A bantamweight title clash between Renan Barao and T.J. Dillashaw is the new main event for UFC 173. The May 24 card in Las Vegas was in need of a headliner after a middleweight title affair between Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida was postponed due to a Weidman knee injury. That bout has been rescheduled for UFC 175 in July.
Barao is currently riding an incredible 33-fight unbeaten streak and most recently registered a first-round stoppage of Urijah Faber at UFC 169. It was his second victory over “The California Kid” in his last four fights. Barao defeated Faber at UFC 149 to initially become interim champion and made successful defenses against Michael McDonald and Eddie Wineland.
Barao was elevated to undisputed champion when Dominick Cruz was forced to surrender his share of the 135-pound title after another injury forced him out of their scheduled unification clash. He’s established himself as a dominant champion and currently is ranked no. 3 in the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings. “The Baron” has 22 knockout or submission wins in his 32 career victories and has finished his last three opponents.
It was widely anticipated that Barao’s next title defense would come against fellow Brazilian Raphael Assuncao, but the no. 3 ranked contender is dealing with lingering injury issues and won’t be ready to return until July or August.
As for Dillashaw, he’s come a long way since being stopped by John Dodson in The Ultimate Fighter Season 14 finale. He’s won five of his last six fights with that lone loss being a controversial split-decision loss in Brazil against Assuncao. The no. 5 ranked contender seems to be getting better with each passing fight, but this represents by far his highest-profile test. He had previously been set to face Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 173 but now lands the opportunity of a lifetime.
The Team Alpha Male member gets a chance to get revenge against Barao, for his teammate Faber, but will need to produce the finest performance of his career. “The Viper’s” most recent effort was an impressive unanimous decision victory over Mike Easton at Fight Night 35.
This matchup may lack the big-name recognition of what Weidman vs. Machida would have brought to the table, but there’s no denying that Barao vs. Dillashaw is a clash capable of producing plenty of excitement.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports