TJ Dillashaw clinches 135-pound title

ByBrett Okamoto ESPN logo
Sunday, May 25, 2014

LAS VEGAS -- A streak and a curse, both over in one night.

TJ Dillashaw (10-2) shocked the world at UFC 173 on Saturday night, knocking out Renan Barao in the final round of their bantamweight title fight inside MGM Grand Garden Arena. Referee Herb Dean called a stop to the bout at 2:26 of the fifth round.

The result snaps a 33-fight unbeaten streak for Barao (32-2) that dated back to April 2005. It also handed Dillashaw's gym, Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California, its first world title. The team had gone winless in six previous UFC title fights.

"I've dreamed it for so long, it's unbelievable," Dillashaw said. "All you have to do is believe you're the best in the world and you'll get here."

Barao was heralded as perhaps the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world ahead of Saturday, but he was hopelessly outclassed against a significant underdog. Ringside stats showed Dillashaw outlanding Barao on the feet 209-to-97.

In the final sequence, Dillashaw hurt Barao with a head kick near the fence. As Barao circled off, Dillashaw knocked him down with a perfect left hook. Barao tried to recover from his back, but Dillashaw followed with a flurry that ended the fight.

"That's who I am," Dillashaw said. "I want to finish every fight. I'm at my best when I'm coming at you.

"Barao is the best in the world in my eyes. I've been looking up to him. I felt respect in the cage with him. He's the best in the world, and that's what brought it out in me. I had to bring my 'A' game to beat the best in the world."

Barao, who won the UFC interim title in July 2012 and was crowned the official champion earlier this year, praised Dillashaw's performance.

"It was a really tough fight," Barao said. "I have to congratulate him. I'm coming back."

Dillashaw made a big statement early, flooring Barao with an overhand right with one minute remaining in the first round. Barao managed to tie Dillashaw up a bit from half-guard, but gave up his back soon after in a scramble.

With time winding down in the round, Dillashaw threatened to finish the fight with a rear-naked choke, but eventually allowed Barao to escape to his feet.

A former contestant on "The Ultimate Fighter," Dillashaw was visibly amped to start the second round, which Barao fed on. The defending champion started to find range on his counter strikes, especially the left hook. He cut Dillashaw over the left eye with a right hand midway through the round.

Dillashaw was undaunted by the cut, though. He continued to pressure Barao as the round went on and closed with a right head kick/left hand combination.

The right hand continued to land for Dillashaw in later rounds, as the pace of the fight started to mount on Barao. A left head kick staggered Barao in the third. A right cross dazed him in the fourth. Barao attempted a few spinning back-kicks to change momentum, but Dillashaw plodded right through them.

The jab was a major weapon for Dillashaw, from both the orthodox and southpaw stance. He picked a tired Barao apart with it in the final round, before putting him away with the last combination. A former collegiate wrestler, Dillashaw attempted only three takedown attempts. Barao defended each of them.

Dillashaw, 27, has now won six of his last seven fights. He is 6-2 overall in the UFC. His most recent loss came via controversial split decision to Raphael Assuncao in October.

UFC president Dana White was asked about the possibility of an immediate rematch.

"(Barao) hasn't lost in 35 fights," he said. "Yeah that's on the table, too. It wouldn't be insane to give him a rematch."

A likely first opponent for Dillashaw is Raphael Assuncao (22-4), who defeated him via controversial split decision in October. If not Assuncao, an immediate rematch with Barao is a possibility.

The announced attendance was 11,036.

Also Saturday night, Daniel Cormier (15-0) kept his unbeaten record intact, submitting Dan Henderson via rear-naked choke at 3:53 of the third round.

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