Wow. Where do I even begin? Have to hand it to T.J. Dillashaw. He went in and shocked the world last night. He was taking on Bantamweight Champion and superstar Renan Barao, who boasted a record of 32-2-1 and is considered at least a top 3 fighter in the UFC.
But none of that mattered to Dillashaw. Dillashaw hails from Angels Camp, California (which is about 15 minutes from where I was raised – Nor Cal represent!!) and is a member of Team Alpha Male with Urijah Faber. In the lead-up to the fight, it was clear that Dillashaw was confident about his chances in this bout, and Faber backed that up by predicting that Dillashaw would win the title at UFC 173. That’s not to say that Dillashaw was cocky. It wasn’t arrogance, it was pure confidence and belief in his abilities.
At the outset of the fight, it was clear that Dillashaw intended to dictate the pace of the fight. He wasn’t intimidated by Barao at all and landed significant strikes at a furious pace against the champion. He rocked Barao in the first round, and ferociously took him down – which is something that doesn’t happen often.
With each round, you could see Dillashaw’s swagger growing. He had more pep in his step, more bounce. He believed he could win. And that turned out to be his most dangerous weapon. Dillashaw was not going to be denied last night and every motion and every action was geared toward beating Barao.
I’ll admit, being the naive person that I am, I got concerned towards the end of the third round when Dillashaw clearly fazed Barao and had him on the ropes, and then elected to take the the fight close and grapple with him, rather than going for the KO. In the end, it didn’t matter because Dillashaw continued with his tactical dismantling of Barao via strikes, dropped him to the mat in the fifth, and used his hammer fists to secure the victory by TKO.
Everyone at the bar (myself included) went nuts. The 8-to-1 underdog had done the unthinkable and annihilated one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the game right now with an unfathomable 32-2-1 record. The kid from small-town Angels Camp, fighting out of Sacramento, went in and took what he wanted. He followed Dana White’s advice and didn’t leave it in the hands of the judges. Dillashaw wanted the title and he made sure his hand was raised at the end of the fight. He made sure the belt was secured around his waist. He made sure we’d have a new Bantamweight Champion.