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3 reasons why T.J. Dillashaw could be considered the UFC's bantamweight GOAT

Is TJ Dillashaw the UFC's bantamweight GOAT?
Is TJ Dillashaw the UFC's bantamweight GOAT?
Scott Newman

This weekend sees former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw return to the octagon for the first time since January 2019, as he takes on surging contender Cory Sandhagen.

T.J. Dillashaw has not fought in over two years, but this incredible fighter is still considered to be amongst the greatest bantamweights on the planet – but is he the greatest of all time?

Despite being surrounded by controversy following his positive test for the banned substance EPO in 2019, T.J. Dillashaw should still be looked at as potentially the greatest bantamweight that the UFC has ever seen.

So with that in mind, here are three reasons why T.J. Dillashaw could be considered the bantamweight GOAT.


#3. T.J. Dillashaw has an exemplary record in the UFC

TJ Dillashaw's UFC record stacks up against any other fighter in the UFC's bantamweight division
TJ Dillashaw's UFC record stacks up against any other fighter in the UFC's bantamweight division

Bantamweight is undoubtedly one of the most loaded divisions that the UFC has to offer, and it has been since the division arrived from the WEC in 2011. With that considered, it stands to reason that even the best fighters in the 135-pound division would probably pick up losses against other top-level fighters.

That means that essentially, nobody’s record at 135 pounds is perfect. While T.J. Dillashaw does have four losses in the UFC to his name, his overall record can stand up against any other fighter to have ever competed in the division.

Dillashaw’s losses came at the hands of John Dodson, Raphael Assuncao, Dominick Cruz and Henry Cejudo. And there’s an argument that all four could have a caveat alongside them.

Dodson was Dillashaw’s first opponent in the UFC, and ‘The Magician’ had far more experience than Dillashaw at that point. In fact, T.J. Dillashaw had just four professional fights to his name compared to Dodson’s 16.

His losses to Assuncao and Cruz, meanwhile, both came via razor-close, questionable decisions that could easily have gone the opposite way with different judges. And of course, T.J. Dillashaw comfortably avenged his loss to Assuncao when they rematched three years after their initial meeting.

That leaves his loss to Cejudo, and while it was a devastating one – coming via knockout after just 32 seconds – it also came outside of the bantamweight division and probably shouldn’t be counted towards Dillashaw’s overall standing at 135 pounds, particularly when you take into account his brutal weight cut.

Add in T.J. Dillashaw’s best wins, victories over Cody Garbrandt, John Lineker, Assuncao and Renan Barao, and it’s clear that his record is second-to-none at 135 pounds, giving him a very real claim to the title of the UFC’s bantamweight GOAT.


#2. T.J. Dillashaw’s wins over Renan Barao and Cody Garbrandt are as good as it gets

TJ Dillashaw's wins over Renan Barao should never be overlooked
TJ Dillashaw's wins over Renan Barao should never be overlooked

MMA can be a very fickle sport, and the fans who follow the UFC are often guilty of unfairly rubbishing a fighter’s career once they hit a downward spiral of sorts.

Two of the fighters to have been labeled this way in recent years are former UFC bantamweight champions Renan Barao and Cody Garbrandt. Both men were riding lengthy unbeaten streaks when they won the title; Barao’s victory was his 29th in a row and Garbrandt had never lost.

However, despite going on horrendous runs after losing their title, it’s safe to say that both men in their prime were amongst the best bantamweights the UFC has ever seen.

The one thing they had in common? Both men lost two UFC bantamweight title fights to T.J. Dillashaw, and were basically never the same again.

Barao first faced Dillashaw in 2014 at UFC 173. At the time, the Brazilian was considered a monster and basically unbeatable. Dillashaw used his slick striking game to batter him from pillar to post en route to a fifth-round head kick TKO.

The rematch was even more one-sided, with T.J. Dillashaw basically opening up with strike after strike until the Brazilian couldn’t take any more and wilted. Taking into consideration Barao’s reputation at the time, Dillashaw’s two wins over him cannot be overstated.

The same can be said for his two wins over bitter rival Garbrandt. ‘No Love’ came into the UFC as a training partner of Dillashaw’s in early 2015, and quickly cut a swath through the bantamweight division’s best fighters.

The likes of Thomas Almeida and Takeya Mizugaki all fell to Garbrandt, who then leapfrogged Dillashaw to take a shot at the man who’d dethroned him – another potential bantamweight GOAT in Dominick Cruz.

And incredibly, Garbrandt embarrassed Cruz, using some incredible footwork to outpoint him on the feet like nobody else had ever done before him. It looked like Garbrandt would go onto a lengthy reign with the title, but once he ran into Dillashaw, he met his match and was violently knocked out.

And like his rematch with Barao, T.J. Dillashaw sliced through Garbrandt with even more fury the second time around, needing just four minutes to take him out with another TKO.

Essentially, very few of the UFC’s bantamweights, even fighters like Cruz, Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling, can match Dillashaw’s two wins over prime Barao and prime Garbrandt, making him a surefire candidate for the title of the UFC’s bantamweight GOAT.


#1. T.J. Dillashaw has defended the UFC bantamweight title more than anyone else

TJ Dillashaw defended the UFC bantamweight title on three occasions, including this win over Cody Garbrandt
TJ Dillashaw defended the UFC bantamweight title on three occasions, including this win over Cody Garbrandt

When it comes to deciding the greatest of all time in each UFC division, a general rule of thumb would be to go with the fighter with the most UFC title defenses under their belt.

At welterweight, for instance, Georges St-Pierre defended his title on nine occasions. Current champ Kamaru Usman is trying to chase him, but it’s a given that he’ll need to at least match that total to overhaul him in the GOAT stakes.

The same can be said for every other division. Jon Jones had 11 title defenses at light heavyweight, Anderson Silva managed 10 at middleweight, Demetrious Johnson racked up 11 at flyweight, and so on

So who has the most UFC bantamweight title defenses? The answer is T.J. Dillashaw.

Admittedly, Dillashaw’s record of three successful title defenses doesn’t put him close to Jones or Silva territory, but if anything, that just shows quite how difficult it is for any fighter to hold onto the UFC bantamweight title.

T.J. Dillashaw is also one of just two men to have held the UFC bantamweight title on two separate occasions, the other being Dominick Cruz. There’s perhaps an argument for placing Cruz above T.J. Dillashaw in the overall stakes, particularly as he was never defeated for the title in his first run as champion.

However, the fact that Dillashaw could easily have taken the decision when he fought Cruz, and then handily beat the man who dethroned ‘The Dominator’ in Cody Garbrandt, tips the scales slightly in his favor.

Essentially, there’s never been a truly dominant UFC bantamweight champion, but T.J. Dillashaw is as close as it gets, making him a definite contender for the UFC’s bantamweight GOAT.


Edited by Harvey Leonard

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