Last week at a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon before UFC 174 in Vancouver, UFC President Dana White expressed that a rematch between reigning UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw and former champion Renan Barao is the next probable fight for both athletes. However, despite a previously set precedent for rematches in the world of MMA, and especially in the UFC, an immediate title rematch is the wrong match to make right now.
The fighter who is rightfully next in line is the last person to beat Dillashaw in the UFC, Raphael Assuncao.
If you look at the current official UFC bantamweight rankings, Assuncao sits at No. 3. Above him are Urijah Faber at No. 2, who lost his last bid for the title against Barao at UFC 169 in February, and Barao, the former champion at No. 1. Of the top 5 contenders, Assuncao is the only one with a six-fight winning streak. This includes a win over the reigning champion Dillashaw.
The fight was scored as a split decision, and there are those who think Dillashaw did enough to win the fight. However, no one else in the division right now has racked up as many wins as Assuncao.
In the past, the UFC granted immediate title rematches when the fights were more viable and made more sense. One such instance was Lyoto Machida against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua after their controversial decision at UFC 104 in 2009. The fight was deemed a robbery throughout the industry. For all intents and purposes, Shogun was seen as the legitimate winner even though he lost the decision. The two fighters would later have their rematch at UFC 113.
Another instance was arguably Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn from UFC 112 in 2010. This was another close decision, and Edgar was awarded the win. Penn was the dominant champion and the favorite going into the fight. However, the fight was hardly a blowout on Edgar’s part, despite a questionable judging scorecard by Doug Crosby, who scored the fight 50-45 completely in Edgar’s favor.
Edgar and Penn fought again in September of that year, and Edgar dominated and decisively beat Penn. The fight basically legitimized Edgar as champion, and once again he was seen as the underdog going in.
The most prevalent example in MMA history is probably Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva at UFC 168. At UFC 162, Chris Weidman shocked the world. Many fans and pundits credited Weidman’s upset to Silva clowning around, showboating and not taking the fight seriously.
Not only that, Silva had an illustrious career as the UFC middleweight champion. He had been undefeated in the UFC in 16 fights and 10 middleweight title defenses. Silva was also seen as the pound-for-pound best fighter at the time. Going into UFC 173, White was incredibly high on Barao and considered him one of, if not the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
While Barao had an incredible and dominant run in his Zuffa career (7-0 in the UFC; 2-0 in the WEC), he’s no Anderson Silva.
Not to mention, Barao was absolutely trounced by Dillashaw. It was surprising, and no one predicted it would happen, but it was still a one-sided victory. The second fight could easily go differently. Maybe Dillashaw does not catch Barao with a hard shot early in the first round. However, Barao did not set his career apart like Silva did as middleweight champion to get that immediate rematch.
The right fight to make is Dillashaw vs. Assuncao for the UFC bantamweight title.