11:00 PM ET
Marc RaimondiESPN Staff Writer
One of the best divisions in the UFC has a newly minted contender.
Rob Font put on one of the best performances of his career, beating former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt via unanimous decision (48-47, 50-45, 50-45) in the bantamweight main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Font’s boxing — especially his jab — was on point the entire way. It was the first UFC main event for Font and the first time he has gone past the third round. The key, he said, was not getting into a firefight with Garbrandt, who has big, one-punch knockout power.
“I can’t go hook for hook with him,” Font said in his postfight interview. “I was preaching the whole time — stay disciplined. I really believe it’s the best jab in UFC.”
It would be difficult to argue with him after his sublime usage of that technique against Garbrandt. The jab was landing in all five rounds and Font was following it up with right hands, hooks and kicks. Garbrandt had some success early with his wrestling, but when the fight was on the feet, it was mostly all Font.
“He went out there and set the pace early and shut Cody down,” UFC president Dana White said of Font.
Font started the first round with a big right hand that hurt Garbrandt. That set the tone for the rest of the fight. Garbrandt, known for his power striking, landed a takedown in the first and second rounds, but Font stayed out of trouble on the ground and even used a kimura grip to sweep back to his feet in the second. In the third and fourth, Font really started to come in with combinations and uppercuts.
Garbrandt mounted a rally in the fifth. He landed some hard combinations and overhand rights. Ironically, Garbrandt seemed to have his greatest successes when he brawled; getting into brawls has been his career bugaboo.
Going in, ESPN had Garbrandt ranked No. 4 and Font at No. 5 in the world at 135 pounds. Afterward, Font said he wants either a title shot next or the winner of a scheduled July bout between former champ TJ Dillashaw and Cory Sandhagen
The event was held with COVID-19 protocols in place inside the UFC Apex, the facility across the street from the UFC’s corporate campus.
Font (19-4) has won four in a row. In his most recent outing before Saturday, he finished former title challenger Marlon Moraes via first-round TKO. The Massachusetts native has 12 finishes in 19 career wins. Font, 33, has won seven of his past nine fights overall. He is now 9-3 in the UFC.
Garbrandt (12-4) snapped a three-fight losing streak by knocking out Raphael Assuncao in May 2020 in his last bout. He has now lost four of five. The Ohio native has gone to decision only three times in 11 UFC fights. He held the bantamweight title in 2016 and 2017. Garbrandt, 29, was coming off a severe bout with COVID-19, which caused him blood clots and other serious health issues, including pneumonia.