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Crash course to UFC 177: Renan Barao vs. TJ Dillashaw

T.J. Dillashaw kicks Renan Barao in their bantamweight championship bout during the UFC 173 event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 24, 2014 in Las Vegas. Photo: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC UFC

T.J. Dillashaw kicks Renan Barao in their bantamweight championship bout during the UFC 173 event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 24, 2014 in Las Vegas.

Everything you need to know about this weekend's big fight.

Overview

“Anything can happen in a fistfight,” read last May’s prognostication, sounding levelheaded at first before taking a left turn onto Brash Blvd. “But there’s nothing on [TJ] Dillashaw’s resume that suggests he can handle what [Renan] Barão will throw at him.”

The gloomy springtime forecast blathered on, betraying an assurance that crossed the border into a state of impertinence, to declare that T.J.’s chance of surviving a Renan onslaught “is dependent on whether the champ is in a rush.”

Well, there was an onslaught on fight night, all right, but it turned out that the Brazilian was on the receiving end. And at the end of that May evening, Dillashaw was on the receiving end of the UFC bantamweight championship belt.

So who was the buffoon who made the idiotic prediction? That would be the buffoon whose words you are now reading.

I’m OK with making a self-effacing admission, though, because most every so-called fight expert had a similar take. Dillashaw was a 6-1 underdog facing a man who hadn’t lost in nine years. So when T.J. floored the champ in the first round, beat him to the punch the rest of the way, then finished him off midway through the fifth, it was one of the most stunning upsets in UFC history.

Now Dillashaw must do what champions always are asked to do: prove himself once again. When he meets Barão in the main event of UFC 177 on Saturday at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif. (10 p.m. ET, PPV), it will be a carnival of acrobatic perception shifting. A champion who until recently had no believers. An ex-champ who was deemed unstoppable until he was stopped. What a mind-bending title fight.

Dillishaw (10-2, 6-2 in the UFC) has won six of his last seven outings, the lone loss coming last fall against Raphael Assunção, who originally was slated to get the shot against Barão but was injured. On the strength of his May upset, the 28-year-old former collegiate wrestler known as T.J. -- short for Tylor Jeffrey -- ranks No. 1 among bantamweights in the SI.com MMA fighter rankings, naturally. But if you’re looking for continued evidence of disrespect, here goes: Dillashaw is the only UFC champion not ranked in our pound-for-pound Top 10.

As for Barão (32-2, 1 NC; 7-1 UFC), forgive him if he wore a glazed look in the aftermath of the UFC 173 debacle. The 27-year-old Brazilian was stunned as early as the first round, and for the duration moved like a zombie awaiting a deadening blow to the cranium. And when the discombobulation was over, he was in a daze of disbelief, having experienced something he never had in his 33 previous professional tussles. The man born Renan do Nascimento Mota Pegado now is set to fight for what was taken away.

In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of the five-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on Fox Sports 1, starting at 8 p.m. ET, and the card’s other bout will stream on the UFC Fight Pass digital subscription service (7:30 p.m.).

Background

It makes perfect sense for a dominant champion, dethroned in one of the sport’s greatest upsets, to get an immediate shot at redemption. But this matchup has taken some heat.

Dillashaw, for his part, originally stated that his preference was to combine his first title defense with a redemption bid of his own, by taking on Assunção. And the new champ wasn’t alone in suggesting that Barão should wait. The first meeting was so thorough a beatdown that some fans and media commentators felt Renan should be required to win a fight or two to earn a shot.

But the only opinions that matter are those of the UFC matchmakers, and they couldn’t wait to get Dillashaw and Barão back in a cage together.

They didn’t do these two any favors, though, by yanking their warmup act from the stage. Demetrious Johnson was scheduled to defend his flyweight belt against Chris Cariaso in Saturday’s co-main event -- not the most stirring title fight, but at least two straps were to be on the line. Not anymore. When next month’s light heavyweight title bout between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier had to be postponed, the UFC grabbed away the “Mighty Mouse” defense as a replacement at the top of the 178 bill.

So now Dillashaw vs. Barão II is the only real UFC 177 selling point. On a not-so-starry night, this 10-fight bill can’t get to the main event soon enough.

Last Five Fights

Dillashaw
5/24/14 Renan Barão W TKO 5
1/15/14 Mike Easton W UD 3
10/9/13 Raphael Assunção L SD 3
4/20/13 Hugo Viana W TKO 1
3/16/13 Issei Tamura W KO 2
Barão
5/24/14 T.J. Dillashaw L TKO 5
2/1/14 Urijah Faber W TKO 1
9/21/13 Eddie Wineland W TKO 2
2/16/13 Michael McDonald W Sub 4
7/21/12 Urijah Faber W UD 5

Tale of the Tape


Dillashaw
 
Barão

Feb. 7, 1986

BIRTH DATE

Feb. 27, 1987

Sonora, Calif.

BIRTHPLACE

Natal, Brazil

Sacramento, Calif. 

RESIDENCE

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

10-2

RECORD

32-2, 1 NC

135*

WEIGHT

135*

5’6” 

HEIGHT

5’7” 

66”

REACH

70”

* Official weights announced at the weigh-in (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 2)

Other Numbers to Count On

33: Consecutive fights without a loss for Renan Barão before the first meeting with T.J. Dillashaw.

2.90: Strikes landed by Dillashaw for every one absorbed in his UFC career, the third-best differential in the promotion’s history. He also lands 5.23 per minute, ninth best in UFC history. In May, he more than doubled Barão’s successful strikes, 169 to 64.

100: Percent of takedown attempts defended by Barão in the UFC, making him the promotion’s only fighter (with five appearances and 20 attempts by opponents) to never be taken down. His opponents are 0 for 20 -- including 0 for 3 for Dillashaw.

Greatest Hits

UFC’s “Countdown to Dillashaw-Barão II” chronicles the first fight:

Matchup

Last time the thinking was that Dillashaw’s best shot was to take the fight to the mat. But then T.J.’s best shot put Barão on the mat. If the new champ can once again channel Dominick Cruz with his footwork and pace, we’ll see a first-rate standup dance. If Dillashaw’s striking isn’t faring as well as it did in May, though, we’re going to see him test the statistically best takedown defense in the UFC and then test it again.

The Odds

Dillashaw is the betting favorite, with a money line ranging from -155 (bet $100 to win $62.54) to -137 (bet $100 to win $72.99). The line on Barão ranges from +112 (bet $100 to win $112) to +133 (bet $100 to $133).

Prediction

Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice … oh, just go ahead, T.J., and shame me if you can. If Dillashaw’s big punch had led to an early KO last time, we’d be weighing his big upset for the fluke factor. But because a compromised Barão sleep-walked through another 18 minutes before going night-night, we’re supposed to buy the theory that T.J. has Renan’s number? Doesn’t add up. Maybe we'll see a repeat performance, but I'm thinking that what was supposed to happen the first time will happen this time. Barão by TKO.

Must See Photo

Photo: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC UFC

TJ Hillashaw got the better of Renan Barao in their May 2014 matchup in Las Vegas.

Fighting Words

“After [the first-round knockdown], I only woke up in the locker room. The fight was really close in the beginning, but everything changed after that punch. He landed a heavy punch in the beginning of the fight and I kept fighting on autopilot. I was too slow; I wasn’t thinking. [Trainer André Pederneiras] told me to do one thing and I did another. But I will fight smart this time. I won’t let this happen again.” -- Barão, speaking to reporters in Brazil about the first fight

“I’m going to win 10 out of 10 times.” -- Dillashaw, speaking to the Brazilian media outlet Sexto Round

The Tweet Beat

Join the conversation about Dillashaw vs. Barão II on Twitter. Track the hashtags #DillashawBarao and #UFC177 to see who’s tweeting what about Saturday’s fight.

@TJDillashaw (T.J. Dillashaw, champion)
@TeamAlphaMale (Team Alpha Male, Dillashaw’s training team)
@DuaneBangcom (Duane Ludwig, Dillashaw’s head trainer)
@RenanBaraoUFC (Renan Barão, challenger)
@dedepederneiras (Andre Pederneiras, Barao’s head trainer)
@ufc (Ultimate Fighting Championship)
@danawhite (UFC president Dana White)
@jeffwagenheim (SI.com’s Jeff Wagenheim)
@lorettahuntmma (SI.com’s Loretta Hunt)
@chuckmindenhall (Chuck Mindenhall, MMAfighting.com writer)
@arielhelwani (Ariel Helwani, Fox Sports 1/MMAfighting.com interviewer)
@SBNLukeThomas (Luke Thomas, MMAfighting.com senior editor)
@MikeChiappetta (Mike Chiappetta, FoxSports.com MMA writer)
@benfowlkesMMA (Ben Fowlkes, USA Today/MMAjunkie.com writer)
@kevini (Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports MMA/boxing writer)
@bokamotoESPN (Brett Okamoto, ESPN.com MMA writer)
@davedoylemma (Dave Doyle, MMAfighting.com writer)
@MMAjunkieJohn (John Morgan, USAToday/MMAjunkie.com writer)

The Rest of the Card

Tony Ferguson vs. Danny Castillo, lightweight
Bethe Correia vs. Shayna Baszler, women’s bantamweight
Ramsey Nijem vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira, lightweight
Yancy Medeiros vs. Justin Edwards, lightweight

Preliminary card (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): Lorenz Larkin vs. Derek Brunson, middleweight; Scott Jorgensen vs. Henry Cejudo, flyweight; Ruan Potts vs. Anthony Hamilton, heavyweight; Joe Soto vs. Anthony Birchak, bantamweight.

Online prelim (7:30 p.m. ET, UFC Fight Pass): Chris Wade vs. Cain Carrizosa, lightweight.

Programming Notes

Mike Goldberg will handle blow-by-blow and Joe Rogan analysis for the main-card telecast on pay-per-view as well as prelims on Fox Sports 1 and the UFC Fight Pass. An hour-long postfight show begins at 1 a.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

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