On Saturday night TJ Dillashaw put to rest any doubt that his first win over Renan Barao was a product of luck. Dillashaw showcased a masterful game plan and execution en route to a fourth round TKO over his rival. With the win, Dillashaw put Barao in his rear-view mirror and forced himself into the pound for pound best conversations. Though disposing of Barao twice in devastating fashion, there are still a few more things that need to be done before Dillashaw can be lumped up with the likes of Ronda Rousey, Demetrious Johnson, and Jose Aldo.
Prior to his first win over Barao, Dillashaw’s biggest win was against Mike Easton, who at the time was riding a two fight losing streak going into the fight. Since winning the bantamweight title, Dillashaw was scheduled to face Barao in a rematch but due to health issues the Brazilian has forced off the card just a day prior to the event. Dillashaw ended up finishing up last-minute replacement Joe Soto with a fifth round knockout. The fight was Soto’s debut for the UFC and he went from being on the preliminary card to the main event of a pay-per-view in a matter of hours. Soto has gone to lose his latest bout against Anthony Birchak pushing his UFC record to 0-2. Other than Barao, Dillashaw has never had a victory over a top 5 bantamweight in the UFC.
Dillashaw debuted for the UFC as part the Ultimate Fighter season 14 cast. He made it to the finale and fought John Dodson for the season’s grand prize. Dillashaw would go on to lose the bout in the first round by knockout but bounced back with four consecutive victories but his opponents were not of the highest quality, especially for the UFC’s standards.
Dillashaw’s first UFC win came against Walei Watson. Watson would compile a 1-3 record with the UFC and is no longer fighting for the company. After Watson, Dillashaw went on to defeat Vaughan Lee via submission. Lee has put together a 3-5 record in the UFC and has an overall record of 14-11. After Lee came victories over Issei Tamura and Hugo Vianna who when 1-3 and 3-2 respectively in the UFC.
After rolling off those wins Dillashaw would then face his toughest opponent to date in Rapahel Assuncao. Dillashaw would lose the bout via a split decision. Though the loss was a minor setback in the long run of things it was Dillashaw’s durability that proved to be the difference maker when it came down to getting a title shot.
When the UFC was looking for a fighter to put up against Barao at the last-minute, it was Assuncao who they turned to first. Assuncao turned down the offer citing a rib injury and it was Dillashaw who got the call and he answered it with an emphatic yes.
The ability to defeat one of the best fighters on the planet on short notice shows that Dillashaw has the ability to become a great fighter and one of the best on the planet. The fact that he was able to do it a second time and in a more devastating fashion, showed that he is the real deal. Does two wins over Renan Barao and wins over fighters who are no longer in the UFC equal to one of the pound for pound best?
In order for Dillashaw to truly be considered one of the pound for pound best, he has two obstacles in front of him. The first is avenging the loss to Assuncao and the second is to get Dominick Cruz back inside the octagon.
Avenging a former loss is something any champion would like to do and for Dillashaw that should be no different. Assuncao has been sidelined with an ankle injury and for Dillashaw to get a rematch in the near future may be troublesome. Dillashaw’s second option is not any clearer.
If Assuncao is out of the question then the other logical option would be to face Dominick Cruz. Facing and defeating Cruz was an obstacle that faced Barao when he was champion. Cruz was forced to relinquish his bantamweight title due to years of injuries thus he was never defeated for his championship.
Dillashaw has already expressed a strong interest in facing Cruz so that he can put to rest all the talk of the former champ never being beaten. Unfortunately for Dillashaw, Cruz is sidelined with yet another ACL tear and is expected to miss much of 2015.
It seems as though that at the moment Dillashaw’s big time match ups are up in the air. Renan Barao spent the better part of two years destroying everyone in the bantamweight division and has now left Dillashaw with a short list of contenders but at his rate of improvement, Dillashaw may just be finishing what Barao had started.