Research: TJ Dillashaw Has Redemption Shot at UFC 217, But Only 30% Of Former Champions Reclaim Belts

A little less than 21 months after Dominick Cruz beat him to take the UFC bantamweight belt, TJ Dillashaw will have his chance to win the belt back at UFC 217, but history sees the odds run in favour of the new blood.

Research analysing 20 years of title matchups in the Ultimate Fighting Championship shows mixed martial artists attempting to reclaim their straps in the same weight division tend to fail in those efforts—and only eight fighters have ever managed the feat.

Not only that, but the statistics also indicate former champions looking to win back their titles are more than twice as likely to lose via technical knockout than any other method, which could bode badly for Dillashaw.

Dating back as far as UFC 28 in 2000, when Randy Couture became the first fighter to win back a UFC belt in the same weight division, just a select few have lost their championship only to return and reclaim that same silverware:

UFC Fighters to Reclaim Titles In Same Weight Division

Furthermore, the example of Jon Jones could well be ruled ineligible after his UFC 214 victory over Daniel Cormier saw him grasp the UFC light heavyweight crown for a second time—only for him to test positive for a banned substance, which led to that result being ruled a no contest.

By and large, however, those fighters who lose a UFC title never see one again—or at least not in the same weight class.

As the chart shows, less than a third (seven) of fighters who have attempted to win back their old belts have succeeded at the first time of asking, while more than 69 per cent (16) have had to settle for defeat.

It’s worth noting Dillashaw is not your average fighter and undoubtedly stands an above-average chance of beating Garbrandt to reclaim what was once his. While we sometimes see less deserving mixed martial artists get their shot at the big time, particularly in the lesser populated divisions, there aren’t many who could deny Dillashaw deserves a second bite of the cherry.

Boasting a 14-3 record, wrestling phenomenon Dillashaw has been stopped only once in his professional career (by John Dodson in The Ultimate Fighter 14 finale in 2011). The main concern for him is 11-0 Garbrandt is a stoppage specialist and has gone the distance only twice in almost five years as a pro.

It’s good news for “No Love,” then, that former champions tend to not only fail in their quests to reclaim silverware but also show a worrying pattern of suffering knockouts along the way.
UFC greats like Frank Mir, Junior Dos Santos, Couture, Tito Ortiz, Rich Franklin and BJ Penn have all contributed to the tally of technical knockout (TKO) defeats suffered by former champions.

Including fighters such as Penn, Mir and Couture, who have each had multiple attempts at winning back their old titles in years gone by, knockout is the least common method by which those former champions have suffered defeat, occurring just twice.

Decision results are twice as probable but still not all that likely, with four ex-titleholders having lost via this method, while five have been submitted in their efforts to clinch the belt once more.

A technical knockout is by far the most probable method by which Dillashaw is likely to lose if he does come undone against Garbrandt, however, considering former champions have lost in their reclaim efforts via this route on 11 occasions. That’s more than double the second-most common method and means a TKO has been responsible for more former champions failing to win back their pride more than the other three methods combined.

Dillashaw will join an elite club of fighters is he manages to defeat Garbrandt and take back his bantamweight belt on November 4, but he’ll need to buck a major UFC trend in order to do so.

The research findings:

  • Only 30% of fighters win back their former UFC titles in the same weight division at the first time of asking,
  • Just eight fighters have managed to win back their old UFC titles in the same weight division (seven if we discount Jon Jones’ UFC 214 win over Daniel Cormier, later ruled a no contest),
  • Randy Couture holds the record for most times reclaiming his own UFC titles with three (Heavyweight x2, Light Heavyweight x1),
  • More former champions have lost via TKO in their attempts to reclaim their old titles than any other method (11),
  • Submission is the next most common method (five), while only two former champs have been knocked out in their efforts to win back their old belts.

Note: This research does not account for mixed martial arts titles accumulated under separate promotions that later joined with the UFC, such as Strikeforce or the WEC. Interim championships also do not count in the data.