The handful of pundits who believed T.J. Dillashaw would dethrone Renan Barao at UFC 173 certainly didn't forecast a brutal TKO win from the Team Alpha Male standout Saturday in Las Vegas.
Regardless, a confident Dillashaw utilized his many tools, particularly his footwoork, speed and athleticism, to trump the seemingly unstoppable Barao in every facet of the game to become his team's first UFC champ.
Although Dillashaw, a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler who entered the fight with just nine wins, failed to score a takedown for the first time since his UFC debut, he outstruck the streaking Barao, 169-68 and 140-64 in the significant strikes category.
Dillashaw landed 99 of 260 shots he threw to Barao's head, 17 of 21 to his body and 24 of 28 to his legs. He also scored on 19 of the 30 ground strikes he fired.
In contrast, Barao landed just 68 of 277 total strikes, including 64 of 273 in the significant strikes department. And despite the fact that he stuffed each of Dillashaw's three shots, Barao failed to muster a takedown or submission attempt.
In his post-fight interview with UFC commentator Joe Rogan, Dillashaw, the UFC's fourth-ranked bantamweight heading into the fight, said Barao's reputation and resume brought the best out in him.
Barao's the best in the world in my eyes...you know what I mean? I've been looking up to the guy [and] I felt respect to get in the cage against him. He's the best in the world and that's what brought it out in me. That's what brought the best out in me because I knew I was fighting the best. I had to bring my A-game to be the champion of the world, and it happened baby.
Dillashaw got off to the ideal start and landed 27 of 65 strikes in the opening round while absorbing just seven blows from Barao.
The second round proved the most tightly contested as Dillashaw outstruck Barao, 28-20, all of which were significant strikes.
Dillashaw regained his steam in Round 3 and hit his mark with 39 of 78 strikes compared to Barao's 19 of 73.
In the last 7:26 of the bout, Dillashaw landed 75 strikes to Barao's 22, including 56-18 in the significant strikes category.
A battered but resilient Barao took all he could handle from a rabid Dillashaw in the fifth round before crumbling and getting saved from further punishment by referee Herb Dean.
The third-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC heading into the bout, Barao tasted defeat for the first time since his pro debut in 2005.
"It was really a tough fight. I have to congratulate him. Tonight was his night, but I'm coming back," a humbled Barao said to Rogan.
Dillashaw last fell to Raphael Assuncao in a controversial split decision at UFC Fight Night 29 last October. Following that loss, Dillashaw has refined his game significantly under soon-to-be former coach Duane Ludwig.
The 28-year-old Dillashaw brought superior footwork, quickness and cardio to the table against Barao, and that remedy proved too much for the 27-year-old Brazilian.
Barao fell to 9-1 under the Zuffa, LLC umbrella, while Dillashaw improved to 6-2 in the UFC.
All stats gathered via Fightmetric.com.
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