T.J. Dillashaw shocked the world at UFC 173 in May 2014, dominating Renen Barao over the course of five rounds before finishing him off to earn the technical knockout victory and win the Bantamweight belt.
After several roadblocks, including Barao's hospitalization for a failed weight cut prior to UFC 177 (more on the disaster here) and the champion suffering a broken rib prior to UFC 186, the rematch will take place this coming Saturday at UFC on FOX 16 inside United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
Dillashaw's striking coach, Duane "Bang" Ludwig, was a guest on the SiriusXM Fight Club on Tuesday (July 21, 2015) and the highly-regarded stand up specialist explained the reason(s) his pupil was so dominant the first time and what the champion has to do to avoid being over confident against Barao in the rematch.
"There was a reason why he was dominant because he did the things that he needed to do," said Ludwig. "So, we need to do the same things this time as well, again, do the things that we need to do. We have to respect Barao’s power and understand his positioning and footwork so when we decide to launch our combinations or footwork or whatever we are going to do at that particular time, it’s the actual right time to do it.
"And not to look past Barao because we had somewhat of an easier fight the first time. We still have to respect Barao and the respect is always there because that’s one of the things as a martial artist, is to make sure you are not getting ahead of yourself and controlling yourself and knowing when to attack. When, where and why."
Ludwig, 36, said it's a cliche analogy, but in his eyes, Dillashaw is the video game and he has the controller. And it's his job to ensure he's "pressing the correct buttons at the correct times" during the course of his fights.
The retired UFC welterweight/lightweight rose to coaching prominence during his tenure as head coach of Team Alpha Male. He left that gym soon after Dillashaw became champion to open his own school in Colorado. However, he still coaches Dillashaw and will be in his corner Saturday night in Chicago.
There weren't many experts who predicted Dillashaw would be the first fighter out of Team Alpha Male to win UFC gold with a star-studded team that has no shortage of talent under its roof, including Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes and Joseph Benavidez, among others.
"Bang," however, knew it all along.
"He actually wants it," Ludwig said. "TJ is the only one who actually wants to be a champion. TJ trains a lot harder and is a lot more focused than anyone else on the team, period."
That's a bold statement -- the three aforementioned teammates are all considered some of the very best in mixed martial arts (MMA) today. Faber was a World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion and has challenged for UFC's Bantamweight title, as well as the division's interim belt. Mendes has competed for UFC's Featherweight title twice and Benavidez had two unsuccessful swings at the Flyweight strap.
Yes, there have been things said back-and-forth between Ludwig and Faber, but the statement is still surprising to hear, especially with how highly regarded the camp is and how close others have come to winning titles.
Ludwig then elaborated further.
"There's just certain people that want it more than others," he continued. "He has a stronger drive, a stronger determination. He actually believes he can be champ and he's the one who puts in the extra work, asks the questions, trains a bit harder, takes less breaks.... He's the only guy.... Danny Castillo works really hard as well. Danny over-trains himself. T.J. is just very smart on how he trains as well, and it's just a difference when you see the whole Alpha Male Team train, and T.J. sticks out."
Mendes recently lost his third title fight at UFC 189 earlier this month, dominating the action before Conor McGregor stormed back late in round two to capture the interim 145-pound title via technical knockout. Ludwig -- who hasn't worked with Mendes in his last few fights -- gave some harsh criticism of "Money," saying Team Alpha Male could very well have a second title up on its mantle right now if he was still in the fold as coach, citing "small" and "simple" things as the reason Mendes didn't get over the hump for a title his last two tries.
"Chad is not one of the guys who is always in the gym training hard," he said. "So, he wasn't in the best shape for the fight. I think if Chad was in shape -- I don't know if it would've been a different outcome -- but it definitely would've been a different fight. Chad, man... I'll tell you what, no one needs me, but everyone who works with me is going to do better with me than without me. That's for sure. And I feel with the proper camp, Chad could be wearing the belt, he could wearing the belt right now. I felt that too when he fought Aldo the second time."