UFC 173: TJ Dillashaw and the Knockdown That Changed Everything

Nathan McCarterFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2014

May 24, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao (red) is pinned down by TJ Dillashaw (blue) during their UFC 173 bantamweight championship bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

TJ Dillashaw shocked the world at UFC 173.

The No. 4-ranked contender was written off before the fight. The confident Team Alpha Male fighter knew something the majority of the world did not. He stepped into the cage and completely dominated Renan Barao for more than four rounds before finishing the fight.

Everything changed in the very first round when Dillashaw dropped the champion.

When Barao fell, the crowd arose. There was a sense that Dillashaw was the real deal, and he could very well upset the champion.

The challenger looked sharp from the get-go. His footwork and head movement were reminiscent of former champion Dominick Cruz. He was fast. Dillashaw was in and out quickly. He attacked up and down with punches and kicks.

It was the perfect send-off for head coach Duane Ludwig, who will now leave Team Alpha Male. His protege perfected the game plan to destroy a top pound-for-pound fighter.

He feinted effectively. Barao looked befuddled at the movement.

May 24, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC President Dana White puts the bantamweight champion belt on TJ Dillashaw after beating opponent Renan Barao (not pictured) by way of TKO following their UFC 173 bantamweight championship bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena

Dillashaw connected on Barao, and when the power shot came to floor the Brazilian, the fight looked like it could be over quickly. The champion was able to survive, but Dillashaw stayed within himself not to blow his gas tank going for a finish that was unlikely to happen.

Following the knockdown, Barao was finished.

He never recovered. He looked slow, plodding and like he was thinking too much. Dillashaw had him confused. He was never sure as to what Dillashaw was going to do next. It was a masterful performance that earned Dillashaw a Performance of the Night bonus.

There are not enough adjectives to accurately state how stellar Dillashaw was at UFC 173.

The opening round of the main event was reminiscent of Randy Couture vs. Tim Sylvia from UFC 68 in Columbus, Ohio.

Couture clocked Sylvia with a big shot early in the fight, and Sylvia never recovered. Couture rode out the decision victory, but Dillashaw was able to finish his fight against Barao. It highlights how difficult it is to recover from a devastating knockdown early in a fight and how drastically it can alter a bout.

Even without the knockdown, it was going to be a difficult fight for Barao. That is how on point Dillashaw was on Saturday.

Who knows how this fight plays out if Dillashaw does not land that early knockdown blow. What we do know is that after Dillashaw landed that punch, Barao was never able to get back into the fight. It was the moment that changed everything.

Dillashaw stole the show and became the new bantamweight champion in the process.