Despite Conor McGregor being on a well earned break from the octagon, it has not stopped his name being mentioned as a possible opponent for a number of fighters in the year ahead. Latest to be added to this list is that of newly minted UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt.
The 25-year-old comprehensively dismantled Dominick Cruz at UFC 207 on December 30th in what was for many a shock victory for the Ohio native.
Many pundits and experts expected Cruz’s movement to be too much for the big swinging Garbrandt but as it transpired in their five round slug fest, the challenger’s own unorthodox style in the octagon gave Cruz a puzzle he simply could not figure out.
An emphatic display that saw his professional record move to 11-0 (6-0 UFC) now sees Garbrandt as one of the rising stars in the UFC. Brash, tattooed and vocal, he cuts a figure not too dissimilar to another star of the promotion, that of Conor McGregor.
Following his victory over Cruz, Garbrandt floated the tantilising possibility of a move up to featherweight for a fight with the famous Irishman, a clash that would certainly bring fireworks, both inside the octagon and out.
With a history dating back to the The Ultimate Fighter 22 series, there is clearly no love lost between the pair. Whether a fight between the two is feasible remains to be seen but it is surely not beyond the realm of possibility.
Assuming a fight between the pair could be organised, Garbrandt’s somewhat unique style of fighting might actually pose the greatest challenge yet to the ‘Notorious’ one.
A predominantly counter-striking fighter with heavy fists and an unorthodox style could well see McGregor faced with a version of, well, himself. They both share these same traits.
What must be said however is that while Garbrandt is a seriously big hitter, as his clash with Cruz at UFC 207 demonstrated, his somewhat wild swings leave him open for just the kind of measured and precise strikes that McGregor has become known and feared for.
At 5′ 8″ Garbrandt would be a very comfortable featherweight. Moving up 10lbs to 145lb would be as natural as McGregor’s own move up to lightweight. Such a jump would likely increase the American’s striking power.
Conversely, were a featherweight clash to be made, the difficult weight cut for McGregor would take it’s toll, albeit to a minimal degree, as the featherweight roster could attest to during the Dubliner’s three year reign of terror.
From a business perspective, pitting these two brash and outspoken fighters against each other would be a promotional dream. The verbal mudslinging would be an endless highlight reel that would surely generate impressive pay-per-view numbers.
So what is stopping such a fight from taking place?
Well, for one, McGregor is not currently scheduled to return until sometime towards the end of the year and when he does, there are already names like Khabib Nurmgomedov, Tony Ferguson, Jose Aldo, Max Holloway and even Nate Diaz, to contend with.
As for Garbrandt, the new bantamweight champion could be set for a rematch with Cruz before even considering any other options that might be available to him.
As 2017 emerges from the ashes of 2016, one thing is for certain, Cody Garbrandt has joined Conor McGregor on the path to super-stardom and as we have seen time and again, fights are often made between the biggest names with the biggest mouths.
Perhaps 2017 will see another great rivalry begin.