In what was considered one of the sport’s greatest upsets, UFC 173 saw 10- 1 underdog T.J. Dillashaw end the nine-year, 35-fight unbeaten streak of Renan Barao to capture the UFC bantamweight title.
Four months after his historic feat, newly crowned champion Dillashaw was set to make his first title defense in a rematch against the man he dethroned.
Barao, the former UFC bantamweight champion and former third-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world, boasts an unparalleled resume with highlight reel victories over the world’s elite, including Dillashaw’s training partner and former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber (twice), former UFC bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland, and perennial contenders Michael McDonald and Brad Pickett.
After suffering his first defeat in nearly a decade, Barao was out for revenge with intensions of bringing the belt back to Brazil.
In a shocking series of events Barao was forced off the fight card due to issues during the weight cutting process. The Brazilian claimed that at one point he blacked out after standing up too quickly he passed out and hit his head. He was treated at a Sacramento hospital and ultimately pulled from the fight card.
Joe Soto, a newcomer to the UFC who was set to make his debut on the undercard was given the opportunity of a lifetime to fight for a world title by UFC President Dana White. Soto came in to make the most of the situation by taking the fight to Dillashaw from the start of the fight.
Soto, from Porterville, California used slick head movement early on and managed to bust open the left ear of the champion in round one. During the conclusion of the opening round Soto walked back to his corner with his hands in the air.
For many UFC newcomers surviving the first round is a morale victory. But Soto was in a title fight, he had no time for Octagon jitters. He came to fight. As the fight progressed Soto would hold his own although he could not match the pace pushed by Dillashaw. He did manage to land shots that would scuff up the face of the Champion.
As the fight entered the final round it looked like the cinderella story would not play out, Dillishaw was on his way to a decision victory. It was a great effort, Soto was on his way to surviving five rounds with the champion in his very first UFC fight. Then the story would come to a brutal end as TJ landed a head kick that wobbled Soto then dropped him and finished him with a series of punches.
“He was tough, he was catching me with good overhand rights. I waited for the kicks after that first round and he circled into that right kick that ended the fight”.
Soto impressed many fans in attendance and UFC President Dana White. “Soto came to win tonight and I am proud of them stepping up with their performance tonight.” During the post fight conference Dana White was asked about where Soto would fit in the rankings. Dana said, “It is not up to me,” as he pointed to the media.
What do you think about Soto’s performance and where does he fit in the rankings? Let me know on twitter @richarddeocio