UFC bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw shocked the world with his fifth round finish of formerly dominant titleholder Renan Barao in the main event of May 24’s UFC 173 from Las Vegas.
Going into the short notice bout as a massive underdog, Dillashaw rocked “The Baron” with a huge overhand right early on in the bout, a punch that Barao never seemed to recover from. Speaking to the media in his native Brazil, Barao described just how out of it he was (via MMA Fighting):
“I remember everything that happened until that point. After (that punch), I only woke up in the locker room. The fight was really close in the beginning, but everything changed after that punch.
He landed a heavy punch in the beginning of the fight and I kept fighting on autopilot. I was too slow, I wasn’t thinking. (Andre Pederneiras) told me to do one thing and I did another. But I will fight smart this time, I won’t let this happen again.”
Indeed Barao was too slow, as Dillashaw continued picking him apart with a varied offense of crisp striking before ending the fight in the final frame. Barao’s corner could be overheard telling him not to stand and trade with Dillashaw, but he was too dazed to listen and became a shell of his once-dominant self.
However, Barao will have a chance to regain the gold in the main event of August 30’s UFC 177 from the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. He said he’s going to bring the title back home, noting that he’s going to fight differently after accepting the first fight on short notice:
“You always have to bring something new. I accepted the fight on short notice and I wasn’t 100 percent ready for it, but this time will be different. I never trained so hard in my entire life, so it’s going to be different. The title is coming back to Brazil. I’m hungry to get this title back. I will get what is mine.”
Barao received an immediate rematch despite many feeling that No. 3-ranked Raphael Assuncao, who was the last man to defeat Dillashaw back at UFC Fight Night 29 in October 2013, would receive the next title shot. While some, including Dillashaw, questioned the booking, Barao said he doesn’t care what the newly crowned champion thinks:
“T.J. can say anything he wants, but he’s not the one who makes the decisions. UFC makes the calls. The UFC gave me this opportunity, so I’m happy. T.J. is completely wrong.”
With his 31-fight win streak a thing of the past, all Barao can do now is prove that his loss to Dillashaw was the product of one thunderous first round punch.
He clearly wasn’t himself, yet “The Viper” continues to improve by leaps and bounds under the tutelage of striking coach Duane “Bang” Ludwig.
Will even the best version of Barao be able to regain the belt at UFC 177 in Dillashaw’s own backyard?
Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie for USA TODAY Sports