NEW YORK -- One of the most anticipated grudge matches of the year lived up to the hype Saturday night -- and it was TJ Dillashaw who had the final say.
Dillashaw (15-3) knocked out Cody Garbrandt at 2:41 of the second round in their bantamweight title fight, reclaiming the 135-pound championship he lost in early 2016. The 135-pound title fight co-headlined UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden.
It was an emotional matchup for both. Dillashaw used to train alongside Garbrandt (11-1) at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California, and left the team in 2015 on bad terms.
"You know, there was no animosity on my side," Dillashaw said. "I knew I was fighting a very dangerous opponent. He's fast, powerful. That's going to make you more nervous than you need to be. You don't need any more pressure to it. I didn't put any animosity. I wasn't worried about the trash talk.
"I was worried about getting better and getting my belt back, which should've never left my waist."
The finish came shortly after Dillashaw dropped Garbrandt with a right hand in the pocket. Garbrandt tried to scramble up, but Dillashaw followed him to the floor and put him away.
Dillashaw described his strategy as, "Lead the dance. Get out there, use your motion, don't go into his fight. Don't brawl with him. That's his only chance. Use his kicks. Stay long. That's what got me the victory."
After the referee stepped in, Dillashaw stayed next to Garbrandt and screamed toward him. The two shook hands, however, after the result was read.
"I was just yelling," Dillashaw said. "I was just excited. He stood up, and I was just yelling. Congratulations [to Garbrandt], man. He's a helluva fighter. He's young. I'll see him again. This isn't the end of Cody Garbrandt."
From there, Dillashaw called out dominant 125-pound flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, whom he tried to fight earlier this year, but Johnson preferred another matchup.
"Demetrious Johnson, I'm coming for you," Dillashaw said. "I'm breaking you. You dodged me. I'm getting that belt at 125."
The finish was made all the more impressive by the fact Dillashaw was badly hurt in the first round.
In fact, Dillashaw might have been saved by the bell in the opening round. Garbrandt dropped him with a clean right hand and was following up with punches as the bell sounded. Dillashaw wobbled back to his corner, but he recovered well in between rounds.
Moments into the second round, Dillashaw turned the tide with a left head kick that put Garbrandt down. The defending champ popped back up, but the strike gave Dillashaw confidence.
"The finish happened so fast," said Dillashaw. "I dropped him with the left kick. I was kicking low, kicking his body, kicking low, but I slowly had the finish. I knew I'd keep the pressure and eventually I was going to finish. I hit him with the right hook as he circled out."
It is the first loss of Garbrandt's career. Dillashaw, who trains in Los Angeles, has now won seven of eight.