Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight standouts T.J. Dillashaw and Renan Barao clashed once again last night (July 25, 2015) at UFC on FOX 16 inside United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
It was an extreme year for both men in 2014. Dillashaw rose from the status of prospect to champion in just a few short months, and he even defended his crown later in the year. Meanwhile, Barao crashed down the pound-for-pound rankings because of a single loss and botched a weight cut in his chance at revenge.
This bout had massive implications, as it could either reverse or strengthen their new positions. Dillashaw could be regarded as the next dominant champion or simply another contender depending on the result, while Barao had a chance to prove his rather large army of recent doubters wrong or end up fleeing to Featherweight after another defeat.
The first round started quickly. Before long, Dillashaw's game plan was made clear. Relying less on his frequent stance switching and movement that he initially used to defeat Barao, Dillashaw stood in the southpaw stance and battered his opponent with brutal left kicks and right hooks.
For most of the round, Dillashaw picked his opponent apart. Another wrinkle in the strategy emerged, as Dillashaw forced his opponent into the fence. From that position, Barao landed some nice counter knees to the mid-section, but Dillashaw controlled his opponent, wore on him, and landed some punches of his own.
Outside of the clinch knees, Barao was largely picked apart for the entirety of the opening round. He did, however, land a nice combination near the end of the round as the champion got reckless, but it was nowhere near enough to win him the round.
Barao tried to switch it up with his wrestling, but the second round continued in similar fashion. Once more, Dillashaw picked his opponent apart, and he also kept working in the clinch, intent on tiring the Brazilian out.
By the third round, the effects were more than noticeable.
While Dillashaw was utterly relaxed, Barao was struggling to keep up. The clinch wrestling exhausted him, a fact he made obvious by shooting for a very slow takedown, which was quickly reversed. Dillashaw contemplated attacking from the turtle, but instead he backed up and returned to striking.
By this point, the writing was on the wall for Barao, and Dillashaw made that abundantly obvious by smashing him with a combination near the bell. Barao was on shaky knees when the bell rang, which likely save him from the finish.
But, not for long.
Immediately to start the fourth round, Dillashaw knocked his opponent off-balance with a low kick. As Barao recovered his stance, Dillashaw cracked him with a hook and rocked his opponent. From there, Dillashaw swarmed his opponent with dozens of punches, rarely missing a single one.
With his back against the fence, Barao's knees buckled multiple times. Though he never fell to the mat, he was out on his feet, and the referee mercifully called the bout.
This was another spectacular performance by Dillashaw. He picked his opponent apart from start to finish, prove that he's no fluke, and finished his opponent in quicker fashion. Plus, Dillashaw did it with a very different style than his original title win, which shows how much he's improved in the last year.
In particular, Dillashaw's right handed jab was an excellent weapon. He showed it a bit against Joe Soto, but this fight really cemented it. As Barao looked for kill shots, Dillashaw was able to stay measured, pop him with the jab, and then line up heavier shots.
It's a big part of why Dillashaw's accuracy was so high.
After this win, Dillashaw is likely to climb up the pound-for-pound ranks a bit. Before him, Barao was untouchable, but Dillashaw basically steamrolled him twice now. At this point, Dillashaw looks like a truly dominant champ.
For his next defense, Dillashaw should face off with either Dominick Cruz or Raphael Assuncao. If both of those fighters are still injured, then Dillashaw will probably have to face off with Aljamain Sterling, who's extremely talented but still green.
To his credit, Barao did try to switch up his attack. He opened up with extreme aggression, trying to earn Dillashaw's respect. While it ultimately didn't work, it wasn't a bad plan. Similarly, Barao's attempts to take his opponent down weren't a terrible idea.
Dillashaw just had an answer.
However, some of Barao's past flaws remained with him. Whenever Dillashaw closed the distance, Barao swung at him with a massive right hand and/or left hook, both of which were slow and avoided. If his counter punching had been more measured, it may have worked out better for him.
This loss puts Barao in a truly terrible position. Losing to the champion twice is a tough thing to overcome, but getting utterly dominated once again leaves him in something of a wasteland at bantamweight.
Moving up to featherweight seems to be the best move for Barao, as Dillashaw was simply too fast for him. In addition, cutting less weight would definitely help his conditioning, another flaw that Dillashaw latched onto.
Frankly, it couldn't end up worse than fighting "Killashaw" a third time.
Last night, TJ Dillashaw destroyed Renan Barao inside four rounds for another title defense. How long can the Team Alpha Male fighter hang onto his strap?
For complete UFC on FOX 16: "Dillashaw vs Barao" results and play-by-play, click HERE!