LOS ANGELES — T.J. Dillashaw solidified his hold on the UFC bantamweight belt on the same night the longest-tenured champion in UFC history’s title reign came to a dramatic end.
Dillashaw knocked out longtime rival and former training partner Cody Garbrandt for the second time in less than a year late in the first round of the main event of UFC 227 on Saturday night at Staples Center.
Shortly before, Demetrious Johnson surrendered his flyweight belt with a split-decision loss to Henry Cejudo.
Dillashaw and Garbrandt traded wild punches for most of the first round before Dillashaw staggered him back to the cage with a right hook similar to the shot that led to his knockout in November in New York.
This time he followed it with a series of big punches and then a knee to the head that prompted referee Herb Dean to step in and save Garbrandt, who was still standing against the cage.
“I just kept those right hands coming, man,” Dillashaw said. “I was loading up.
“I know he likes to lead with the right hand, so I was just going to time it and come back at him, and that’s what happened. I feel like I’m now the best bantamweight of all time.”
That moniker has unquestionably belonged to Johnson in the flyweight ranks, but he’s no longer the only champion in the class.
Cejudo captured the flyweight title a decade after he won the gold medal in wrestling at the 2008 Olympics.
He used that base to get Johnson down several times during the 25-minute fight, even if he didn’t do much damage once the action went to the mat.
Both fighters found success at certain points on their feet, as each of the five rounds was close.
“This is a dream come true,” Cejudo said. “From Olympic gold medalist to UFC champion.”
Many questions were posed to Johnson during the buildup to the event about whether he would move up to challenge the winner of the bantamweight title bout to try to win a second belt.
Cejudo put an end to that discussion for now.
“I felt very disrespected all week with all of the talk of a super fight,” Cejudo said. “So I am standing here now to say that I want the winner of the main event.”
He’ll more likely draw a rematch with Johnson after a close and exciting fight.
Johnson hadn’t lost since a bantamweight title bout against Dominick Cruz in 2011. He dropped to flyweight the next year and won a four-man tournament to crown the organization’s first flyweight champion.
He broke Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive title defenses in October when he extended his streak to 11.
It came to an end with the agonizing reading of the scorecards, as each fighter heard his name called with a 48-47 advantage before Bruce Buffer announced the third 48-47 card for Cejudo.
Featherweight contender Renato Moicano handed veteran Cub Swanson his third straight loss, as he forced a tap by locking in a rear-naked choke late in the first round.
Moicano, whose only career loss came against undefeated top contender Brian Ortega, dropped Swanson with a left jab and then swarmed him on the ground.
Moicano said he hopes the performance was good enough to get him a rematch against Ortega, this time for the interim title with champion Max Holloway still sidelined.
J.J. Aldrich won her third straight fight since dropping her UFC debut and snapped the six-fight winning streak of Polyana Viana by avoiding takedowns and consistently finding a home for her left hand against the grappling specialist.
Rising middleweight contender Thiago Santos won a thrilling unanimous decision over newcomer Kevin Holland.
Santos, who had his four-fight winning streak end in April, dominated large stretches of the first and third rounds despite Holland landing some big shots.
The action served as a continuation of a bantamweight bout between Brett Johns and Pedro Munhoz in the headliner of the preliminary card that saw Munhoz batter a resilient Johns with leg kicks until he could barely stand on his way to a unanimous decision.
It was the fifth win in six fights for Munhoz.
Bantamweight Alex Perez and flyweight Marlon Vera, who train together in Southern California, had the only knockouts of the preliminaries.
Vera stopped Wuliji Buren with a body shot in the second round, and Perez unleashed a flurry to finish Jose Torres in the first round.
Ricky Simon, Ricardo Torres, Sheymon Moraes and Zhang Weili won by decisions.
Saturday’s main card results from Staples Center in Los Angeles:
— T.J. Dillashaw def. Cody Garbrandt, knockout, first round (4:17), to retain bantamweight title
— Henry Cejudo def. Demetrious Johnson, split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
— Renato Moicano def. Cub Swanson, featherweights, submission, first round (4:15)
— J.J. Aldrich def. Polyana Viana, women’s strawweights, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
— Thiago Santos def. Kevin Holland, middleweights, unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-26)