T.J. Dillashaw entered his bout against Renan Barao determined to dispel any questions about his worthiness as the Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight titleholder.
Fourteen months ago, the 29-year-old Sacramento-based fighter and Angels Camp native dethroned the Brazilian striker in one of the biggest upsets of 2014. Entering Saturday night’s highly anticipated rematch at the United Center, the Team Alpha Male standout was confident he would not only win but do so in even more dominant fashion.
Dillashaw (13-2) did just that, scoring a fourth-round technical knockout over Barao (35-3) with a flurry of punches in the main event of UFC on Fox 16.
Dillashaw immediately put Barao’s chin to the test as the two engaged in an action-packed, fast-paced affair throughout the first three rounds.
“I always push for the finish and thought I started out way too fast,” Dillashaw said. “It was a crazy first round, and I wanted to get the finish in the first. In the second and third rounds, I started to find my groove, and I was able to put him away in the fourth. It felt good, and I couldn’t ask for a better way to end it.
“I definitely expect to dominate the fight. I felt I was the faster athlete. He’s definitely very tough. I’m glad I got the finish quicker than last time (a fifth-round TKO), but there are still some things I need to work on. I got hit a little bit more than I wanted to, and we’ll fix those things going forward.”
Since his arrival to the biggest stage in mixed martial arts in 2011, Dillashaw has exemplified how a fighter can progress through dedication. The Urijah Faber protégé splits his training time between Ultimate Fitness in Sacramento and striking guru Duane Ludwig’s facility in Denver, and the work has produced impressive results in his run to the top.
Through his dedication, Dillashaw has transformed himself from a wrestler with speed in his hands into one of the most elusive and accurate strikers in MMA. He displayed those skills Saturday in his second title defense.
“I’ve always had good cardio because of how hard I work and how professional I am,” Dillashaw said. “I don’t take short cuts, and I’m always in good shape. It was hard to deal with when I first got up there, though. I did the first part of my camp in Sacramento and finished it in Denver at altitude. I felt great heading into this fight, and that’s due to how hard I train.
“The goal is to not only win but do it in dominant fashion. I go out there every time looking to make a statement, and the one I made tonight is that I’m here to stay. This belt isn’t going to leave Sacramento.”