After reaching the proverbial top of the mountain in 2016 to claim the bantamweight championship against Dominick Cruz, Cody Garbrandt’s career came crashing down to the tune of three consecutive losses. He admittedly lost his passion for fighting and wasn’t interested in watching what was happening across the division. So in October 2019, Garbrandt, in search of a jolt to his career, mixed it up when he began working with famous boxing trainer Mark Henry while splitting time with the Team Alpha Male squad in California.
In preparation for his return to the Octagon, Garbrandt encountered yet another setback back in February when he suffered a staph infection that turned into strep and attacked his kidneys, putting ‘No Love’ in the hospital with a kidney infection. He returned to training in mid-March, but faced an uphill battle to work his way back into contendership for the now-vacant bantamweight title.
It’s that build up, the hardships and the struggles that made Saturday night’s win against Raphael Assuncao so special. From the moment the first round started, Garbrandt held a laser-focused demeanor. He flew around the Octagon, popped in and out, threw lightning quick strikes and landed with precision. He connected on 19 of 43 significant strike attempts, but none was heavier than Garbrandt’s fight-sealing right hand that came right at the buzzer of the second round to put Assuncao’s lights out.
Garbrandt leaned down, waited for Assuncao to throw a hook and popped up with a blistering right hand to give him the win.
That sequence was emblematic of Garbrandt’s renewed strategy and focus. Over his career, Garbrandt became a fan-favorite for his willingness to throw hands, but after three consecutive knockouts, the fear was Garbrandt’s chin was gone. On Saturday, he remained poised, never leaving himself too open and consistently finding openings.
“I know I’m a skilled fighter, but I give these fights away when I brawl,” Garbrandt admitted in his post-fight interview.
For Garbrandt, this win was more than just snapping a losing streak. It was what he perceives as the start of something bigger.
“It’s been a journey. Went from the top of the world to a three-fight skid. I’ve got the passion back in my heart,” Garbrandt continued. “I’m here to be the best and get that championship strap back.”
Ranked No. 9 in the division, Garbrandt’s return to title contention won’t be easy. But after knocking out the No. 5-ranked Assuncao, the former champion is ready for whatever comes next in a suddenly stacked division not lacking in contenders.