T.J. Dillashaw was the odd man out when it came to the UFC bantamweight division. Sure, he won five of his last six fights leading up to his title bid against Renan Barao. Sure, his only defeat in the past two years came at the hands of Raphael Assuncao, who was penciled in as Barao’s next opponent before an injury cost him his shot in the form of a controversial decision.
None of that mattered because he is a member of Team Alpha Male, whose leader (Urijah Faber) lost convincingly to Barao. So what makes anyone think Dillashaw can pull off the upset?
All of these things had to be going through the head of Dillashaw prior to his title fight against Barao. Then he pulled of the unthinkable. He defeated Barao and did so impressively. He dominated Barao throughout the fight before ending it in the fifth and final round. Winning in that fashion, how can anyone not be excited to see what the champ has in store next?
Dillashaw is in his fighting prime. He is fast, technical and ruthless when he gets an opponent wounded. He is leaps and bounds better than he was when he lost to John Dodson in the Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale. He may have the potential to be better than Dodson when both careers are over.
With Dillashaw at the top, there are plenty of storylines to go around. The most interesting one has to be teacher vs. student. UFC fans may or may not get a chance to see Dillashaw battle Faber for the title, but it will always be an option as long as Faber sticks around at bantamweight and Dillashaw is the champion. That would be an excellent fight to watch even though the chances of that happening are low.
Then there is Dillashaw vs. Assuncao II, which is the most likely option for UFC officials. The first fight ended in controversy and then Dillashaw replaced Assuncao in a title fight and won. Shakespeare himself could not write a better story. Dillashaw vs. Barao II should be considered a backup option, but it still has a story to it. Dillashaw ended Barao’s 32-fight win streak that started in 2005. Revenge always makes for a good story.
In the end, it doesn’t matter which of the three aforementioned stories take place. All that matters is that MMA fans get to see at least one of them. The UFC promo crew could have a field day with the possibilities.