NEW YORK -- Former teammates turned bitter rivals Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw entered the Octagon on Saturday in a bantamweight title bout with all the makings to be the best of the year in 2017.
Instead, we may have just stumbled upon the sport of MMA's next great rivalry.
Dillashaw got up from an early knockdown to regain the 135-pound title he lost nearly two years ago by disputed decision with a second-round TKO of Garbrandt in the co-main event of UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden.
In a meeting between pound-for-pound elites, the bout largely began as a showcase of high-speed chess. But it didn't take long for fireworks to break out.
Garbrandt (11-1), was poised and efficient throughout the opening round and dropped Dillashaw with a sweeping left hook before the horn to end the round. Referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in to separate them as it appeared Dillashaw was saved by the bell.
But Dillashaw (15-3) instantly rallied to open Round 2 and stunned the crowd by flooring Garbrandt with a left kick to the head.
The champion reached his feet quickly as they began to trade punches at close ranger. Dillashaw took over from there, however, and connected with a counter right hand that dropped Garbrandt a second time.
Dillashaw quickly leaped in for a flurry of hammer punches before Miragliotta stopped the fight at 2:41.
The bad blood between the former Team Alpha Male teammates instantly spilled over as Dillashaw jumped into Garbrandt's face once he reached his feet after the bout, forcing Miragliotta to separate them.
"I was just yelling, I was just yelling," Dillashaw said. "He stood up and I was just excited."
Shortly after, the two fighters hugged it out and shared pleasantries.
"[I told him] congratulations, man. He's a hell of a fighter," Dillashaw said. "He's young, he's going to be back and I'm going to see him again."
The rivalry between the two fighters, who opposed each other early in 2017 as coaches on "The Ultimate Fighter," got juicy during fight week when Garbrandt released sparring footage of him dropping Dillashaw.
The past became reality when Garbrandt did the same in Round 1. But Dillashaw, referencing criticism of his chin made by Garbrandt at Thursday's news conference, had the last laugh.
"The kid is fast. He hits hard," Dillashaw said. "But you can condition your chin. The better shape you are, the better your chin is."
Dillashaw, who lost his title in January 2016 via split decision to Dominick Cruz, was never given the chance to redeem himself in a rematch. But nearly two years later, he earned revenge and now has his sights on a super fight with P4P kind and flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.
"[The bantamweight title] should've been around my waist the whole time," Dillashaw said. "I should still be the champion and I am the champion. This is my belt. Demetrious Johnson, I'm coming for you. You dodged me and I'm coming for that belt."