Revisiting Dillashaw-Barao One

Fightland Blog

By Dan Shapiro

Photos by Josh Hedges and Jeff Botari/Zuffa LLC

In less than a week, bantamweights T.J. Dillashaw and Renan Barao will meet inside the Octagon for the second time, set to headline UFC of FOX 16. In their previous title fight at UFC 173, Dillashaw captured gold with one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. So ahead of Dillashaw and Barao’s July 25 re-match, we take a look back at their previous contest. Here’s how it all went down that night …

Did Bruce Buffer just refer to T.J. Dillashaw as a “Monkey Style Fighter?”

I’m not exactly sure what that means, but Dillashaw is looking pumped, screaming at Buffer during his introduction.

On the other side of the Octagon, Renan Barao is noticeably calmer, although I did see him pacing around the MGM Grand yesterday after weigh ins, and he was looking gaunt in an oversized hoodie.

Buffer completes his histrionics, and leaves the Octagon. Referee Herb Dean commences the action.

Dillashaw is looking cool and relaxed inside the cage. He’s dancing around the perimeter, changing stances, kicking low, kicking high throwing combinations. Barao feints, but his movements are almost reactionary and one step behind; a poorly timed push kick is about all the offense he can muster, despite being an 8-to-1 favorite.

It’s clear that Dillashaw’s head coach Duane “Bang” Ludwig has had a huge impact on his striking game. Dillashaw continues to move and keep Barao guessing. It’s almost like Dillashaw is playing Barao’s own game, but better. He’s loose and free, probably because there are few expectations for this almost 6-to-1 underdog.

T.J. goes for a Superman punch. It doesn’t land. But at the 1:50 mark he connects on an uppercut, moving in and out of the pocket. At 2:15, he lands another crisp shot to Barao’s face, and Dillashaw is clearly controlling the pace and action of the fight.

Barao seems to have woken up after that strike, and he mounts a little offense of his own with a punch and kick combo. The pair circle around some more, T.J. staying light, Barao plodding forward.


Dillashaw lands a crushing overhand right to send Barao to the canvas.

Didn’t see that coming, but neither did Barao. T.J. follows the Brazilian to the mat and pours on the ground and pound.

The champion is barely staying in this fight, grabbing the challenger’s leg to avoid damage. Dillashaw continues his offensive onslaught, throwing hands and hands and hands as fast as he can. But Barao looks recovered and there’ll be no stoppage here.

T.J. scrambles and takes Barao’s back. He’s looking for the rear naked choke, but he has no hooks in. Dillashaw continues to crank down on Barao’s neck.

Does he have it? It looks like his arm isn’t in deep enough, and without the hooks in, Barao is able to turn into the choke and avoid the submission.

The bell rings and this title fight is off to a wild and unexpected start.

10-9, Dillashaw.

I’m not sure if one minute will be enough for Barao to recover, but coach Andre Pederneiras better get his fighter back in the game. No one has ever had that much success against Barao, and it feels like Dillashaw has already smelled the blood.

Round two begins and both fighters come out to center.

It’s Barao who takes the middle of the Octagon at first, but he’s clearly tentative to throw. Dillashaw is moving fast and slick and seamless. He’s picking his shots from the outside, although looking a bit dangerous with that aggressive lead uppercut.

Forty-four seconds in, and Dillashaw goes for a Superman punch. He looks like he’s just having fun out there, being creative with his combos. But now there’s a bit of blood running from his right brow.

Something’s clearly wrong with Barao. He’s flat footed and slow. T.J. looks like he read Dominick Cruz’s footwork manual, and continues to dance. He’s feinting and faking, shrugging his shoulders to keep Barao guessing.

Then a double jab overhand combo from Dillashaw forces Barao to trade a little bit with his hands, but wherever Barao throws, T.J. is one step ahead, moving out of harm’s way.

We’re two minutes into the second and Dillashaw starts going high with his kicks. One head kick lands, but Barao’s hands are in place to protect. A second identical kick comes five seconds later.

T.J. is showing his explosiveness. And while Barao goes for the same spinning back kick that knocked out Eddie Wineland eight months ago, Dillashaw sees the radar and circles out.

Now in close, Dillashaw looks for the takedown. Neither of these two has ever been dragged to the mat inside the Octagon, and it doesn’t look like T.J. will complete this single leg. He transitions to a guillotine, but the choke is nowhere close.

Separated after the submission attempt, Barao unloads an inside leg kick, right smack on the cup of Dillashaw at the 3:11 mark

Referee Herb Dean calls time and T.J. takes a few seconds to breathe off the groin strike.

The action resumes and Dillashaw continues to throw smooth combinations. He’s liking that lead uppercut into the overhand right. He’s also dropping his hands to bait Barao into distance, but Dillashaw evades. He’s no matador out there; Dillashaw is like the bull that has stolen the knife, leading when he wants, playing games with an oft-aggressive adversary.

Barao lands a good combo to the head at 4:33, but Dillashaw comes right back with a body kick. He closes out the round with some punches. The horn blows, and Barao looks gassed. T.J. already has his hands up in victory stance.

10-9, Dillashaw.

The Brazilian needs to wake up now if he wants to retain his belt. The two fighters come out for the third.

Dillashaw continues to look one or two speeds ahead of Barao. It’s like he’s sending misinformation Barao’s way, forcing the champ to telegraph all his moves. Wherever Barao goes, whatever he throws, Dillashaw is a step ahead forcing Barao to miss.

Forty-five seconds in, Dillashaw throws a high kick after an overhand-low kick combination. He’s switching directions, seamlessly piecing together combinations at will.

Barao answers with a low kick a little over a minute in. The kick knocks Dillashaw off balance, but he manages to stay on his feet. The champ stays in the center of the cage, but he’s moving slowly, while Dillashaw dances around the perimeter, changing stances, toying with Barao.

After a kick to Barao’s body, T.J. fires off a lead left and a head kick, shortly after the two-minute mark. He continues to dominate the champ with flurries and punch combinations.

Barao briefly stops the challenger’s offense with a kick to the body.

Dillashaw is just pure technique tonight. Now in the southpaw stance, he fluidly throws a step-in jab, followed by a low kick. With 80 seconds remaining, the pair trade head kicks.

We’re now under a minute, and Barao accidentally catches Dillashaw on the cup. He looks apologetic, the two touch gloves, and T.J. responds with a straight left.

Down to the final 30 seconds now, and it looks like Barao got caught in the eye. He looks to Herb Dean to stop the action, but the ref ignores the request, allowing Dillashaw to continue with a barrage of punches. Barao falls back against the cage wall after absorbing Dillashaw’s shots. T.J. lands huge here and moves in for the takedown, but he’s unable to bring Barao to the ground, opting to knee away at the champ’s thigh for the remainder of the round.

10-9, Dillashaw.

Through three rounds, it’s been a complete clinic by Dillashaw, but he’s never fought into the championship rounds. Both fighters are off their stools and the fourth frame begins.

Dillashaw attempts a single-leg right away. Barao stuffs the third takedown attempt of the fight, but even after 15 minutes, T.J. remains unpredictable.

The challenger continues to dance around the cage, circling around with his hands down. And thirty seconds in, Dillashaw fakes with his right hand, then lands a head kick, followed by another to Barao’s body.

T.J.’s pace is impressive. He looks completely fresh, compared to a fatigued Barao, and pushes forward with feints to back the champion up, landing punches to Barao’s head.

Barao is gassed. He’s telegraphing his kicks, which look slow and lazy. T.J. easily evades.

The champ connects on a straight punch. But again, Barao attempts a spinning back kick, and Dillashaw moves away from any damage.

We’re halfway through the round now and both fighters are clinched against the cage wall. Barao has T.J.’s left arm trapped in an overhook. Dillashaw dirty boxes with his right. And with one hundred seconds left on the clock, they finally break free.

Again, Dillashaw is showing tremendous speed and footwork to keep Barao guessing and off balance. Barao goes for another sloppy spinning back kick, and T.J. pushes him to the ground and attempts a guillotine.

The choke is nowhere close and Dillashaw attempts to pass guard. Barao holds him in half guard, but T.J. pours on some ground and pound. The domination continues for the challenger; however, Barao grabs ahold of Dillashaw’s leg, maybe looking for an ankle lock. T.J. slips his leg out of harm’s way, and returns to the ground for the final thirty seconds of the frame, where he connects on a few elbows to Barao’s chin.

The buzzer sounds, and we’re headed to a fifth, and final, round.

10-9, Dillashaw.

Looking to the right, the entire Team Alpha Male crew: Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, et al; are on their feet. Dillashaw is five minutes away from claiming the first UFC title for their camp, and the energy inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena is electric.

Dillashaw opens up on the perimeter. Barao continues his telegraphed approach, throwing a lazy body kick. T.J. evades and lands a kick to the champ’s leg.

It’s as if Dillashaw and his coach Duane Ludwig knew exactly how to prepare for Barao’s movements and tendencies. Every time Barao throws a spinning back kick, T.J. is nowhere to be found, slipping forward to land punches and back the champion up.

T.J. is changing directions and switching stances. His footwork is masterful and Barao has no clue how to catch up to the surging challenger. Dillashaw continues to land, and two minutes in, Barao throws a leaping knee. It’s nowhere close, and Dillashaw evades.

The final round is near the halfway mark, and Dillashaw backs Barao up near his blue cornermen. The two trade a bit, with T.J. getting the better of the exchange.

Again, Dillashaw fakes, confusing the champion. He then throws a left head kick that connects with Barao’s jaw. It’s a huge shot, and Barao is off balance, backing up against the cage wall. T.J. knows the champ is hurt and he continues to throw punches.

With Barao dazed, Dillashaw throws, and lands, a huge straight right. Barao falls to the mat, and T.J. is right there with ground and pound and hammer fists.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven unanswered strikes to a grounded Barao’s head. There’s no intelligent defense, and referee Herb Dean steps in to waive off the contest.

The UFC 173 main event is in the books, and we have a new UFC bantamweight champion.

T.J. Dillashaw defeats Renan Barao via TKO at 2:26 of the fifth round.                                                                          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