UFC on Fox preview: TJ Dillashaw versus Renan Barao II

There is no shortage of fight fans who still regard Matt Serra's knockout against Georges St-Pierre for the welterweight championship in 2007 as the greatest upset in UFC title fight history.

But based on betting odds, which (technically speaking) quantify the magnitude of an upset, TJ Dillashaw's fifth-round TKO over Renan Barao at UFC 173 last year was significantly more shocking.

It's pretty easy to understand, though, why some still regard Serra's win as the bigger upset of the two. Serra's win was due in large part to one punch -- a perfect right hand to St-Pierre's chin that essentially ended the fight. When the two fought again one year later, St-Pierre was still heavily favored to win and he did so, dominating Serra en route to a second-round finish.

On the other hand, Dillashaw-Barao didn't even feel like an upset by the start of the fifth round. Dillashaw absolutely dominated the fight, which created this feeling we were seeing less of what you'd call a traditional upset and more of an odds-making error.

And sure enough, Dillashaw (11-2) is a more-than 2-to-1 favorite to defeat Barao (33-2) a second time in their UFC bantamweight title rematch this weekend. The bout headlines UFC on Fox at United Center in Chicago.

Dillashaw probably doesn't care one way or another if he gets credit for the greatest upset in title fight history as long as the belt is around his waist. Still, whether it feels like it or not, that distinction does belong to him.

Let's take a closer look at the styles that make up this 135-pound rematch.

ODDS: Dillashaw -220; Barao +180


There is very little doubt in my mind that Barao benefited from the multiple delays in promoting this rematch.

Remember, Dillashaw versus Barao II was supposed to take place last August, three months after the initial meeting. That could have been a nightmare for Barao. That's a very short amount of time to try and make any real adjustments (not to mention, recover from a five-round beatdown). And mentally, would it have even been possible for Barao to go into a rematch just three months after that bad of a loss and still feel like a world-beater? Probably not, if you ask me. The extended amount of time it's taken to get to this second fight has been Barao's friend.

The flip side of that, of course, is that it's not as if Dillashaw has been on a 14-month vacation since UFC 173. He figures to have added wrinkles to his game as well, and trained for this rematch at altitude in Denver -- which is a new development.

When it comes to pinpointing what bothered Barao most in his loss to Dillashaw, it's difficult to narrow it to one thing. Dillashaw gave him so much to think about. A good place to start is that he took away one of Barao's biggest weapons in his leg kicks, by constantly switching stances and moving around the Octagon. Offensively, he couldn't have been more versatile. The lead uppercut landed, as did the lead right. Outside leg kicks. A left head kick from the southpaw stance -- then a left hook to the body. Add in a total of three takedown attempts, to keep Barao guessing.

And we're not just talking about volume for volume's sake. These were technical, purposeful strikes that were not only executed well, but set up well. The level changes and feints by Dillashaw truly had Barao in fits. Dillashaw landed 49 percent of his total strikes, 7 percent higher than his UFC average.

One thing that stands out, however, is Dillashaw's aggressiveness coming forward coupled with Barao's fearless tendency to return counter strikes. He has knockout power in both hands and absolute, world-class submissions (particularly when he has an opponent hurt). Dillashaw works in and out at terrific angles, but he will occasionally walk into counter punches. That makes his ability to be unpredictable as important to his defense as his offense. He relies on being where Barao doesn't think he'll be at all times. If Barao finds him as he's coming forward, that might be the end of the fight right there.

What was somewhat lost in the domination of the first fight is that Dillashaw was moving extremely well in the fifth round. By that time, Barao was so beat up, the whole 'cardio' conversation never really occurred. "Of course Dillashaw was moving better, look at the first three rounds of the fight." But looking at this rematch, it's worth noting Dillashaw does have a crazy motor on him and Barao cuts a ton of weight to be at 135. If this fight is much closer than the first, endurance could show up big in later rounds and Dillashaw figures to have an edge.


Put me on record as having all my eggs in the Dillashaw basket. His style is perfect for Barao and I believe he picks up where he left off. Looking forward, Dillashaw is athletic, confident, hard-working and well-coached. He might hold on to this UFC championship for quite awhile by the time it's all said and done. DILLASHAW BY TKO, ROUND FIVE.