I was one of the many who believed Renan Barao (30-2-0-1) would easily defeat T.J. Dillashaw (10-2) in their May 2014 bantamweight (135) title clash. Barao looked like a beast going into the fight, having won his previous 32 bouts in a row. Dillashaw, while often displaying potential, had lost to seemingly lesser fighters than Barao, including a TKO1 loss to John Dodson (16-6). Barao, on the other hand, had finished his last three opponents in impressive fashion, including a first round stoppage of the always durable Uriah Faber (31-7). Renan Barao looked to have all the advantages going into the fight, and was a huge favorite at about 8-1 odds. Then the opening bell rang.
T.J. Dillshaw mercilessly beat on Barao from beginning of the fight. He out-struck the champ easily and displayed impressive footwork throughout the opening round. Dillashaw dropped Barao near the end of the frame and nearly finished him off. Barao survived, but took a beating for the next three rounds. In the fifth and final round, Dillashaw dropped Barao with a head kick and finished him off with ground and pound. It was brutal. It was dominant. It was definitive.
Barao may have had an “off night” against Dillashaw the first time around. Even if this was the case, I see no need for an immediate rematch. The UFC is desperate for stars at the moment, so perhaps this is the organization’s way of creating a new star. If Barao pulls off the victory, this would set the stage for a third fight, which would bring in even more money. Everyone loves a trilogy. I believe Barao could certainly end up deserving a shot at the belt one day. That day is not today. Barao should have to earn his chance the hard way, like any other contender would. If the first fight were close, I could understand why Dana White would want to set up an immediate rematch. It was not a close fight. It was not a competitive fight. It was a comprehensive beating.
This May, T.J. Dillashaw proved he was a better fighter than Renan Barao. This August, I expect him to prove it again. I think this rematch could have used a bit more time to marinate in the pot. The UFC could have slowly built the fight up over the next year or so to maximize their potential earnings. Instead, they are cashing out with this immediate rematch in the hopes of creating a new star. I do not know if it will pay off for them this time. If Dillashaw wins, he will still be relatively unknown. T.J. already beat him soundly the first time, so beating Barao again does not do too much for his legacy. If Barao wins, he will be forced to fight another rematch with Dillashaw. If Barao loses, this will be a massive setback for the former champion. No matter what happens, I do not see any of the parties involved gaining anything substantial from this fight. The risk involved with Dillashaw-Barao 2 far outweighs the potential reward for Dillashaw, Barao, and the UFC.
Am I wrong? Is an immediate rematch warranted? Sound off with your opinion in the comment section below.