Who Should Be TJ Dillashaw’s Next Opponent?

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At UFC 227, TJ Dillashaw knocked out Cody Garbrandt for the second time in as many fights. With Garbrandt out of the picture, for the time being, a new challenger to the bantamweight king is needed. Four fighters have thrown their name in the hat, but only one will get to be TJ Dillashaw’s next opponent.

Four Suitors, Two Likely Options

Though there are four potential fights to make for Dillashaw, only two of them seem likely to be made at this point in time. Henry Cejudo and Raphael Assuncao have both thrown their names out there, but neither seems likely to be next in line. Former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and rising star Marlon Moraes are the other two fighters who could get this fight, and it seems likely that one of them will get the fight.

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There can be a case made both for and against each fighter. Each potential challenger has a reason why they should be TJ Dillashaw’s next opponent, but they each also are missing something that would be nice to see in his next challenger.

Who will challenge TJ Dillashaw?

Dominick Cruz

Former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz has been out of action since he lost his belt to Garbrandt at UFC 207 in December of 2016. His career record is 22-2, and he is currently the number two ranked bantamweight contender. He is a former two-time UFC bantamweight champion.

Why He Should Get The Fight

Dominick Cruz would be great to be TJ Dillashaw’s next opponent for more than one reason. First, the fight itself would be a great show. When the two squared off at UFC Fight Night 81, Cruz defeated Dillashaw via a very close split decision to win the title. They are very similar fighters stylistically, with an emphasis on footwork and head movement. Each guy is very quick and both are well-rounded fighters.

Second, Dominick Cruz vs TJ Dillashaw would be the best fight for business, as Cruz is by far the biggest name of the four potential contenders. And, the storyline of Cruz being a two-time former champ and holding a victory over Dillashaw could definitely sell some pay-per-views. As of now, Cruz seems most likely to be next in line to challenge The Snake.

Why He Shouldn’t Get The Fight

Though Cruz vs Dillashaw would be a great fight and great for business, there are still reasons that Cruz shouldn’t get the next shot. The last time he was in the octagon was almost two years ago, when he got dominated by Garbrandt. Yes, the same Garbrandt that has since been knocked out twice by Dillashaw.

And, back when Cruz narrowly defeated Dillashaw to win the title, Cruz didn’t want to give Dillashaw an immediate rematch. Now that the roles are reversed, Cruz wants an immediate shot at the title he formerly held, though it was anything but a close fight when he lost his belt.

To top it all off, Dillashaw told Brendan Schaub in an interview (skip to 3:45) that he feels Cruz should have to come back and win a fight first before getting a title shot. So, if the current champ has a say in his next opponent, it seems like Cruz won’t be getting the title shot, at least not yet.

Marlon Moraes

Brazilian rising star Marlon Moraes has a career record of 21-5-1. Through just four fights in the UFC, he is 3-1. His only loss came in his debut in the promotion, and it was a very close split decision to Assuncao. He then went on to defeat John Dodson, and he would follow up that performance with a brutal knockout of Aljamain Sterling.

Most recently, Moraes ended Jimmie Rivera‘s 20 fight win streak, with a head kick knockout just 33 seconds into their bout at UFC Fight Night 131. Moraes is currently the fourth-ranked bantamweight contender in the UFC.

Why He Should Get The Fight

Marlon Moraes should be TJ Dillashaw’s next opponent due to his recent performances in the octagon. Moraes, like Dillashaw, is a well-rounded fighter. His striking is phenomenal, as he showed with his last two knockouts and his ten career knockouts. To go with his striking, he is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and has five career victories via submission. He is a fan favorite fighter, and it would be a fresh new matchup to see him challenge Dillashaw. MMASucka’s Wesley Riddle highlights here why he, too, feels that Moraes should be the next bantamweight title challenger.

Why He Shouldn’t Get The Fight

Unfortunately for Moraes, he isn’t a big name yet in the industry. He probably wouldn’t draw the same pay-per-view numbers that Cruz would draw. To go with that, he is the lowest ranked fighter among himself, Cruz, and Assuncao. Fortunately for Moraes, rankings don’t seem as important as they once were when it comes to matchmaking. The biggest thing holding Moraes back from getting this fight will be his name value, and the fact that Dillashaw wants him and Cruz to fight each other first before either one would challenge for the title. So, like Cruz, Moraes will have a chance to be TJ Dillashaw’s next opponent, but he might not be just yet.

Henry Cejudo

Coming off of his recent victory over Demetrious Johnson, new 125-pound champion Henry Cejudo would like to move up a weight class and challenge for Dillashaw’s belt. Cejudo is looking to become the next double champ in the UFC.

Why He Should Get The Fight

In terms of business, there is always a story to sell the fans on in a champion vs champion matchup. That is what the UFC wanted to do when Johnson was the flyweight champion. Cejudo’s argument is pretty simple; if the UFC wanted Johnson-Dillashaw, then the man who defeated Johnson should get the same respect and fight offer. When asked about this potential fight following UFC 227, Dana White simply said: “I love it; I don’t know.” With the boss on board, there’s always a chance that Cejudo gets his shot at being a double champ.

Why He Shouldn’t Get The Fight

The deck seems to be stacked against the Olympic gold medalist in his quest to be TJ Dillashaw’s next opponent. Dillashaw himself said, “I don’t think Cejudo would deserve a 135-pound title shot.” It’s never easy for someone to get a title shot against a champion that doesn’t want to fight them. To go with that, the obvious fight to make for Cejudo is to give Demetrious Johnson a rematch. A title run half as impressive as Johnson’s 11 fight reign would warrant an immediate rematch. When asked about booking the rematch, Dana White said: “That’s a possibility, too.” It shouldn’t just be a possibility, it should be Cejudo’s next fight. If Cejudo retains his title, then he could have every argument to make for himself getting a crack at Dillashaw.

Raphael Assuncao

The 36-year-old Brazilian currently sits with a record of 27-5 and is riding a four-fight win streak. His last loss came to Dillashaw at UFC 200. He is currently the number three ranked bantamweight contender in the UFC.

Why He Should Get The Fight

Of all four options, Assuncao is currently on the longest win streak. He even has a victory over Moraes, which can definitely support his case to get a shot instead of Moraes. Way back at UFC Fight Night 29, Assuncao defeated Dillashaw via split decision in the fight of the night. Everyone usually loves a good trilogy, so there’s always the chance that Assuncao could get the call.

Why He Shouldn’t Get The Fight

Assuncao’s last two victories have come against 11th ranked Rob Font and 13th ranked Matthew Lopez. Even though it is a fight shorter, his win streak in the bantamweight division isn’t quite as impressive as Moraes’s. And, despite his victory over Dillashaw five years ago, Assuncao has since been dominated by Dillashaw. Cruz has his big name going for him, while Moraes’s case is built on impressive knockouts and being a new matchup. Assuncao has neither and just seems to be the odd man out in this equation.

Essentially, TJ Dillashaw’s next opponent will depend on which approach the UFC takes for making the fight. They can either make the fight based on business, or based on who is most deserving and a fresh face. If they take the business approach, there is little doubt that Dominick Cruz will be the next contender. However, if they take the new matchup approach, Marlon Moraes will likely be the next challenger. There would be little disapproval from the fans if that would be the route that they decided to take. No matter which way they go, the UFC will guarantee the fans get to witness a great fight. None of these guys ever fail to be entertaining and will always put on a show.

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