Sacramento, California, we have a problem.
Sactown native T.J. Dillashaw took Renan "The Baron" Barao apart in their first meeting at UFC 173 in May. The rematch was set for Saturday at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. It could have been a homecoming of sorts for Dillashaw. The new UFC bantamweight champion seemed ready to dish out out another lopsided beatdown in the rematch.
Well...Dillashaw might be giving someone a beating, but it won't be Barao. Per multiple sources, Barao is out of the fight due to health reasons and will be replaced by former Bellator champion Joe Soto.
While some might look at this matchup and automatically assume Dillashaw will make mincemeat of Soto, having opponents switched this close to the fight can cause major issues.
Emotional letdowns and style changes can be the difference between winning and losing.
Will Dillashaw suffer a such letdown and lose to Soto? Don't bet on it.
While it is probably a bummer for Dillashaw that he won't get a chance to further silence the critics who still question if he is indeed better than Barao, the needed intensity will be supplied by his home crowd.
There's no way Dillashaw will want to give anything besides his best with the opportunity to defend his title in his hometown. If having his opponent switched has any effect on Dillashaw, it'll be a positive one. He was already miffed that Barao remained ahead of him on the pound-for-pound list—even after he handily defeated him in May.
This occurrence will likely only fuel the me-against-the-world fire that seems to be burning inside the bantamweight champion. Soto will almost certainly try to do what Barao should have done in the first fight, and that's take Dillashaw to the mat.
Eight of Soto's 15 professional wins have come by submission, and that's going to be the best course of action against the nimble and slick Dillashaw. I'm sure the champion's team will have him as prepared for Soto as possible. One also has to remember, Soto didn't train for Dillashaw either.
He was originally set to face Anthony Birchak on Saturday. Birchak is the one left out in the cold so far in this situation. He doesn't have an opponent yet. The UFC is presumably scrambling to find a body to bring the fight count up to nine.
He is still listed on the card on UFC.com, but his opponent is TBA.
Yes, things have suddenly gotten real. The hardcore fans will be there no matter what.
If fight fans in Sacramento only want to see a Dillashaw win and don't care about the strength of the undercard, they'll be happy. However, if they are looking to get the most bang for the buck, maybe it'll be wiser to watch Person of Interest or something.
Follow Brian Mazique aka FranchisePlay, the Sports and Video Game Journalist on Twitter.