T.J. Dillashaw smacked Renan Barao around before putting him away. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
T.J. Dillashaw shocked the combat sports world.
The Team Alpha Male export stopped Renan Barao on a fifth-round technical knockout to capture the Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight title in the UFC 173 headliner on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Barao (32-2, 7-1 UFC) succumbed to the blows 2:26 into round five, as he was beaten for the first time since April 14, 2005.
Dillashaw (10-2, 6-2) pieced together a virtuoso performance over four-plus rounds. The 28-year-old Californian floored Barao with an overhand right roughly 90 seconds into the match and never looked back. From that point forward, the Brazilian was on his heels. He had no answer for Dillashaw’s lateral movement and multi-strike bursts, absorbing blows to the legs, body and head.
A finalist on Season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Dillashaw put his signature on the masterpiece in round five. There, he rattled Barao with a savage head kick, swarmed with punches and dropped him with a left hook. An unanswered volley of punches and hammerfists brought it to a close.
“I’ve dreamed it for so long,” Dillashaw said. “It’s unbelievable. All you have to do is believe you’re the best in the world, and you’ll get here. Barao is the best in the world in my eyes. I’ve been looking up to the guy. I felt respect to get in the cage against him. That’s what brought the best out in me. I knew I was fighting the best. I had to bring my A game to be the champion of the world, and it happened.”
Dillashaw has won six of his last seven fights. Even though he entered round five with what appeared to be a significant lead on the scorecards, he never relented.
“That’s who I am,” Dillashaw said. “I’m aggressive. I’ve done it in the gym every day. I want to finish every fight. I never want to go to the judges again. To be my best, I’ve got to be aggressive. I’m not a defensive fighter. I’m coming at you.”
The defeat halted Barao’s streak of 22 straight wins.
“It was really a tough fight,” he said. “I have to congratulate him. Tonight was his night, but I’m coming back.”
Cormier Chokes Henderson Unconscious
In the co-main event, American Kickboxing Academy ace Daniel Cormier rendered former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Dan Henderson unconscious with a third-round rear-naked choke. Henderson (30-12, 7-6 UFC) passed out 3:53 into round three.
Cormier (15-0, 4-0 UFC) outclassed “Hendo” in every aspect of the game, draining his gas tank with a relentless top game. He struck for takedowns and moved to full mount in all three rounds. Henderson’s fabled right hand was never in play. Late in round three, Cormier transitioned to the Team Quest founder’s back, cinched the choke and forced him to a belly-down position. Soon after, Henderson went limp.
Afterward, Cormier again took aim at the reigning 205-pound champion.
“Jon Jones, you can’t run away from me forever,” he said. “I’m the kid at the wrestling tournament who is always in your bracket. No matter where you go, boy, I’m coming. You better hurry, because I’m getting better. I know that nobody can wrestle me. If I decide to take Jon Jones down 100 times, I’ll take him down 100 times. This is my Octagon. I’m the man.”
Henderson, who turns 44 in August, has lost four of his last five fights.
“My plan was to beat ‘DC’ tonight, so I’ll have to figure it out,” Henderson said. “I’m not done yet. I’m still going to compete. I love this sport and the support you guys give me. I will continue to do it until I can’t.”
‘Ruthless’ Lawler Dismisses Ellenberger
Former EliteXC champion Robbie Lawler put away Jake Ellenberger with a third-round knee strike to the face and follow-up punches in a high-stakes welterweight showdown. Ellenberger (29-8, 8-4 UFC) wilted 3:06 into round three, as he lost for just the third time in his past 11 fights.
Lawler (23-10, 8-4) put his skilled hands to good use, firing off multi-punch combinations throughout the bout. The 32-year-old American Top Team standout also mixed in head kicks to great effect, keeping Ellenberger guessing. In the third round, Lawler cracked the Nebraskan with a stout jab to the left eye. Ellenberger then retreated to the cage in visible distress before being met with a crushing knee strike to the same eye. The blow dropped the Reign MMA representative where he stood, and Lawler pounced with unanswered punches for the finish.
“He’s a really good fighter,” Lawler said. “I just wanted to showcase what I’m capable of and let people know I’m coming for that title.”
Mizugaki Wins Fifth Straight
Takeya Mizugaki rode tight punching combinations to his fifth consecutive victory, as the Japanese standout took a unanimous decision over Francisco Rivera in a bantamweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for Mizugaki (20-7-2, 7-2 UFC): 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.
Mizugaki floored the heavy-handed Californian with a short right hand behind the ear in the first round, swarming with punches for a potential finish. Rivera (10-3, 3-2 UFC) weathered the onslaught but spent too much time on his back over the ensuing 10 minutes. He was effective in the standup exchanges, cutting Mizugaki near both eyes, but never landed the clean punch he needed in order to stem the tide.
The loss halted Rivera’s modest two-fight winning streak.
Krause Injures, Stops Varner
An ankle injury suffered by former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Jamie Varner resulted in a technical knockout victory for James Krause in a featured clash at 155 pounds. The bout was halted in between rounds one and two, as Varner (21-10-1, 3-5 UFC) was unable to continue.
Krause (21-5, 2-1 UFC) was the aggressor from the start. The Gridhouse MMA export targeted Varner’s lower leg with kicks. Early in the first round, Krause clipped the Arizona Combat Sports representative with one of those kicks, leaving him visibly compromised. The injury forced Varner to fight on just one good leg, as he stumbled around the cage, repeatedly rolling his already-damaged ankle. A desperate Varner uncorked a number of right hands and reversed a Krause takedown into side control. However, once the first frame ended, he informed the referee that he believed he had “broken” his ankle. Soon after, the stoppage was called.
“I’m sorry that you fans missed out on what could have been an even better fight,” said Krause, who has won nine times in his past 10 appearances. “Jamie is such a tough guy and great competitor. I’m sorry it ended like it did. It was the first kick I threw. I felt it hit my shin. We worked this camp on kicking the calf extremely low so he couldn’t catch my kick and take me down.”
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