3 Bantamweight Title Fights We'd Have Preferred over Dillashaw vs. Barao Rematch
At UFC 173 T.J. Dillashaw put on a scientific performance against Renan Barao, dominating the former champion for almost an entire five rounds before putting him away in the middle of the last round. Barao was thought to be unbeatable, and Dillashaw beat him with near-impunity.
The rematch is set for the main event of UFC 177 on August 30, but there are other fights that may have been a better option for Dillashaw’s first bantamweight title defense. Because of Barao’s previous 33-fight unbeaten streak, he is definitely deserving of a rematch. But after such a one-sided first fight, it would be smart if Barao took on someone else and rematched Dillashaw coming off of a win.
The top of the UFC’s bantamweight division is vibrant, and there is no shortage of interesting fights for both Dillashaw or Barao. Dominick Cruz is jumping back into the fray at UFC 178, Raphael Assuncao and Brian Caraway have been booked opposite one another in October, and there’s always Urijah Faber, who is looking to return at the end of the year.
With so many viable contenders in the bantamweight division, there were numerous fighters Dillashaw could have faced in his first fight as champion. Here are three fights that would have been preferable over the Dillashaw vs. Barao immediate rematch.
No. 3: Dillashaw vs. Assuncao II
Assuncao holds a split decision win over Dillashaw from October of last year and is on a six-fight winning streak. It was a close fight, and it would be an interesting rematch for the bantamweight title.
Assuncao is currently booked to face Bryan Caraway at a Fight Night card set for October 4 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Should he emerge from the Caraway fight victorious, he will have more than earned his shot at the title.
No. 2: Dillashaw vs. Faber
Urijah Faber has fought for the UFC bantamweight title three times in his three-year tenure after coming over from the WEC. His ability to ascend to top-contender status is unmatched.
His most recent title fight at UFC 169 back in February was stopped way too soon by the usually flawless Herb Dean. Faber was still intelligently defending himself and was not enduring very much punishment by a swarming barrage from Barao in the first round. But Dean waived it off when Barao looked up at him, practically asking for him to step in.
While a third fight with Barao might not be in the cards anytime soon, Faber vs. the new champ is a fantastic matchup.
The two men train together at Team Alpha Male, and Faber even requested T.J. get the next shot in his post-fight speech after losing to Barao. It’s unlikely we’ll see this fight, as the two are close friends who have both expressed a disinterest in fighting the other, even for the belt.
No. 1: Dillashaw vs. Cruz
The new champ taking on the old champ is the best fight possible right now at 135 pounds. Cruz was originally set to face Barao at UFC 169 to unify the titles after a more-than-two-year injury layoff, but was then stripped of his championship when he couldn’t make the date due to another injury.
His return fight is set for September 27 at UFC 178 against Takeya Mizugaki. A non-title fight makes sense for Cruz after nearly three years away from the sport. With the amount of injuries he’s had to overcome, its possible he might not be the same fighter he was once was.
It’s also possible he goes out there and dusts Mizugaki and proves he’s ready to get his belt back. Dominick Cruz poses the biggest threat to T.J. Dillashaw’s reign as champion, and the sooner the two fight, the better.