TJ Dillashaw didn’t have the opponent he expected tonight at UFC 177. But then, it’s been an event with a surprise at every turn.
Dillashaw expected to fight a rematch with the man he defeated to earn the UFC bantamweight championship back in May, Renan Barao. Dillashaw dominated Barao en route to a fifth round TKO victory that night, and this rematch, in Dilleshaw’s hometown of Sacramento, was where he was to prove his upset victory over the pound-for-pound entrant Barao was no fluke.
Instead, Dillashaw was paired with UFC newcomer Joe Soto, when Barao had to pull out of tonight’s bout due to medical reasons. It was announced Barao struggled in the hours prior to his weigh-in yesterday, forcing the last minute replacement.
So, Soto, of Porterville, CA, entered the cage a six to one underdog against the champion. But — he didn’t exactly end up being the opponent we expected, either.
Soto, fighting for a title in his first appearance in the UFC, took Dillashaw to the limit.
Still, the outcome was the same as Dillashaw’s bout back in May: a fifth round TKO victory. As against Barao, after winning each round, Dillashaw finally connected with a head kick to drop his opponent in the final stanza, where he followed up with punches until the referee halted the action.
Soto moved in and out well, connecting with counter punches throughout the bout. Dillashaw landed at a higher clip, out-working the challenger with hand combinations and landed the occasional kick besides. By each rounds end, Dillashaw had likely done enough to earn the judges’ nods — but not by much. Soto blocked many strikes and, at least in the early going, landed many of the more substantial punches.
Only in the fifth did the challenger visibly tire, leading to Dillashaw’s stoppage victory.
After the bout, Soto remarked that he was honored to have the opportunity to have his first Octagon appearance. It’s clear that this will not be his last.
Dillashaw thanked his hometown crowd, smiling: “I couldn’t let you down.”
At UFC 177, TJ Dillashaw defeats Joe Soto by TKO (kick and punches) at 2:20 of round five.
Front-Page Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports