The former bantamweight king, Cody Garbrandt, is set to glove up once again, this time against Brian Kelleher. As if UFC 296 needed any more meat added to it, the UFC, with the help of their newest addition to the match-making team, Joe Reeves, added this banger to the card. We've already got two title fights on this card, but adding a former champion like ‘No Love' propels this card to another level.
Garbrandt won the bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz back in 2016; this performance was one of the best in UFC history, especially from a fighter challenging for gold. He out-classed one of the best fighters to ever do it at 135lbs and became a bona fide star then and there. However, he wasn't able to back this performance up. One of the biggest falls from grace we've seen in the UFC, Cody is 2-5 since winning the title, having lost four of these bouts by way of KO/TKO.
Opposite him is Brian Kelleher. Brian has had some great flashes of success in the UFC, but he's come up short at times when given bigger names. Now, he's riding a two-fight losing streak, but the UFC believes that him vs Garbrandt makes sense and that it will deliver. We couldn't agree more.
UFC 296: A Look at Cody Garbrandt vs Brian Kelleher
This is a very telling fight; not exactly of who's on their way out and who's not, but it certainly has that sentiment looming large. Both Garbrandt and Kelleher have picked up some losses, but they're all from high level fighters. Kelleher has dropped his last two fights, both via submission in the first round.
That doesn't look great, but losing to guys like Umar Nurmagomedov and Mario Bautista isn't all that bad considering they're both top of the heap guys. They've got a combined 11 wins in the UFC. Kelleher is still a threat and has a lot more potential than his recent performances are indicative of.
Garbrandt has reached the pinnacle of the sport and he wants to feel that again. He won the belt and then went on to get finished twice by TJ Dillashaw. Of course, there are some asterisks by these losses due to Dillashaw's PED usage. Garbrandt's chin has been the key point of conversation when talking about his losses.
Be it his chin or emotion throwing fight IQ out of the window, he's not been able to pick up a series of wins since his masterclass title fight. He is coming off of a win over Trevin Jones, but it's not harsh to say that Cody looked a bit stale in this fight. Of course, he did have his back in a corner for this fight, so that may have been a driving factor in him playing it safe.
Garbrandt vs Kelleher: How Will it Go Down?
‘No Love' has some of the fastest hands in the division. Couple that with his one-punch knockout power and it makes sense why he became a champion. His downfall, of course, would be his emotions and/or his durability. He's fighting the heavy-hitters of bantamweight and did fight one of the most prolific knockout artists in his brief stint at flyweight, so it's not like Cody's getting knockout by just anyone.
This isn't striker vs grappler, it's well-rounded vs well-rounded. Both fighters can hit hard and both can wrestle. The MMA community has their fingers crossed that UFC 296 can hold itself together a bit better than UFC 294 did and we'll get to see all of these fights take place.