By AMBER PAPPé
For The Union Democrat
SAN JOSE—Making good on his pre-fight prediction and living up to considerable press touting him as a rising star in the division, UFC bantamweight TJ Dillashaw made it two knockouts in-a-row when he entered the cage for his second short-notice fight in the past five weeks.
The 27-year-old Calaveras County native, and product of Sacramento’s Team Alpha Male, took on Brazil’s Hugo Viana and wrecked him in front of 13,406 loud and lively fans Saturday night at UFC on FOX 7: Henderson vs Melendez.
Dillashaw opened the round with a quick jab at the Brazilian; Viana responded with a big left hook, wobbling the Bret Harte wrestling star. Dillashaw exploded and transitioned to a single leg, taking Viana’s back and working for the submission. The Brazilian survived the attempt, but not for long.
After several exchanges, Dillashaw moved away from his wrestling roots and caught Viana with a perfectly-placed punch, planting a straight right to the chin that rocked Viana to the floor with eyes rolling back in his head, legs askew. Viana staggered to his feet –– momentarily –– before Dillashaw swarmed and finished him with a series of strikes on the ground.
Chants of “TJ, TJ” echoed across the arena as referee Big John McCarthy waved him off at 4:22 of the first round.
With the win, his fourth straight, Dillashaw improves to 9-1; Viana drops to 7-2 with the loss.
“I knew Hugo was tough,” said Dillashaw. “I felt good and calm. I just tried to keep my movement going.”
Though not a team sport in the traditional sense, the Team Alpha Male fighters are a tight-knit pack.
On the card with Dillashaw were teammates Joseph Benavidez and Chad Mendes. The trio, dubbed “Menavideshaw,” grabbed wins at flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight. For Dillashaw, the trifecta made the night sweeter.
“It’s always hard if your buddy loses and you win,” he said. “Being on the card together with all of us winning absolutely made it more meaningful.”
The win also moved Dillashaw up a notch on the bantamweight ladder. After the fight, Dave Sholler, UFC Director of Communications, tweeted, “Judging by the fan reaction, NorCal has a new MMA star and his name is TJ Dillashaw, Wow.”