Can T.J. Dillashaw spring the upset? | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Renan Barao looks unstoppable.
Barao will defend the Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight title against Team Alpha Male’s T.J. Dillashaw in the UFC 173 headliner on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The 27-year-old champion will enter the cage on the strength of a 22-fight winning streak.
Spawned by the revered Nova Uniao camp, Barao has compiled a perfect 7-0 record since arriving in the UFC in May 2011. The gifted Brazilian last appeared at UFC 169 in February, when he stopped Dillashaw’s mentor, Urijah Faber, on first-round punches. Barao has delivered 22 of his 32 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. A finalist on Season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Dillashaw has won five of his last six bouts, a disputed decision loss to Raphael Assuncao the lone misstep. The 28-year-old last fought at UFC Fight Night “Rockhold vs. Philippou” in January, when he captured a unanimous verdict over Mike Easton.
Sherdog.com touched base with a number of fighters and trainers to gauge their opinions on the UFC 173 main event:
Colton Smith: TJ comes into this bout as the clear underdog but I believe he also comes into this bout with a lot of momentum. That, coupled with Duane Ludwig still at the helm, I'm taking the American by decision.
Robert Drysdale: Barao wins.
Zach Makovsky: I have to admit I am a fan of Dillashaw’s athletic striking style and his blend of wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Barao has been very dominant and holds a ridiculous winning streak, but I still think he can be beaten. Dillashaw has to be smart, limit his mistakes and keep a good pace for five rounds, but I’m going to say there will be a new champ at the end of the night. Dillashaw wins by close decision.
Beneil Dariush: Barao wins. I think Barao is a better all-around fighter, and his killer instinct is sensational.
Nick Ring: Barao wins.
Tony Martin: Barao is too big, fast and strong for Dillashaw, if not the whole division. Dillashaw has tons of heart and I would like to see him win, but I see a fourth-round stoppage for Barao.
Wilson Reis: I have Barao winning by unanimous decision. I believe he will outstrike Dillashaw and will win the takedown battle. I won’t be surprised if he gets a TKO in the first round, but I will go with a decision for Barao.
James Vick: I have Barao by TKO within the first three rounds.
Tom DeBlass: I don’t know much about either guy. I just hear Barao looks unstoppable lately, so I’ll go with him.
Anthony Lapsley: I’m going to go with Barao via unanimous decision.
Joe Duarte: I’m going with Barao. The dude is an animal.
Ricardo Liborio: Barao wins, but it will be a tough fight.
Keith Berry: Barao wins by KO in round two.
Gabe Ruediger: I think Dillashaw has been doing good, but he hasn’t fought anyone near the level of Barao. Training with Faber will probably help in preparation, but I see Barao picking him apart. Barao takes this, and my fanboy friend Tom thinks the same.
John Gunderson: I think Dillashaw is a badass and great fighter, but I have to go with Barao. He has shown to be the most consistent fighter in the UFC’s bantamweight division at this time and is in the top three pound-for-pound.
Travis Lutter: I have to go with Barao in this one. He is one of the toughest pound-for-pound fighters in the world. It should be a great fight.
Daron Cruickshank: Dillashaw all the way. He is on a roll and has enough steam to get the job done.
Joseph Sandoval: Barao all the way. He’s way too fast for Dillashaw. It’s going to be like the Jose Aldo-Chad Mendes fight at UFC 142.
Ray Elbe: Barao is as close to unbeatable as anyone we’ve seen in the UFC. However, Dillashaw has been training with a master striking and game planning coach in Duane Ludwig for this bout. With that said, I’ll pick Barao by TKO in impressive fashion.
J.J. Ambrose: I’m taking Barao in this one because of his experience in title fights against high-level fighters, not to mention Dillashaw has never fought five rounds. Dillashaw is tough, but I don’t see him being able to hold Barao down and his standup isn’t on the same level.
Jeff Hougland: I don’t think I have ever picked one of these right. I hope Dillashaw wins because I’d like to see someone from Team Alpha Male win the title. Barao is a beast, though. The UFC tried to match me up with him after I had a year injury layoff but switched the fight. I guess God still wanted me to talk normal and walk upright. Anyways, I’m going to go with the champ on this one.
Mitch Clarke: Barao wins. Unfortunately, I think he’s too well-rounded. I think T.J. will make a fight out of it, but in the later rounds, Barao will pull away with it.
Igor Araujo: Dillashaw has improved his game a lot since “The Ultimate Fighter.” Also, having a coach like Duane Ludwig was big for him, but I don’t see anybody taking the belt from Barao anytime soon. I have Barao by knockout in the second round.
Kyle Kingsbury: Is anyone picking Dillashaw? Barao wins in every category.
Nam Phan: I always have to root for my Team Alpha Male brother. T.J. wins it.
THE FINAL TALLYPros Picking Barao: 21
Pros Picking Dillashaw: 4
Follow Mike Sloan on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mikesloan19.