Is Cody Garbrandt back after knockout win at UFC 296?

MMA: UFC 296 - Garbrandt vs Kelleher
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

This past weekend on the prelims of UFC 296, a former world champion made the walk once again. Former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt (14-5) made his return as he took on Brian “Boom” Kelleher (24-15).

Entering the bout, Garbrandt was coming off of a win for the first time since 2020. It’s been a really tough stretch for the former champion, but he said he felt good and extremely confident heading into Saturday night. That said, there were some concerning moments early on.

Garbrandt is known for his boxing and with that, he’s very heavy on his front foot. Immediately as the fight started, Kelleher started blasting him with low leg kicks. Halfway through the first round, they were already making Garbrandt move a little funny on his front foot.

That said, Garbrandt started really upping the pressure and throwing big combinations. Eventually, he was able to rock Kelleher bad. Once he did, he didn’t let him get away and he finished the job with a beautiful straight right that sent Kelleher down face first. A massive win for the former UFC champion.

Is Garbrandt back after UFC 296?

For the first time since he captured the bantamweight title all the way back in 2016, Cody Garbrandt has won back-to-back fights. After he put on his career performance in dethroning Dominick Cruz, Garbrandt went just 1-5 in six fights. The troubling part was he was knocked out in four of those fights and was completely dominated in the one he didn’t get knocked out in.

He fought back in March and had a safe performance in which he defeated Trevin Jones by decision. Saturday night, Garbrandt looked the best he looked in a very long time. So, is the former UFC champion getting back to the form that made him a world champion?

I think people need to pump the breaks if they are thinking that way. Saturday night was a great start and seeing him win back-to-back fights is encouraging, however, he’s still not even in the rankings as of this week. He needs a nice win over a ranked opponent for people to start taking him seriously at 135.

That being said, who should the UFC pair him up with next? In looking at the division, I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing him take on a guy like Chris Gutierrez. Gutierrez is coming off a main event loss to Song Yadong, but he still holds that fifteenth spot in the rankings.

Garbrandt called out Deiveson Figueiredo, but I think that’s too high for him right now. Get him back in the rankings, then we can look at that matchup if you ask me.