For Dillashaw, who is ready to defend his crown in front of a home crowd, it marks another opportunity to show the world that he may just be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the Octagon.
“I set a goal to be the UFC champion of the world and I accomplished that,” Dillashaw said. “I get to set new goals now. I want to become a legend in the sport like the people I came up watching. Become a household name, maybe even hold two belts in two weight classes. I’m not getting ahead of myself, but I still need to establish myself as a champion first.”
Although the former Bret Harte standout wrestler and Angels Camp native was a 10-1 underdog, he defeated Barao in decisive fashion in their first meeting at UFC 173 in May.
“TJ Dillashaw shocked the world and ended Renan Barao’s nine-year unbeaten streak by knocking out one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport,” UFC president Dana White said in a release. “He showed everyone why you can never trust the odds! Now, on Aug. 30 in TJ’s hometown of Sacramento, Barao will have his chance to get the belt back! I love this rematch!”
Dillashaw, 28, recorded two knockdowns, including a powerful right in the first round, and finished the then-unbeatable Barao, 27, in the fifth round by technical knockout. The 5-foot-6, 135-pounder landed 169 strikes compared to Barao’s 68.
Dillashaw connected on 49 percent of his punches while Barao caught Dillashaw just 24 percent of the time.
It was a match the speedy Dillashaw dominated on his feet despite possessing a strong wrestling pedigree.
“I couldn’t have written a better story,” Dillashaw said. “The way it ended — the fight itself — the way I executed the game plan and dominated a guy that was unbeatable, I showed everybody that he wasn’t the monster everybody thought.”
For Barao, who brought a 34-1 professional record including a no-contest into that May bout against Dillashaw, it was his first defeat in nearly a decade. His first loss came in his pro debut as an 18-year-old teenager in 2005.
Dillashaw snapped Barao’s 22-match win streak, which included seven consecutive UFC victories since he entered the Octagon in 2011.
“The first punch that I took in the first round kind of made me lose my perspective,” Barao said. “I felt like I fought the fight on automatic pilot. I have to come back more motivated and more confident than ever.”
Barao is familiar with Dillashaw and Urijah Faber’s Sacramento-based Team Alpha Male. This will be Barao’s fourth time that the 27-year-old is facing a member of Faber’s team in the Octagon.
Before being upset by Dillashaw, Barao topped Faber by a round one technical knockout in February to retain the title.
In Barao and Faber’s first championship tilt in July 2012, the Brazilian won by unanimous decision in five rounds.
Out of Barao’s five UFC title fights, only two have gone the distance. Dillashaw and Faber are the only mixed martial artists to push Barao into a five-round clash in the Octagon.
“I believe that their style is pretty much the same,” Barao said. “They’re from the same team. TJ moves around a little more, a little bit more footwork, but their style is pretty similar.”
Because the initial Barao-Dillashaw headliner replaced the original main event featuring light heavyweights Lyoto Machida and Chris Weidman at UFC 173, Barao noted that he wasn’t as prepared as he should have been.
The Brazilian said he turned down the May fight the first time around, but because other fights fell through, he had to fill in for the main card.
“I didn’t have a lot of time to train to be at my optimum best, but I also think by the first round that he dictated the fight in his favor,” Barao said. “He kind of dictated the tone, and that’s why I believed I lost.”
Barao insisted that if he would have been able to land a shot similar to Dillashaw’s momentum changer in the first round, the results would have been different, and it wouldn’t have lasted five rounds.
“I need everybody to remember that when he punched me — if the punch had been from me to TJ — I would have ended the fight,” Barao said. “I showed that I could take his best shot. If he took my punch, the fight would have been over at that point.”
Tickets for UFC 177: Dillashaw vs. Barao II go on sale today, and can be purchased through www.ticketmaster.com or the Sleep Train Arena box office. Prices start at $50.
Other matches on the fight card include: Tony Ferguson vs. Danny Castillo, Lorenz Larkin vs. Derek Brunson, Bethe Correia vs. Shayna Baszler, Ruan Potts vs. Anthony Hamilton and Yancy Medeiros vs. Justin Edwards.
“I’m excited to be that guy,” Dillashaw said of headlining the Sacramento showdown. “It’ll be amazing to fill an arena and entertain everybody. I can’t wait to make it another epic fight. I want round two to be a fight people will be talking about for a long time. … Maybe everyone, all 3,700 of them from Angels Camp, can make it. I’m hoping I get the hometown support. I had it my entire life, even in wrestling. It’s just been so great.”