T.J. Dillashaw’s championship win over Renan Barao at UFC 173 created all sorts of interesting subplots around the UFC bantamweight championship.
Dillashaw has no shortage of contenders for his shiny new belt, which he’ll take back to Sacramento on Monday when he leaves Las Vegas. The most prominent of these is Raphael Assuncao, who scored a razor-thin split decision over the new champion last October in Brazil. Assuncao was originally the man in line to face Barao, but an injury suffered in training prevented him from accepting the fight. Dillashaw got the nod, and the rest is history.
If Dillashaw had his way, Assuncao would be the next man standing across the Octagon. “I’d like to get my win back, yeah,” the new champion said at the UFC 173 post-fight press conference. The loss to Assuncao is one that eats away at the new champion, and likely will until he gets a chance to redeem himself.
If something happens to Assuncao, there are other options. Dominick Cruz is slowly working his way back from the longest injury hiatus in the history of mixed martial arts. The mere thought of Dillashaw and Cruz dancing around the Octagon, with all the angles and footwork and speed that would be on display, is enough to send shivers down the spine of any self-respecting fight fan. They are kindred spirits who have much in common, both in style and substance.