not only was he set to face a champion in the octagon, he was set to face a champion on the mic. We’ve never seen Garbrandt deal with public trash talk at this level. There were times where you saw the emotional and angry side take over Garbrandt, having many think Cruz just won the mental war fare but in the end, it just fueled Garbrandt to give Cruz one of the toughest battles of his professional career. The two earned, well-deserved Fight of the Night bonuses.

To go from an un-ranked contender  to world champion in one year, defeating one of the best bantamweights in MMA, is an accomplishment few, if any, can achieve.

There has been talk or an immediate rematch against Cruz as Garbrandt’s first title defense (I really sucks to be TJ Dillashaw, btw) which makes sense and is probably the toughest test you can hand the champ going into 2017. (Sorry, TJ)

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Kristine is a Managing Editor for DoubleGSports.com as well as UFC/MMA Lead Writer. She also hosts a column known as Fighting Words.
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