Saturday's main event was one built for proclamation and redemption.
In the most anticipated bantamweight rematch of all time, T.J. Dillashaw put his belt on the line opposite Renan Barao, the very man the champion defeated to earn the title just 14 months ago.
Dillashaw's unprecedented finish of the Brazilian at UFC 173, compliments of precise striking and sensational timing under the tutelage of head coach Duane "Bang" Ludwig, ended Barao's historic 33-fight unbeaten streak.
The loss bumped Barao off of his comfy throne and back down the bantamweight ladder. But a recent submission victory over Mitch Gagnon back at UFC Fight Night 58 catapulted The Baron back into a grudge match with Team Alpha Male's crown jewel.
Unfortunately for the former 135-pound kingpin, Dillashaw took over where he left off in their first meeting and battered Barao for just over 15 minutes, securing the fourth-round TKO.
Here is what we learned from the champ's scintillating performance and second-consecutive title retention.
What We'll Remember About This Fight
Barao once again was unable to initiate, let alone land, his patented high-octane unorthodox strikes due to the champ's timely switches, quick footwork and angle play.
From southpaw to lunging combinations, Dillashaw picked apart Barao and left him battered and bruised just one minute into the first championship frame.
But despite Dillashaw's sensational striking and technique, it was his willingness to tangle up with Barao along the cage, eat some harsh body shots in the process and drain the Brazilian from the get-go that truly gave him the upper hand.
This fight was proof that Team Alpha Male's top dog is the real deal, and that he most certainly has Barao's number in nearly every department.
What We Learned About Dillashaw
There wasn't much that Dillashaw did that he didn't do perfectly the first time he debunked Barao's powerful striking.
He was able to switch to southpaw a little more often and tie The Baron up along the cage in order to score points in bunches and tire the Brazilian out.
But from a futuristic standpoint, we did learn that the champion is a true kingpin of the division and a guy who may very well possess one of the most puzzling striking arsenals in all of MMA (shout out to Dominick Cruz).
Dillashaw was stuffed on multiple takedown attempts, which plays into Barao's historic defense inside the cage, but his wrestling pedigree was not needed in another world-renowned effort under the bright lights.
What We Learned About Barao
For all that Barao possesses on the feet and on the ground, his conditioning and strenuous weight cut is truly prohibiting his abilities during fights.
While he has been able to stop other bantamweights in their tracks early in the past, he ultimately runs into trouble against a firecracker like Dillashaw who offers relentless pressure, angling, combinations and the ability to get off early.
Barao was able to land some significant shots in the clinch, evident by his body-cringing knees, but it wasn't enough to slow down a menacing champion like The Viper.
It should be mentioned that the Brazilian was able to absorb more damage in the rematch and even remained standing through the fourth-round stoppage.
What's Next for Dillashaw
At this point, unless Cruz is able to heal and actually make it through a full training camp, No. 3 ranked bantamweight Raphael Assuncao makes the most sense for the champ.
He's the last fighter to defeat him inside of the cage, albeit via split-decision back in 2013 at UFC Fight Night 29, and is currently riding a vastly impressive seven-fight win streak.
Of course, Assuncao has not been the most healthy fighter in years past, so it's possible that a guy like undefeated Aljamain Sterling could leapfrog the entire Top 5 with another late-2015 victory en route to earning a title shot.
Not to mention a historic showdown with teammate Urijah Faber, if the money and circumstances were ideal.
What's Next for Barao
Barao is now stuck in no man's land at 135 pounds. Sort of like Benson Henderson running out of options after losing to Anthony Pettis for a second time at lightweight.
The Brazilian's unfortunate decline after putting forth such a masterful career could essentially spark a move up to featherweight, like Smooth's entry into the welterweight division.
Teammate and divisional champion Jose Aldo would stand in the way of Barao going for gold at 145 pounds, but there's always a potential showdown with interim king Conor McGregor that would promote well on the grounds of bad blood between Notorious and Nova Uniao.
With that said, Barao would have to defeat at least a few top featherweights in order to regain his promotional momentum.
Maybe a showdown with the winner of Max Holloway vs. Charles Oliveira at UFC Fight Night 74 next month?
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