Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweights T.J. Dillashaw and Renan Barao will go to war once more TONIGHT (July 25, 2015) at UFC on FOX 16 inside United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
While Dillashaw's sudden rise to the top may have been unexpected, he's proven to be dominant thus far in the Octagon. He's finished his last two fights via head kick and will be looking for a repeat performance opposite Barao.
Meanwhile, Barao has been struggling to regain his title. A botched weight cut foiled his chance at an immediate rematch, and his followup win over Mitch Gagnon was far from his best performance. Regardless, Barao has been given another opportunity to dethrone his rival.
Let's take a closer look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Renan Barao (UFC 173), Joe Soto (UFC 177), Mike Easton (UFC Fight Night 35)
Key Losses: Raphael Assuncao (UFC Fight Night 29)
Keys to Victory: A Team Alpha Male-trained fighter, Dillashaw is an excellent wrestling with crisp kickboxing. Utilizing plenty of feints and footwork, Dillashaw confounds his opponent until running him into heavy shots or takedowns.
In his last fight with Barao, things went pretty much perfectly for Dillashaw. He had Barao punching at air frequently, evaded the majority of his opponent's kicks, and smashed him with a wide variety of strikes.
It's no mistake that Joe Rogan was raving about Dillashaw's performance so enthusiastically. The new champion stole the strap almost perfectly.
With that in mind, Dillashaw doesn't need to change anything up; his strategy should remain the same. He's still the faster and more technical striker, and he's undoubtedly been improving. There's no need to develop a new game plan, as Dillashaw can just carry his improvements into the cage with him.
All that said, Dillashaw needs to be wary of getting over-aggressive. In the second round of their fight, he abandoned his game plan a bit in an attempt to gun down the wounded Barao, and that could've ended poorly. So long as he stays disciplined, Dillashaw is in good position to defend his title once more.
Record: 33-2 (1)
Key Wins: Urijah Faber (UFC 169, UFC 149), Eddie Wineland (UFC 165), Michael McDonald (UFC on Fuel TV 7)
Key Losses: TJ Dillashaw (UFC 173)
Keys to Victory: It's easy to forget that Barao went on one of the most impressive runs in the history of the sport before Dillashaw dismantled him. The Nova Uniao representative is a brutal Muay Thai striker with slick jiu-jitsu and iron takedown defense.
Despite his talents and accomplishments, Dillashaw's style troubled Barao to no end. Unlike his opponent, Barao needs to completely change up his strategy.
Otherwise, he's set to endure a repeat performance.
Perhaps most importantly, Barao has to be more mobile on his feet. Last time around, he suffered greatly do to his habit of planting his feet and trying to knockout Dillashaw with heavy counter punches. Rather than intimidate Dillashaw, Barao merely saw his own counter strikes evaded and then countered.
instead, Barao needs to jab and circle off. If he's throwing quick, hard jabs rather than kill shots, he's more likely to land, and it will make Dillashaw hesitate.
If he can earn Dillashaw's respect on the feet, that's a hugely important moment that could easily build into more success.
Bottom Line: As is always the case when a title is involved, there's a lot on the line for both men.
Dillashaw has the potential to become the next truly dominant champion if he manages to win this fight. Both Raphael Assuncao -- whose win over the champion was questionable -- and Dominick Cruz seem to be in a constant state of injury, leaving few established challengers left for the strap. And while there are plenty of excellent bantamweight prospects, none appear ready for the champion just yet.
On the other hand, a loss would obviously be a huge disappoint. However, that lack of contenders could end up being a good thing for Dillashaw, as he may have an immediate trilogy match with the Brazilian.
Barao might actually have even more on the line than the champion. If he loses another match to Dillashaw, he'll either need the belt to change hands or a huge win streak to earn another shot. That's a far cry from the position he was in just over a year ago, as the champion of the world that was undefeated inside the Octagon.
But, this is also a chance to return to the summit. If Barao can topple his opponent, it's an incredible story, considering how much he has been discounted in this fight.
Tonight at UFC on FOX 16, TJ Dillashaw and Renan Barao will go to war for the second time. Which man will leave the Octagon strapped with gold?