SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- For the second time in three months, TJ Dillashaw finished a UFC bantamweight title fight in the fifth round via knockout.
It didn't happen against Renan Barao this second time, but Dillashaw will take it.
Dillashaw (11-2) successfully defended his 135-pound title in the main event of UFC 177 on Saturday night, knocking out Joe Soto in the fifth round at Sleep Train Arena. Referee John McCarthy stopped the bout at the 2:20 mark of the round.
The final sequence saw Dillashaw land a high head kick to Soto's left temple. The challenger staggered and fell from the shot, and the bout was quickly called as Dillashaw moved in to land follow-up punches.
UFC 177 was originally supposed to feature a title rematch between Dillashaw and Renan Barao, the man he took the belt from at UFC 173 in May via TKO. Barao (32-2) was forced to pull out the day before after fainting while attempting to cut weight.
Soto (15-3), who was scheduled to make his UFC debut against Anthony Birchak in the second preliminary bout at UFC 177, agreed to replace Barao on short notice.
On Friday, UFC president Dana White said Barao would not be offered a title fight in his next bout and would have to work his way back to Dillashaw.
"I'm not really sure [who's next]," said Dillashaw, immediately after the win. "My mind has been on Renan Barao the last four months. I haven't thought of anyone else.
"I would like a little break. After that, I'll fight anybody the UFC wants to put in front of me -- and I'll beat them."
Dillashaw was dominant in his title defense, although the fight was probably not as one-sided as most expected. Soto appeared a little stiff in the first round, but slowly grew more confident after that.
A former collegiate wrestler, Soto attempted several takedown attempts in the opening round, but failed to get Dillashaw to the floor. Dillashaw made him pay for the effort, at one point scrambling to his back and looking for a rear-naked choke.
Soto, a former 145-pound Bellator MMA champion in 2009, proved to be squirrelly on the ground, however, and escaped from dangerous positions quickly. He switched gears in the following round, not attempting a single takedown and electing to go after Dillashaw on the feet.
The bigger, more polished Dillashaw dictated range on the feet, but struggled to land clean, consistent shots against the conservative Soto. Perhaps looking to save energy at times, Soto covered up and drew Dillashaw in, then tried to answer with counters.
In the second round, he stuck his tongue out briefly at Dillashaw after slipping a combination. He cut Dillashaw under the right eye with a punch in the second round, but started to bleed badly from his nose in the third.
Pace ultimately proved to be too much for Soto, who originally trained for a three-round fight. He and Dillashaw came into the fight somewhat familiar with one another, having trained together briefly at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento earlier this year.
"It was a dream come true, an honor the UFC asked me to fight for the title," Soto said. "I've always wanted to be here since I was a kid. I'm just honored. I didn't want to die knowing I didn't fight in the UFC. It's done. My dream came true.
"Anybody who knows me, knows I train not for five-round fights, not for three-round fights. I train the worst situations. That's how I train."
Immediate cageside stats showed Dillashaw outlanded Soto in total strikes, 156-63. The champion also scored two takedowns, in the third and fourth rounds.
ESPN.com ranked Dillashaw the No. 1 bantamweight in the world heading into the fight. Barao is ranked No. 2. Prior to the title bout, Barao said he intended to remain in the weight class and earn a rematch.
"I used the same methods for getting ready for this fight as I have for my last 35 fights," Barao said. "I didn't think there was a problem. I just got up too quickly, fainted and hit my head. I want to come back and tear TJ's head off."
The UFC reported attendance for the event at 11,100 for a $700,000 live gate.
Ferguson edges past Castillo
Ferguson (16-3) moved to 6-1 in the UFC, as he edged Castillo via judges' scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29. ESPN.com scored the bout 29-28 for Castillo.
"I'm not happy," Ferguson said. "I left it to the judges and you're not supposed to do that. I threw kicks but he just laid there and didn't do anything. I'm just mad I didn't finish him.
"This was a harsh crowd. We came and did what we had to do, and got the victory. I'm going to change to southpaw, switch everything up and let this division know I can fight either way."
Fighting out of Orange County, California, Ferguson looked outstanding on his feet early in the fight. He took the center of the cage from the opening bell and tracked Castillo down with inside leg kicks and combinations.
Castillo attempted to use the outside of the cage and circle in and out of Ferguson's range, but had trouble finding him with his right hand -- especially early. Ferguson cut off the cage and picked off virtually every punch Castillo threw in the first round.
Late in the round, Ferguson caught Castillo in a D'Arce choke while they were still on the feet and dropped to the canvas looking for a finish. Castillo managed to escape eventually, but clearly lost the round.
Ferguson continued to have his way on the feet at the start of the next frame, but Castillo refused to go away and gradually started to find range with the right hand. A pivotal scramble ended with Castillo in top position late in the round.
With the Sacramento crowd behind him, Castillo moved to top position in another scramble in the final round and controlled Ferguson for the majority of the frame. He failed to score much damage, though, other than a few elbows to the head. He caught Ferguson in an arm triangle attempt as the final bell sounded, but never came close to a finish.
Castillo, who drops to 7-4 in the UFC with the loss, disputed the scorecards after the fight. It was the 35-year-old's first opportunity to co-main an event. Ferguson has now won his past three fights.
Correia bombards Baszler for stoppage win
Correia (9-0) improved to 3-0 in the Octagon with a TKO finish over Shayna Baszler at the 1:56 mark of the second round.
Baszler (15-9), friend and training partner to bantamweight champion Rousey, was never knocked down in the bout but was basically out on her feet from punches along the fence when referee John McCarthy stopped the fight.
"I've been working on my boxing for the last two months. My plan was to go for the body and gas her out, and that's exactly what I did," Correia said. "When I was on the ground, I was basically defending because I didn't want her to take my arm. It was close."
Early in the second round, Correia landed a hard knee to Baszler's midsection, which she followed with an elbow to the head from the clinch. Stunned, Baszler fell back to the fence, where Baszler unloaded with left hooks to the body.
Baszler refused to go down from the shots, but never recovered. She caught a knee attempt from Correia to throw her off-balance momentarily, but she failed to circle off the fence and was quickly back in survival mode.
After a series of left hooks to the body and right hands to the head by Correia, the 135-pound fight was officially called off.
An 11-year veteran, Baszler got off to a strong start in her UFC debut. She closed the distance on Correia well and pulled the Brazilian into her guard in the first round. She threatened at one point to lock in a triangle choke, but couldn't secure the hold.
Correia has now defeated two members of Rousey's camp in back-to-back fights. She dominated Jessamyn Duke in a three-round decision at UFC 172 in April.
"My message to Ronda: If there's someone who will retire without any losses in the UFC, it's going to be me," Correia said. "I'm going to retire with the belt, not her."
Baszler suffers a loss in her first appearance since January 2013.
Ferreira knocks Nijem out cold
Carlos Diego Ferreira is 2-for-2 inside the Octagon, with two wins by stoppage.
"I fought really hard and got a win over a really tough guy, so I'm very excited right now," Ferreira said. "The submission attempts were really close, but he escaped the first two.
"I felt tired, so I knew I needed to try something different -- and then I got the knockout."
Nijem (9-5) looked good early, but failed to avoid Ferreira's punches in the heavier exchanges. A right hand to the temple staggered him in the opening round, and then he walked into a counter right cross the following round.
Ferreira (11-0) was a little awkward on his feet to start the fight, but he was happy to stand and trade whenever Nijem was willing. After hurting Nijem with the right in the first, Ferreira nearly locked in a kimura but eventually lost the hold.
With momentum clearly on Ferreira's side, Nijem came out aggressive in the second round. He caught a Ferreira kick in the center of the cage, but ate a right hand before he could do anything with it. He fell into a guillotine early in the round, but managed to escape and do a little work from top position before Ferreira got up.
Ferreira, 29, scored a 38-second submission win over Colton Smith in his UFC debut earlier this year. Six of his 11 career wins have come via submission. A former contestant on "The Ultimate Fighter," Nijem falls to 5-4 in the UFC overall.
Medeiros earns first UFC win
Lightweight Yancy Medeiros collected his first UFC win, showcasing a nifty modified guillotine choke in the process.
Medeiros (10-2) submitted Damon Jackson at the 1:54 mark of the second round of their 155-pound contest. Jackson (9-1) went out before he could tap to the choke.
It was a smooth performance by Medeiros start-to-finish, despite a ton of pressure applied by Jackson. A former 145-pound title-holder in Legacy FC, Jackson accepted the fight on nine days notice and aggressively went after Medeiros the entire fight.
"I wasn't concerned about the late replacement," Medeiros said. "I'm a martial artist, I train with great martial artists like Nate Diaz and Team Hawaii back home. Nate is like a brother to me and really supportive and opens his home to me when I come to train. I'm glad he's by my side and I'm glad I could be a part of his team.
"I was happy [Jackson] wanted to stand because I wanted to slug. I just caught him. I try to take advantage of every situation and that's part of being a martial artist."
Medeiros, 26, popped Jackson with a few early counter right hands and showcased strong defensive wrestling during multiple takedown attempts. He scored knees to the body in the clinch and hurt Jackson with a left hook to the body late in the round.
The second round was similar to the first, as Jackson looked to close distance with lead right hands and set up double leg shots. Medeiros opened a cut under his right eye early with a jab, before catching him in a standing guillotine for the finish.
Medeiros, 26, scored a knockout over Yves Edwards on a UFC "Fight for the Troops" in November, but the win was changed to a no-contest after he tested positive for marijuana metabolites.
Jackson suffers the first loss of his professional career.