Twenty-four hours prior to his first Ultimate Fighting Championship title defense, everything in bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw’s world was head kicked off its axis. With the entire UFC 177 fight card resting on his shoulders, Dillashaw stepped into the cage in a no-win situation on Saturday at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif., and saved another UFC pay-per-view from cancellation by accepting a last-minute opponent switch.
Less than three months after springing one of the biggest upsets in UFC title-fight history, Dillashaw was tasked with avoiding being on the other end of a potential Cinderella story. When original title challenger Renan Barao was unable to cut weight successfully and instead found himself being jettisoned to the hospital, Dillashaw pulled company man duties and accepted UFC rookie Joe Soto as an 11th-hour stand-in. His opponent changed, his game plan changed and maybe his pregame meal changed, but Dillashaw’s first walkout as UFC champion remained the same.
Off a Red Hot Chili Peppers album that was released when Dillashaw was 16 years old, “Can’t Stop” once again ushered the Team Alpha Male product to the cage. Also used as a walkout by heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko, “Can’t Stop” and the coaching of Duane Ludwig helped turn Dillashaw’s striking game from a onetime weakness into an unstoppable weapon.
From preliminary filler to the UFC 177 main-event marquee, ex-Bellator featherweight champion and first-time UFC entrant Soto answered destiny’s call prior to the weigh-ins. Destiny took the physical form of UFC President Dana White, and Soto stepped into the championship spotlight vacated by Barao. With nothing to lose, Soto walked to the cage like there was no tomorrow. He selected “All the Above,” by Brooklyn rapper Maino, as the soundtrack for his UFC debut. When in doubt, Soto always selects all of the above.
Dancing with unfamiliar partners, Dillashaw and Soto delivered last-minute, championship-level performances. The champion worked a high-tempo, high-volume striking attack that paid off in the later rounds, while the underdog picked his spots and hit on multiple effective counterpunching efforts. In the fifth and final round, Dillashaw’s aggression paid off, as an unblocked right head kick connected perfectly with Soto’s skull. Dillashaw finished off the groggy Soto with a straight left hand and ground-and-pound for the stoppage. Firmly entrenched as the UFC’s 135-pound kingpin, Dillashaw has an addiction to the title-belt shindig and a habit of winning big.
Elsewhere on the UFC 177 fight card, a metal-versus-dance genre battle broke out, as well as song title context clues that proved to be a risky gamble for a few fighters.
Bethe Correia and Shayna Baszler used song selections that fit their fighting personalities. A Brazilian contender, Correia entered the cage not to dance but with a preprogrammed mission to strike down her opponent. Walking to the cage to DJ David Guetta’s track “Titanium,” Correia fired her punches at Baszler with the blunt force of a nearly indestructible metal-like substance.
A founding member of the Ronda Rousey-led MMA clique the “Four Horsewomen,” Baszler had no other choice but to select the classic heavy metal Metallica head banger “The Four Horsemen” as her mosh pit anthem of choice.
Despite more than 20 years of recorded MMA entrance music history, certain picks are still shrouded in mystery. “TKO”, “Super Bad” and “Bad Company” all sound like high-risk, high-reward walkout song titles. If a UFC fighter nails a highlight-reel, super-bad TKO finish on the biggest stage in MMA, it could put him in some pretty bad company -- bad meaning good, of course.
Unfortunately for Ramsey Nijem, Lorenz Larkin and Cain Carrizosa, they all lost by TKO, decision or tapout despite their bold walkout music selections. MMA walkouts are cruel and oftentimes humorless mistresses that spare no fighter from sometimes ironic results.
UFC 177 Walkout SongsT.J. Dillashaw: Red Hot Chili Peppers “Can’t Stop” | By the Way (2002)
Joe Soto: Maino feat. T-Pain “All the Above” | If Tomorrow Comes ... (2009)
Tony Ferguson: Freestyle “The Party has Begun” | Don’t Stop the Rock (1984)
Danny Castillo: Jay-Z “30 Something” | Kingdom Come (2006)
Bethe Correia: David Guetta feat. Sia “Titanium” | Nothing but the Beat (2011)
Shayna Baszler: Metallica “The Four Horsemen” | Kill ’Em All (1983)
Carlos Diego Ferreira: Matthew West “Strong Enough” | The Story of Your Life (2010)
Ramsey Nijem: Justin Timberlake “TKO” | The 20/20 Experience -- 2 of 2 (2013)
Yancy Medeiros: Ice Cube “Check Yo Self (Remix)” | Predator (1992)
Damon Jackson: Blue Foundation “Eyes on Fire” | Life of a Ghost (2007)
Derek Brunson: Future “Go Harder” | Honest (2011)
Lorenz Larkin: James Brown “Super Bad” | Super Bad (1971)
Anthony Hamilton: Feenixpawl “In My Mind” | Until Now (2012)
Ruan Potts: Body Head Bangerz “Can’t be Touched” | Body Head Bangerz: Volume One (2004)
Chris Wade: Eminem “Rap God” | The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013)
Cain Carrizosa: Bad Company “Bad Company” | Bad Company (1974)
Tommy Messano is the editor-in-chief of ULTMMA.com. You can contact him on Twitter at @ULTMMA.