In an attempt to showcase the bantamweight champion on a grand stage, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) slated the highly-anticipated rematch between TJ Dillashaw and former 135-pound kingpin Renan Barao, live and free on FOX this past Saturday night (July 25, 2015).
No matter the outcome, it could have been considered a victory for UFC.
Had Barao regained his UFC title, their trilogy fight could have headlined a pay-per-view (PPV). If Dillashaw walked away the victor once again, UFC would have a budding superstar as its bantamweight champion.
Ultimately, the latter option is what came to fruition at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
TJ Dillashaw ran through Renan Barao for the second time, but the Team Alpha Male champ took only four rounds to get it done this time around.
It was an impeccable display of technique, footwork, and hand speed that inevitably delivered a savage and violent finish that had Barao slumped over and out on his feet before Herb Dean finally stepped in to stop the massacre after what seemed to be a video game combination.
The 135-pound king is here to stay, and that is a terrifying notion for the rest of the Bantamweight division.
After such an impressive victory in front of a massive crowd both live and watching on free television, Dillashaw's next fight could dictate his career arc as a PPV draw moving forward.
In order for UFC to sell Dillashaw, they will need a true challenger with name value to rise up the ranks.
Considering Raphael Assuncao is riding a seven-fight winning streak and is the last man to defeat Dillashaw, you would expect the Brazilian to be next in line.
Unfortunately for the 33-year old, his lack of name value and injury woes will make him a very difficult choice as the next challenger.
Bryan Caraway is still one victory away from a title shot, and both Aljamain Sterling and Thomas Almeida need a handful of top-notch wins before they can be thrown into the title mix.
That ultimately leaves UFC with few options, and a very difficult choice.
Dillashaw's next victim has to be either Dominick Cruz, Urijah Faber, or Frankie Edgar.
Dominick Cruz was the first-ever UFC bantamweight champion, and he may have never lost his title had he not suffered three ACL injuries almost back-to-back that have cost him three years of his fighting prime.
Considering Dillashaw's style is most closely replicated by Cruz, hardcore fight fans undoubtedly have fantasies of a technical battle between two of the best footwork specialists the sport has ever seen.
But can Cruz prove to be a PPV draw? Even more importantly, can "The Dominator" get thrown right into a title fight after only fighting once in the last three years?
As for a potential fight against Faber, it doesn't exactly makes sense in the grand scheme of the division, considering "The California Kid" most recently lost a featherweight fight against Frankie Edgar.
Back to "The Answer" in a moment.
Regardless of Faber's recent fights, UFC wouldn't hesitate to throw the savvy veteran into a title shot for name value alone, but considering the Team Alpha Male relationship, a title fight between the two could end up being a glorified sparring session, which could really hurt Dillashaw's image moving forward.
That leaves us with Frankie Edgar.
The former UFC lightweight champion is unquestionably one of the most talented fighters on the planet -- with or without a belt -- and he is one of the few athletes who can compete with the upper echelon of both the 145 and 155-pound divisions.
With the Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor title unification bout looming and log-jamming the featherweight division, and Edgar getting snubbed for his shot at UFC 189, you can bet your bottom dollar UFC would be delighted to fork over a 135-pound title shot to "The Answer" if he can safely cut the additional 10 pounds.
If I were to guess who will next be standing across the cage from Dillashaw, I would say Dominick Cruz, but with injuries being a major question for "The Dominator," I'd say Edgar is a viable wildcard that could really push Dillashaw into the stratosphere if he is able to defeat one of the greatest lighter weight fighters in MMA history.
Whoever it may be, Dillashaw looks to be a star in the making. UFC needs to tread lightly, however, because if Demetrious Johnson has taught us anything, you can be the best fighter in the world and casual fans still won't tune in to watch.
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