UFC 173 Results: 3 Fights for T.J. Dillashaw to Take Next
T.J. Dillashaw shocked fans and experts alike Saturday with a one-sided beating that concluded with a TKO of Renan Barao late in their bantamweight title fight at UFC 173 on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Dillashaw not only overcame tremendous odds to avenge teammate and mentor Urijah Faber's loss to Barao, he also became the first member of the Sacramento-based Team Alpha Male to win a UFC title.
Of the UFC's nine champs, only Chris Weidman and Ronda Rousey can say they have less experience than Dillashaw, who has just 10 career wins, including six in the UFC.
His future's not in question, but Dillashaw must now begin the arduous task of attempting to defend his belt in a deeply talented 135-pound division.
Here's a glimpse at three matchups Dillashaw could entertain in the second half of 2014.
Raphael Assuncao, the last man to hand Dillashaw a setback, had to turn down a bout with Barao at UFC 173 because of a rib injury he suffered in his last outing at UFC 170.
Assuncao has reeled off six straight victories since getting KO'd by Erik Koch in his promotional debut at UFC 128. In that span, he has TKO'd Issei Tamura at UFC on Fuel TV 4 and made Vaughan Lee submit to an armbar at UFC on Fuel TV 10.
In a relatively uneventful bout, Assuncao scored a controversial split decision over Dillashaw at UFC Fight Night 29 last October.
While Assuncao narrowly out-struck Dillashaw, 37-32, including 32-29 in the significant strikes department, he got stuffed on each of his six takedown attempts. Dillashaw also scored on two takedowns, notched a guard pass and attempted three submissions.
The judges' scored the fight in Assuncao's favor, 28-29, 29-28, 29-28, halting Dillashaw's impressive four-fight winning streak.
Assuncao kept his momentum and snatched Dillashaw's, a fact that makes this matchup awfully tantalizing.
Truth be told, a healthy Assuncao would certainly jump at the chance of squaring off with Dillashaw, who's refined his game significantly in the last seven months. And since John Dodson moved down to 125 pounds following his win over Dillashaw, Assuncao represents the only fighter at 135 who's beaten the Team Alpha Male stalwart.
On the mend since besting Demetrious Johnson at UFC Live 6 in 2011, former champ Dominick Cruz hopes to overcome a string of devastating injuries and soon return to fight for the belt.
Originally slated to face Barao at UFC 169, Cruz pulled out of the bout and vacated his belt after suffering a torn groin in January.
Cruz, who suffered his lone career loss in 2007 to Faber, will now shift his focus to Dillashaw and a targeted match with the new champ in late 2014.
Although he seemed less confident in Cruz's decision to fight for the belt in his first bout back, UFC president Dana White ultimately told Sports World News that he won't deny "The Dominator" an immediate title shot.
"It's on. It's on. The last guy on this f****ng planet I'm ever going to deny is Dominick Cruz. He's had enough bad news over the last two years. He's not going to get any bad news from me."
Granted, Dillashaw thrashed Barao en route to a TKO-win on Saturday. However, a bad night certainly doesn't diminish the remarkable winning streak that Barao went on between 2005 and 2014.
Barao lost his first pro fight to João Paulo Rodrigues de Souza at Heat FC 3 in 2005. After that, Barao won 32 straight bouts, including nine while fighting for Zuffa LLC. And in his seven UFC matches, Barao won two via TKO and two by submission.
If the UFC's brass reacts to Barao's loss the same way that they responded to Anderson Silva's first promotional setback at UFC 162, then Barao will surely land a rematch before the end of the year.