Los Angeles is the home to the biggest stars on the planet, but on Saturday Hollywood will host the two biggest rematches on the UFC's plate for the rest of the year. The Bantamweight Championship will be on the line when current title holder TJ Dillashaw and No.1 contender Cody Garbrandt face off for the second time, and the history books will look to continue to be written when Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson aims to continue his legendary title reign when he matches up with Henry Cejudo.
TJ Dillashaw (C) vs. Cody Garbrandt
Bad blood is about to boil over for the second time. The rivalry between TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt is well-documented in UFC lore, and may be the most notorious battle of personalities outside of Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones. The conflict between the two came to a head at UFC® 217 when Dillashaw knocked Garbrandt out cold to reclaim his Bantamweight title, and screamed out of joy and passion right into the face of his blank-minded opponent.
If you're looking for a catch-up on what happened between the two, strap in. Dillashaw was once the golden boy of his training team, Team Alpha Male. Under the tutelage of Urijah Faber, Dillashaw won the Bantamweight Championship for the first time in 2014. But then Dillashaw started training with coach Duane Ludwig in Colorado, and within no time he was out at TAM.
With the absence of Dillashaw, Garbrandt was pushed into the spot of being the next big thing to come out of TAM. Garbrandt shot up the ranks, and won the Bantamweight Championship at UFC 207 against Dominick Cruz at just 25 years old.
With Garbrandt holding the belt Dillashaw once had, and the ferocity held by both sides after a messy break up, the first fight was one of the most obvious booking decisions in UFC history. So they fought, and Dillashaw claimed his crown back.
So we arrive at the rematch. Garbrandt is still a lethal striker with enough explosiveness in his fists to end a fight at any moment, and Dillashaw is still one of the most complete mixed martial artists on the UFC's roster. So what's in store for this rematch?
Garbrandt's chin was exposed in the first match up, bringing up questions about his head movement.Undefeated before the title defense, we'd never seen Garbrandt truly tested by a striker of equal caliber to him. However, it's important to remember that Garbrandt knocked Dillashaw down in the first round and unleashed a flurry that was put to a halt by the end of the round. In a different reality, who knows if that was the combination needed to finish that fight.
One thing that's impressive about Garbrandt is his willingness to adapt. Against Dominick Cruz, he planned out a calm and efficient fight that earned him his first UFC title. So I do expect a smarter game plan out of the 26-year old this time around that involves more distance from the fiery Dillashaw.
But at the end of the day, Dillashaw successfully defends his title. He's in the prime of his career and has already proven he can catch Garbrandt with a shot, and I see this fight ending even earlier than the first bout.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Dillashaw via Knockout
Demetrious Johnson (C) vs. Henry Cejudo
The story of Demetrious Johnson is a peculiar one. On one hand, he's the most successful champion in UFC history with 11 straight title defenses in the Flyweight division. But on the other, he's one of the least marketable champions currently holding belt. Whether that's the nature of the smallest men's division or the fact that Johnson doesn't possess any sort of fighter persona is undecided. The only reality we know is that one of the greatest fighters to ever grace The Octagon® is often considered an afterthought.
This win in this fight could cement Johnson's status as an all-timer. Henry Cejudo is an Olympic gold medalist from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and one of the most prominent wrestlers and grapplers in the sport. Even with that pedigree on the mat, Johnson destroyed Cejudo at UFC 197, stopping the Olympian with shots to the midsection while in the clinch.
This fight shouldn't go much differently. "Mighty Mouse" Johnson is a mixed martial artist who consistently beats his opponents at their own game, and Cejudo remains a fairly one-dimensional fighter. I wouldn't expect Johnson to go back into the clinch and try to wrestle with Cejudo, but rather go with a strike heavy attack that will expose the Olympian due to Johnson's lightning fast movement.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Johnson via TKO
Cub Swanson vs. Renato Moicano
Cub Swanson is a trusted UFC veteran who is in need of a pick-me-up. The featherweight is on a two-fight losing streak and at 34-years old could be on the wrong side of momentum.
Across Swanson in the cage on Saturday will be Renato Moicano, a Brazilian with a 12-1-1 record. Moicano's most notable fight is a loss at UFC 214 to Brian Ortega, who is now in the mix at the top of the featherweight division.
This fight, while notable and could go either way, is set up to see Swanson get back on the horse. While Moicano possesses an impressive record, his level of competition has been sparse and he's yet to face a veteran at the level of Swanson.
With this being a do-or-die type situation for the American, I foresee Swanson getting his mojo back and putting on a fun and exciting performance.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Swanson via Unanimous Decision
Polyana Viana vs. JJ Aldrich
Two contenders in the women's Strawweight division while come head to head when Polyana Viana and JJ Aldrich meet at the Staples Center.
Viana enters with a 10-1 record, while Aldrich sits at 6-2 in her career after three fights in the UFC. Viana is an elite competitor on the mat while Aldrich has show fairly effective striking skills during her young career, making this a clash of differing styles.
While Aldrich likes to keep her distance in a fight and try to exhaust her opponent over 15 minutes, Viana is a submission specialist who is looking to take her opponent to the ground at any opportunity.
This could be a toss-up, but I think if Viana is able to get Aldrich down just once, she takes the fight easily.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Viana via Submission
Thiago Santos vs. Kevin Holland
This middleweight fight was added to the card after Alexander Gustafsson was officially ruled out last week.
Thiago Santos comes into this bout looking to redeem himself after a loss to David Branch at UFC Fight Night 128 in April. However, the Brazilian has won four of his last five fights and a victory in LA should push him into the Top 10 in the division.
Kevin Holland comes in with a 13-3 record and has gained most of his fame for winning on the opening show of the second season of Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series.
Santos is the more experienced fighter in The Octagon and has something to prove to try and work his way back up the division, so I could see him stopping the momentum of the young Holland.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Santos via Unanimous Decision