UFC 173 wasn’t among the more highly anticipate events of ZUFFA’s busy spring schedule. The event was marred by cancellation after cancellation and ended a shadow of its former self. Both the main event and co-main event featured long odds for the underdogs, as much as ten to one. The main was a title bout at bantamweight, which has failed to generate a substantial amount of fan interest.
Indeed, it wasn’t among the best events — and neither of the co-main event bouts was competitive. But the main event was dominated not by the favorite, but by the underdog. TJ Dillashaw dismantled UFC Bantamweight Champion Renan Barão over five rounds in what commentator Joe Rogan called “the greatest performance I’ve seen in my life.” Dillashaw looked better than ever, moving deftly from southpaw to orthodox, landing power shots and easily evading the champion’s counters. The pound-for-pound entrant Barão was knocked to the canvas and almost finished in the first and finally stopped by a series of punches in the final stanza.
The new champion enjoyed the victory with his Team Alpha Male teammates, including coach Duane Ludwig. The bout marked Ludwig’s last with the California-based team, as he moves on to coach his own academy in his native Colorado.
The co-main offered no such surprises. Daniel Cormier “rag-dolled” Dan Henderson as no one had before, hitting strong takedowns and pressuring the legend in dominant positions throughout three rounds. The finish came in the third, as Henderson fell unconscious to a Cormier rear naked choke. Cormier called out the light heavyweight champion after the bout, bellowing: “Jon Jones, you can’t run away from me forever!”
Robbie Lawler, a two-to-one favorite, earned another one-sided victory in the event’s third marquee bout. His opponent Jake Ellenberger never got on track, as Lawler pressured him with kicks and punches in his classic “technical brawler” style. It was a big Lawler knee and punches on the ground which scored “Ruthless” Robbie the win in round three.
The night was not the UFC’s best, but one great performance, by an unheralded new champion, will remain in memory.