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Cody Garbrandt’s long awaited return set for March in Ohio against Raphael Assuncao

UFC 235: Garbrandt v Munhoz Photo by Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

It’s been a long road back to the Octagon for the man Dana White once declared the next potential Big Thing.

Former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt hasn’t fought since dropping his third straight fight to Pedro Munhoz via first round TKO back in March. A torn tendon suffered in that loss followed by a second similar injury in August ended his hopes of a 2019 return, but it looks like his most recent prediction of a March bout was right on the money. ESPN reports that “No Love” will fight for the first time in his home state of Ohio against Raphael Assuncao on March 28th.

The event will take place in Columbus, but whether it’s a PPV or ESPN or ESPN+ card has yet to be revealed.

Adding to the intrigue of Cody’s return is a change in training. The 28 year old has been working a lot with striking coach Mark Henry, who will hopefully be able to tame Garbrandt’s tendency to go ham and brawl when things in the cage heat up. That was what cost him the Munhoz fight, and back in the summer he admitted he might have a fight IQ problem.

”I know I’m way better than these guys,” he said at the time. “But I sometimes fight to their level when I bang it out. When I stick to my skills, my speed and do what I’ve done to become a world champion, no one in the world can match me.”

As for those rumors that Garbrandt was leaving or had left his longtime home of Team Alpha Male? Still just rumors.

”I spoke to Faber recently,” reporter James Lynch tweeted. “And he told me Garbrandt hasnt officially left the team but would just be doing some cross training.”

A few small changes could be all it takes for Garbrandt to rocket right back up to the top of the 135 pound division. Before dropping back to back fights to TJ Dillashaw, Garbrandt had a perfect 11-0 record and took the bantamweight belt off Dominick Cruz, who had seemed unbeatable up until that point (provided he survived training camp). A cocky and collected Garbrandt didn’t just beat Cruz, he went so far as to clown him several times during the fight.

It was a spectacle to behold, and many (Dana White included) thought it heralded the start of the “No Love” era.

Alas, MMA can often resemble rock paper scissors and while Garbrandt seemed to have Cruz’s number (how about a rematch to find out?), former teammate TJ Dillashaw had Garbrandt’s. But with Dillashaw out after popping positive for EPO, the field is wide open for Cody to make his comeback. It all starts in March against Raphael Assuncao, who is attempting to pull off his own comeback after his first back to back losses in nearly ten years.

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