The Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California, will be loud and rowdy for UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw on Saturday night. Dillashaw will headline UFC 177 in his hometown in one of the most anticipated fights of the year.
Dillashaw looks to hand Renan Barao another loss in the rematch of their May 24 scrap at UFC 173.
Truth be told, Dillashaw dominated Barao in every facet in the first fight. Had the win come over someone with less respect than Barao, there would be no need for a rematch.
TJ Dillashaw celebrates his win over Renan Barao at UFC 173 and wins the Bantamweight title pic.twitter.com/5gjyZzVRg0— Martial Arts Pics (@martialartpics) June 23, 2014
However, because Barao was on an epic 32-fight win streak and had plowed through everyone of note at 135 pounds, the public needs to see if Dillashaw is really better than Barao.
As good as that fight is, the rest of the card leaves a bit to be desired as UFC pay-per-views are concerned. Here's a look at the entire card with predictions for each bout and viewing information. Just below the tables are my picks for Fight Night bonuses.
|UFC Fight Pass Preliminary|
|Chris Wade vs. Cain Carrizosa||Lightweight||Carrizosa by submission|
|Fox Sports 1 Preliminary|
|Joe Soto vs. Anthony Birchak||Bantamweight||Birchak by TKO|
|Ruan Potts vs. Anthony Hamilton||Heavyweight||Hamilton by KO|
|Scott Jorgensen vs. Henry Cejudo||Flyweight||Cejudo by TKO|
|Lorenz Larkin vs. Derek Brunson||Middleweight||Brunson by TKO|
|PPV Main Card|
|Yancy Medeiros vs. Damon Jackson||Lightweight||Jackson by submission|
|Ramsey Nijem vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira||Lightweight||Ferreira by decision|
|Bethe Correia vs. Shayna Baszler||Women's Bantamweight||Correia by decision|
|Tony Ferguson vs. Danny Castillo||Lightweight||Ferguson by TKO|
|UFC Bantamweight Title - (c) T.J. Dillashaw vs. Renan Barao||Bantamweight||Barao by submission|
Performance of the Night
Danny Castillo isn't lacking in the confidence department. The 35-year-old veteran is facing a stiff challenge from Tony Ferguson in Saturday's co-featured bout, but Castillo doesn't seem concerned.
Castillo told Fox Sports' Damon Martin, "Here's your sound bite—with eight weeks' preparation, I could beat anyone in the world."
It sounds great, but here's the problem: Tony Ferguson is pretty tough and determined as well.
The long lightweight will enjoy a three-inch height and a five-inch reach advantage over Castillo. Ferguson boasts the type of two-way attack that gives opponents nightmares—or at least headaches.
Because of the length disadvantage, Castillo doesn't have much of a chance to beat Ferguson in the stand-up. Taking Ferguson down has been difficult in the UFC. Per Fox Sports Fight Trax, he has 100 percent takedown defense.
When and if the fight does go to the ground, it's more likely that Ferguson will be the man in control. Look for him to wear Castillo down and then finish him with strikes in the second round.
Something didn't appear to be right with Barao in the first meeting with Dillashaw. Taking nothing away from what was a flawless performance by Dillashaw, Barao seemed to either take his opponent too lightly or be battling a physical issue.
This loss will have served as a major wake-up call for him no matter what the situation was.
Barao must realize that Dillashaw is an opponent he can't beat in stand-up. He'll need to fall back on his grappling prowess. Many forget that Barao has won 14 of his 32 bouts by submission. In the midst of watching him dynamically finish the likes of Eddie Wineland and Urijah Faber with punches and kicks, it's easy to lose sight of Barao's masterful submission skills.
In the rematch, look for Barao to mix a lot more of his grappling into his game plan. He's a naturally bigger man than Dillashaw, and the strength and size on the ground will lead to a submission win for Barao.
Fight of the Night
Barao vs. Dillashaw
Barao will win, but it won't be easy. Dillashaw is the real deal. His win in May was no fluke. He'll give Barao some issues before it goes to the mat.
Unless there's an all-out war between Lorenz Larkin and Derek Brunson or Joe Soto and Anthony Birchak, Barao vs. Dillashaw should capture the Fight of the Night honors, just as it did at UFC 173.
Follow Brian Mazique, aka FranchisePlay, the Sports Video Game Journalist.