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

Tuesday August 26th, 2014

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:

TJ Hillashaw got the better of Renan Barao in their May 2014 matchup in Las Vegas.
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC UFC
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