Barao vs. Dillashaw: Examining Each Fighter's Path to Winning UFC 173 Main Event

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistMay 24, 2014

Cole Escovedo, left, and Renan Barao during a bantamweight bout at UFC 130, Saturday, May 28, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

Renan Barao will put his bantamweight title and historic winning streak on the line Saturday night at UFC 173, giving challenger T.J. Dillashaw a chance to stun the world in Las Vegas.

Entering Saturday's main event, Barao has won 22 consecutive MMA fights with three successful title defenses.

Dillashaw is no slouch either, having won five of his last six bouts, with the one loss to Raphael Assuncao coming in controversial fashion. The 28-year-old challenger brings a wrestling background to the table that has been serving him well in MMA. 

According to FightMetric's Michael Carroll, this main event represents a first among experienced competitors.

Let's break down each fighter's path to victory on Saturday night.


UFC 173

When: Saturday, May 24 at 10 p.m. ET

Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada

TV: Pay-per-view


Barao's Path to Victory

The champion is good enough that there's not just one way to retain his title.

Barao is extraordinarily quick, making him one of the division's premier defenders. He's also a gifted striker but most notably a takedown artist who can put a fight away.

He provided a premature ending to his last two bouts, ending them with early knockouts. Four of his last nine fights concluded with his opponent tapping out, giving him 14 submission victories in total.

Each fighter excels at takedowns, but Barao offers more versatility in the stand-up game. He can outwork Dillishaw, gradually tiring him out until pouncing with a submission maneuver.

Barao told Bleacher Report's Duane Finley, through a translator, that the striking game will lead to Dillashaw's downfall.

I believe T.J. (Dillashaw) thinks he is a striker now, and he isn't. I think he will mess up and make mistakes in this fight, and this will present the chance for me to finish him. I'm very calm and ready for this fight, and I believe I will win this fight because I'm the better fighter.

He has the right strategy in mind to win a fight that is his to lose, barring a critical mistake.


Dillashaw's Path to Victory

SACRAMENTO, CA - JUNE 26:  T.J. Dillashaw works out for the media during the Team Alpha Male Media Open Workout at Ultimate Fitness Gym on June 26, 2012 in Sacramento, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

For Dillashaw to have any chance of pulling off an upset, he must find a way to take this fight to the ground.

This is easier said than done, as Barao is a well-versed fighter who doesn't get down. Even on the mat, he's arguably the toughest 135-pound grappler out there.

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Yet takedowns are his area of expertise, as he averages 3.08 takedowns per 15 minutes with 45 percent accuracy. With a 67 striking defense percentage, Barao is extremely difficult to damage.

Barao is too fast on his feet to successfully engage in a striking war. If they trade punches and kicks, the champion will leave with the belt secure around his waist.

Dillashaw must slow the tempo down and find a way to trap his experienced opponent into submission attempts.

On the bright side, Dillashaw can leave everything on the table with nothing to lose. In a UFC preview show, via Sports Illustrated's Jeff Wagenheim, he embraced the underdog role.

Barao's been the reigning champion. He's been winning for the last nine years. He's been on a crazy win streak. And it takes off some pressure for me. I get to let loose and have some fun and prove to the world that I'm a lot better than they think. It's exciting to be the one that's gonna shock them, you know? 'Cause it's gonna happen.

As a neutral observer, it's difficult to share Dillashaw's confidence. But hey, you never know.


Note: All statistics courtesy of FightMetric