Posted 05/26/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

UFC 173: Renan Barao vs. TJ Dillashaw Review

UFC 173 saw all-time pound-for-pound legend Renan Barao drop his bantamweight title following a five-round beatdown from TJ Dillashaw. Daniel Cormier made Dan Henderson look like the old man he is on his march for Jon Jones. And Robbie Lawler rebounded from a so-close-yet-so-far title fight against Johny Hendricks with a melting of up-and-down welterweight contender Jake Ellenberger. Without further adieu, your analysis.


A tentative first round gave way to a blow out after TJ Dillashaw put Renan Barao down like a potato sack with just over a minute left. Rogan did his woah thing, the champ recovered well enough, and Dillashaw probably should have finished a choke. He didn’t, allowing Barao to escape into round two, but the damage was done. Barao never seemed to find his bearings after the knockdown – or maybe he didn’t have them to begin with – and Dillashaw looked just sharper than the champ until round five when he finished with a left head kick and a flurry of punches.

It’s an upset being compared with Matt Serra’s still-what-the-fuck-in-retrospect finish of Georges St-Pierre at 69. The bulk of the money came in on Barao, who opened up at -450, with a spike of late money pushing the mean line to -942 at fight time. As Paul Gift noted at Bloody Elbow, that makes this the third-biggest upset by betting odds in the UFC. (Gift’s chart leaves off the infamous Sokoudjou upsets over Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona in Pride.)

The difference between Dillashaw and Serra (and Sokoudjou) is that he was ranked as the number four challenger to Barao’s title, where Serra won his title shot as a blown up welterweight in an UFC also-ran season of the Ultimate Fighter (and Sokoudjou was three fights into his pro career and coming off a KO loss to Glover Teixeira). That’s part of the reason Dillashaw’s victory doesn’t “feel” as big as those two upsets, but there’s also the issue of how Barao had been marketed up to this point.

Because prior to this fight, Barao wasn’t really marketed at all. The UFC kept the interim tag on his belt, preserving Dominick Cruz’s place as the champion proper for whatever reason, and his first defense of the belt came on Fuel TV. Then he defended as a co-main on a Jon Jones-headlined PPV in which he received next-to-no attention before finally headlining his own PPV because he was scheduled to fight Cruz in a unification bout (and then Cruz got hurt again).

Now Dillashaw has the belt, and he was only scheduled in this fight because Raphael Assuncao, who beat Dillashaw just three fights ago, couldn’t take it due to injury. Of all of the UFC’s nine champions, Dillashaw is, by far, the most “a guy” of them, and a division which has a hard time selling PPVs or drawing any sort of interest on its own will now have a harder time.


Daniel Cormier laid waste to Dan Henderson, who was eight weeks out from a slugfest with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and is 43 years old and wasn’t allowed any testosterone replacement therapy. The win puts Cormier on track to fight for the title, though Alexander Gustafsson has first shot against Jon Jones. That is, assuming, Jones signs the bout agreement and doesn’t stump for fighting Cormier instead, which may be a bigger money fight for him.

Henderson told Joe Rogan that he’ll continue fighting as long as he can keep doing it. If you’re the UFC, though, what do you do with him? He shouldn’t fight any of the guys near the top, and will they want to pay Henderson six figures to fight Ovince St. Preux?


Herb Dean again showed off his “best ref in the world” credentials during Robbie Lawler’s TKO victory over Jake Ellenberger. With just over two minutes left in the third round, Lawler lands a right-hand jab that startles Ellenberger, who looks to Herb Dean as if Lawler poked his eye. Seconds later, Lawler lands a huge knee to the same eye. Ellenberger covers up and voluntarily turtles to the mat. Lawler follows with five punches as Dean stands there…waiting for something? This wasn’t a delayed body shot that put Ellenberger down, it was direct damage to the face, and he very clearly went into feral instinct mode.


-Speaking of late stoppages, Dan Henderson’s corner told him between rounds two and three, “I know it sucks, but you have to fucking fight this guy now.” They should have stopped the bout instead.

-According to Mookie Alexander on Twitter, Joe Rogan went from saying “some people” thought Renan Barao was the number-one pound-for-pound fighter on the planet to “many people” to “everyone” in the course of a single broadcast.

-Cain Velasquez is never happier than when he gets to watch Daniel Cormier fight.

Mike Fagan