We all know who TJ Dillashaw is now in the present day. But, not back in 2014, where he began his rise to the top. TJ has had some amazing fights and KOs in his career, however, this one takes the cake for sure. On May 24th, 2014, the UFC was popping in the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. Legendary names filled the main card, Daniel Cormier, Robbie Lawler, and Dillashaw’s opponent Renan Barao. Renan, arguably the best fighter in the UFC at the time, was riding his 32-fight win streak in his career. TJ has his work cut out for him in this unforgettable upset.
UFC 173: Barao vs Dillashaw
A fantastic night of fighting was anything but over as UFC 173 dawned on the main event. Barao, being the dominant champion he was, wasn’t expected to give up the bantamweight title. At the time, Dillashaw had not made a name for himself too much in the UFC. He needed that “big one” to solidify his place and enhance his skills. Well, it doesn’t get any bigger than knocking one of the most dangerous men in the world, who also hadn’t tasted defeat since April 2005. This was a true championship performance that took the whole world by storm.
The young “Viper” of the UFC, Dillashaw dominated the fight against Barao. He opened up the main event with a near stoppage in the first round. Shortly after, TJ continued to blow through rounds in excellent fashion that no one had seen out of him beforehand. After a long four rounds for the champion Barao, Dillashaw scored the win via TKO in the fifth round. A flurry of punches after an already long night in the octagon was much too overwhelming for the dominant bantamweight champion. Therefore, the night ended with a new, young, and still hungry champion in TJ Dillashaw.
After taking the next few nights to celebrate, TJ returned to the octagon to defend his title against top contender Joe Soto. Then for Dillashaw, the UFC booked a well-deserved rematch with Barao, in which Dillashaw won via KO. This made three KO consecutive victories for TJ, as he seemed to be unstoppable. However, just as that narrative set in, Dominick Cruz won a split decision to overtake his title. In his quest to get back to UFC gold, Dillashaw fought his way to two consecutive unanimous decisions to earn his shot. What happens next will be a staple in his career.
Cruz later lost his bantamweight title to “No Love” Cody Garbrandt. By this time, TJ was ready to challenge him for the belt. In a rivalry that was long over brewing, Dillashaw and Garbrandt finally met in the octagon. After a lifetime of trash talk, TJ got the laugh in the tense fight. A knockout of his old gym buddy was the highlight of the night and a devastating blow to Cody. So much so that the UFC saw the need to run it back. In the highly-anticipated rematch, UFC 227 featured the great rivalry. And alas, TJ conducted a finish even faster than the previous meeting. Solidifying his place in the UFC with just a championship was far from the true goal TJ wanted to accomplish.
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