After his stunning title-winning performance at UFC 173, bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw has drawn a home turf assignment for his first title defense. Dillashaw, who fights out of Sacramento, will square off against former champion Renan Barao in a rematch at UFC 177 on August 30 at the Sleep Train Arena.
The organization opted to give Barao an immediate title shot, rather than give no.3-ranked contender Raphael Assuncao the first crack at Dillashaw. Assuncao had been lobbying for a title opportunity in the fall based upon his current six-fight win streak and the fact that he owns a victory over the new champion. Assuncao earned a split-decision nod over “The Viper” at Fight Night 29 in Brazil.
Dillashaw became an immediate star on May 24 in Las Vegas when he destroyed the previously dominant champion. Barao, who had gone 7-0 inside the Octagon and had made three prior title defenses, was decked by a huge right hand in the opening round and never seemed to recover. The Baron was picked apart for the duration of the contest and had no answers for Dillashaw’s speed, lateral movement and precise striking.
The Team Alpha Male fighter put the capper on what’s been the most spectacular performance of the year so far, by finishing Barao in the fifth and final round. It ended Barao’s remarkable 33-fight undefeated streak and was his first setback since 2005. Dillashaw’s victory was one of the bigger title fight upsets in UFC history.
It was pretty apparent that the wheels were in motion to make Dillashaw-Barao 2 happen when UFC President Dana White expressed his desire to see it again during the post-fight press conference. While their first encounter was action-packed, it was basically one-way traffic on Dillashaw’s behalf. There was no controversy surrounding the outcome and there didn’t appear a need to make the rematch happen right away. However, the promotion clearly saw Dillashaw-Barao 2 as a better potential pay-per-view seller than Dillashaw-Assuncao 2.
Whether or not you agree with the UFC’s decision to go with the immediate rematch, it should be an excellent fight. Dillashaw has made remarkable strides and has taken his career to new heights. He’s had a taste of championship gold and will be bound and determined to retain his title in front of what will be a highly partisan crowd.
Barao’s dominance in the 135-pound division was brought to a screeching halt by Dillashaw and the talented Brazilian will undoubtedly have revenge on his mind. He will be looking to make amends in a big way in Sacramento after having his championship reign come to a shocking end.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports