Cody Garbrandt entered UFC 250 on a brutal three-fight losing skid, all coming by knockout. As he stepped into the Octagon to face Raphael Assuncao in the bantamweight co-main event from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, the former champion's status as a relevant part of the division was at risk. Garbrandt took a patient approach to the fight before unloading with a brutal right hand a split-second before the horn to end the second round, knocking Assuncao out cold.
Garbrandt had recently fallen victim to his own willingness to engage in brawls, leaving himself open to get clipped in striking exchanges. Against Assuncao, he took a more conservative approach, using feints and calf kicks to create openings. That approach paid off as he busted up Assuncao's leg early and rattled him with a few overhand rights.
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As Assuncao began to figure out the puzzle in the second round, Garbrandt began laying a trap. With time winding down, Garbrandt moved back to the cage and ducked down as his opponent walked forward, springing forward with a wild right that connected clean and dropping Assuncao to the canvas in a heap as the horn sounded to end the round.
As officials attempted to place Assuncao on his stool after the knockout, the Brazilian began to go out again and had to be grabbed and lowered back to the canvas, a clear indication of Garbradnt's power.
"It's always great to be in the winner's circle, especially with a knockout over a tough adversary like Raphael Assuncao. To beat the timer like that, it's a little icing on the cake. I haven't won since 2016, I've been through every emotion, in life in career, ups and downs, what I held on to was fighting," Garbrandt said. "I was blessed with a beautiful wife, a beautiful son and the dream in my heart to pursue this and pick myself up time and time again after getting knocked out and embarrassed to keep that dream alive in my heart. I'm just forever thankful that I was able to keep that passion and that drive through it all. I might have bent, but I never broke. I'll never break in this life. It's a great learning experience for me, these last three years, and I think it's going to be the best later part of my career to have those life challenging moments and just forever grateful to be here and excited for the next one.
Garbrandt's win capped off three impressive showings in the bantamweight division on the UFC 250 card. Sean O'Malley scored a brutal walk-off knockout of Eddie Wineland to open the pay-per-view card and Aljamain Sterling announced himself as the top challenger for the bantamweight title with a quick submission win over Cory Sandhagen. But Garbrandt made a big statement of his own by blasting out the longtime contender Assuncao in what is a contender for Knockout of the Year.
"It feels amazing, it's been a journey," Garbrandt said of his rise and fall in the sport. "I went from the top of the world 11-0 to a three fight skid. I just want to thank everyone for sticking with me. ... I give these fights away when I brawl. My passion is back. A lot of fighters lose that and it's hard to find."