Renan Barao Withdrawal a Huge Blow for UFC 177; T.J. Dillashaw Now Faces Joe Soto

By Rick LaFitte
T.J. Dillashaw pummels Renan Barao en route to winning bantamweight title at UFC 173
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In a stunning development, former champion Renan Barao is out of his scheduled UFC 177 title rematch against current titlist T.J. Dillashaw. The Brazilian ran into some medical weight-cutting issues and was removed from the main event for health and safety reasons by the organization. Dillashaw will now make his first 135-pound title defense against promotional newcomer Joe Soto. The latter had been scheduled to face Anthony Birchak on the preliminary portion of the card in Sacramento, Calif.

Dillashaw was given the hometown main event spotlight after his star-making performance against Barao to capture the bantamweight title at UFC 173 in Las Vegas. “The Viper” recorded one of the biggest upsets in Octagon history and turned in the best performance of the year in his five-round dismantling of Barao. Dillashaw stopped “The Baron” in the fifth round and snapped the Nova Uniao product’s remarkable 33-fight unbeaten streak.

Dillashaw-Barao 2.0 was clearly the main focus of the UFC 177 PPV main card and the loss of this highly-anticipated matchup is a serious blow to an event that has been widely panned for its lack of star power. It’ll now be interesting to see whether Barao continues to campaign as a bantamweight or moves up to the featherweight ranks.

The new champion has certainly taken his game to new heights under the watchful eye of striking coach Duane Ludwig. The Team Alpha Male star has had a terrific year with his brilliant title-winning effort coming on the heels of a masterful performance at Fight Night 35 against veteran Mike Easton. He’s won six of his last seven fights with that lone loss coming in Brazil via split-decision in an exciting clash against Raphael Assuncao.

The shocking turn of events certainly puts Dillashaw in a tough spot. After training to face a motivated former titlist, who was previously regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, he now gets an opponent making his Octagon debut. He’s essentially in a no-win scenario.

Soto earned his UFC opportunity thanks to a current six-fight win streak and is a former Bellator featherweight champion. He’s compiled an impressive 15-2 career mark with 13 finishes by way of knockout or submission. Soto is an aggressive competitor who has faced the likes of Joe Warren and Wilson Reis. It shapes up as a no-lose situation for the newcomer after being thrust into the biggest of spotlights after accepting a UFC title fight on one day’s notice.

Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports.

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