MMA Review: #515: UFC on Fox: Dillashaw vs. Barao II

-The UFC’s annual trip to Chicago has taken place in January for the last few years but in 2015 they shifted it to the summer’s big Fox show, with the main event being the long-awaited rematch between TJ Dillashaw and Renan Barao for the Bantamweight Title, a fight initially pegged for UFC 186 before Dillashaw got hurt. Co-main eventing the card? A title eliminator between Miesha Tate and Jessica Eye with the winner facing Ronda Rousey. No, really.

UFC on Fox: Dillashaw vs. Barao II

Chicago, Illinois

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Lightweight Fight: Joe Lauzon vs Takanori Gomi

Well, if the UFC wanted to start the show with some fireworks they couldn’t have gotten any two guys better than this pairing really as both men are renowned for being reckless and having exciting fights. Both were also coming off unfortunate knockout losses – Lauzon to Al Iaquinta and Gomi to Myles Jury, and so they had their backs to the wall for sure. My feeling was that both guys were probably shot in terms of top-level ability, and so the match made sense, but I thought Lauzon could probably get inside and take Gomi down to tap him before the former PRIDE champ could land one of his haymakers and put Lauzon away.

Fun entrance for Gomi as he uses The Prodigy’s classic Firestarter playing up on his Fireball Kid nickname I guess.

Fight begins and Gomi flicks out his jab from a southpaw stance, clearly looking to set up a left haymaker. Couple of jabs land for Lauzon in reply but he walks into a pretty decent combo. Combo answers for Lauzon as they continue to trade punches. Nice single leg from Lauzon and he manages to force Gomi down, and as he’s off balance he dives on him and takes the back. Looks like he’s going for some form of kneebar, but he gives that up to take the back again, this time with both hooks in. Big elbows land to the side of the head for Lauzon as Gomi looks in trouble. Lauzon flattens him out and from there he land some BOMBS and knocks the Japanese legend totally unconscious, actually stopping when he realises, before Herb Dean even spots it. Wow.

Tremendous sportsmanship from Lauzon there as he could easily have landed more shots to Gomi while he was out to really force the stoppage, but he recognised that he was out cold and stopped before doing too much more damage. Nice name win for J-Lau and it was an exciting fight but to be fair you’ve got to question how much a win over Takanori Gomi means in 2015. I mean, I’ve loved Gomi since the PRIDE days but it feels like a lifetime ago when he was the top Lightweight in the world and shit, it even feels like a lifetime ago when we thought he’d resurrected his career with that knockout of Tyson Griffin in the UFC. It’s just sad to see a legend declining really and I’d hope he’d choose to retire rather than carry on this path which will probably lead to him being cut.

Lightweight Fight: Edson Barboza vs Paul Felder

This fight wasn’t even supposed to take place originally as in its spot was an intriguing-sounding clash between Anthony Pettis and Myles Jury. When Pettis got injured (inevitably) Barboza stepped in and then when Jury pulled out too, Felder came in, making it a battle of top-level strikers. Despite Barboza being far more proven at the top level with much better wins – Bobby Green, Evan Dunham et al – I was taking Felder here as I’d been so impressed with his smooth striking in his win over Danny Castillo and while Barboza is an offensive monster he’s also a bit chinny.

Round One and both men miss with some early punches. Both guys look like huge 155lbers for the record. Good leg kick lands for Felder. Combo glances for Felder but Barboza comes back with a body shot and a glancing head kick. Left hook and a right hand answer for Felder and back the Brazilian up a bit. Pair of nasty body kicks land for Barboza. Spinning backfist misses for Felder. Barboza’s eye looks badly swollen already from that left hook early on. Step-in elbow misses for Felder. Body kick lands for Barboza again and he avoids a spinning backfist again. Sharp leg kick from Barboza. They exchange leg kicks and Barboza blatantly lands the harder ones, wow. Body shot follows. Spinning backfist glances for Barboza to send the crowd crazy for a second. Spin kick from Barboza lands IN THE BALLS and down goes Felder. Holy SHIT that looked painful. And of course we get a couple of replays to make all the male viewers feel sick. Felder takes his time but he’s okay to continue, and he comes out with an overhand right. Body kick lands again for Barboza. Wheel kick misses for Felder. These guys are throwing out all sorts of flashy stuff here. Exchange of punches sees Barboza land a left and then go to the body. One-two follows and lands hard. Another spinning backfist misses for Felder and he’s telegraphing it a bit now. He does land with a Cerrone-esque step in knee though. Spin misses again and he eats a straight left. Round ends there. 10-9 Barboza in a fun striking round.

Round Two and Barboza’s right eye is practically swollen shut, wow. Exchange of leg kicks open the round and Felder lands a spin kick to the ribs for good measure. Barboza comes right back with one of his own that lands heavily. Uppercut glances for Felder in a brief trade. Big exchange sees both men land hard left hands. Lot of movement from Barboza. Spinning backfist connects for Felder though and finally lands clean. Barboza seems okay though. Again left hands land for both men before a couple of real haymakers miss for the Brazilian. Nice leg kick from Barboza. Big body kick follows and lands HARD. Leg kick comes back for Felder but he misses the step-in elbow again. Spin kick misses for Barboza at the same time that Felder misses the spinning backfist. Chopping leg kick from Barboza. Another one swiftly follows. This is one of the best striking matches I’ve seen from the UFC in a long time. Spinning backfist glances again for Felder. Wheel kick replies for Barboza and somehow connects to the BACK of Felder’s head as he spins again. Body kick from Barboza lands cleanly and he digs with the left to the body too. Takedown attempt is shrugged off by Felder. One-two connects for Barboza. Both men miss with combos. Big combination connects for Felder and he follows with a knee. Barboza comes back with a left hook and a pair of VICIOUS kicks to the body and leg. Spinning backfist also glances for the Brazilian as the round ends. Crowd are way into this now. 10-9 Barboza but both rounds have been close.

Round Three and Barboza opens with a leg kick. Wheel kick misses for Felder. Lunging left hand glances for the Brazilian and Felder comes back with a leg kick of his own. Body kick again from Barboza. He’s tearing Felder’s body up with his kicks. Another leg kick follows. Wild trade sees both men land hard punches. Body kick again from Barboza and he avoids the spinning backfist. Felder really needs to set that up more, but then I guess who am I to say that? Beautiful straight left from Barboza and he avoids a couple of big shots. Brutal leg kick from the Brazilian. He’s beginning to pull away a bit now. Hard left hook connects for Barboza in an exchange. Wheel kick just misses for Felder and he eats another body kick in reply. Leg kick into a left hand from Felder. Body kick glances again for Barboza but Felder comes back with a right hook. Totally weird comment from Goldie as he says that Barboza was beaten by Cowboy in 2014 and Felder, Cowboy’s buddy, is “looking for a bit of revenge”. For what exactly? Uppercut glances for Felder and he misses a wheel kick. Axe kick also misses and Barboza cracks him with a body kick. Takedown attempt from Felder but Barboza stuffs it and they wind up clinched. Barboza breaks free and Felder tries a leg sweep Karate Kid style, but he takes another body kick as the round ends. 10-9 Barboza and I’ve got it 30-27, but it was closer than that score suggests.

Judges have it 29-28 all round for Edson Barboza. This was a fantastic striking match between two of the better – and flashier – kickboxers in the Lightweight division. Difference seemed to be in speed as Barboza always seemed just a little quicker than Felder and was especially able to uncork his kicks and land them with accuracy and power while a lot of Felder’s best shots missed. Barboza vs. Tony Ferguson in December should be a hell of a fight based on both men’s last outings. I’m taking Ferguson but if Barboza wins he makes for a fun title contender too for sure. On a side note the fact that this was his thirteenth UFC fight makes me feel really old, as it doesn’t seem like five minutes ago that he debuted and kicked the shit out of Mike Lullo and yet it was five YEARS ago.

Women’s Bantamweight Fight: Miesha Tate vs Jessica Eye

Winner of this one was promised the next shot at the Ronda Rousey/Bethe Correia winner (spoiler, Ronda, and we all knew that at this point even!) and I think because of that a lot of people – myself included – were pulling for Eye as she felt like a fresh challenger. She’d last been seen in a win over Leslie Smith at UFC 180 – that sick fight where she practically knocked Smith’s ear off – while Tate had pulled out a wild come-from-behind win over Sara McMann at UFC 183. Given that McMann had outboxed Miesha in the early going in that fight I was hoping Eye could do the same thing, but Tate was rightfully the big betting favourite.

Crowd give Tate a massive pop upon her entrance. She’s quite clearly the second-most popular fighter in the division behind Ronda. It does help that she has a cool entrance theme though in Roar. Fuck the haters, dude.

First round begins and both girls come out swinging with Eye landing a couple of jabs and a hard left hook. Miesha comes back with a jab of her own and then they trade with Eye getting the better shots. Looks like she’s got the quicker hands. Another trade follows and Eye connects with a right hand. More jabs from Eye but Tate comes back with a right counter. Eye has a really fast jab. Nice combination lands for Eye but Miesha manages to avoid a head kick. Another nice combo lands for Eye and a counter right hook wobbles Miesha. Eye looks to swarm on her, but has to block a takedown and that’s enough to slow her down. Big right hand glances for Miesha. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Eye who exits with a counter combo that has Miesha checking her eye. She comes right back though with a stiff jab that wobbles Eye, and a BIG RIGHT HOOK that sends her down! She’s in trouble and Miesha leaps on her to attempt a mount, but ends up in half-guard instead. Crowd are going apeshit. Eye does a good job of locking her up from the half-guard to prevent any damage, and the action largely slows down as she recovers. Miesha does manage to land some solid elbows to the side of the head, with a couple connecting to the back of the head in fact although the ref misses them. Round ends with Miesha on top. Probably a 10-10 round as Eye was lighting Miesha up prior to the knockdown, but I’d guess most judges would go 10-9 Tate.

Second round and Miesha pushes forward and they exchange jabs. Right hand connects for Miesha and a head kick narrowly misses, glancing off the chest. Good left hand from Eye. They trade combos and Eye connects with a clipping right hand. Eye is still beating Miesha to the punch despite that earlier knockdown. Right hand from Tate sets up a clinch though and she forces Eye into the cage. Eye lands a hard elbow inside though and breaks free. Nice right to the body from Tate. Low kick is caught by Eye and she tags Miesha with a combo, but Miesha fires back with a big right hand that snaps Eye’s head back. Seems like Eye is outlanding Miesha but Miesha is doing more damage when she does land. Pair of nice low kicks from Eye but Tate draws her into a trade and tags her with the right again. Big right hook wobbles Jessica and she goes down off another flurry from Miesha. Looked like she was off balance but she’s definitely hurt too and Miesha nails her with some hammer fists on the ground. She ends up in side mount, but Eye locks up an inverted triangle variant. Tate frees herself though and she’s in north/south now. She puts herself back into half-guard, strangely enough, and works the body with punches as Eye holds on. Really good elbows to the body land for Miesha. Looks like Miesha might be going for a neck crank or a one arm guillotine ala Faber on Cruz in 2007. She can’t quite finish it off, and so she rolls onto her back to go for a full guillotine, but the buzzer sounds before she can get the tap. Clear 10-9 for Miesha Tate.

Third round and Eye wears punishment well in terms of cosmetic damage, as she looks barely marked up while Miesha’s face is badly bruised. Inside leg kick opens things for Jessica but Miesha’s pushing the action and she lands with a hard body kick. Combination answers for Eye but Miesha catches her with a left hand. Takedown is stuffed easily by Eye. Couple more low kicks land for Eye. Big combo misses for Miesha and she eats a counter left. Nice jabs from both women. Counter right hand from Tate tags Eye. They’re standing right in front of each other now just throwing strikes. Head kick glances for Eye. Front kick to the body from Miesha answers. Brief trade sees Miesha tag Eye with a right hand. Couple more kicks from Eye but Miesha glances on a big combo. Nice takedown from Miesha and she plants Eye on the ground and then looks to use a whizzer to take the back in the scramble. Nice job from Miesha to get back control and she’s got both hooks in. She’s not attempting the choke yet but she is in control and the time is ticking away for Eye. Weird head kick from back control lands for Miesha and you’d think that would be illegal, but the ref ignores it for some reason. Eye’s doing a really good job of tying Miesha’s arms up. Ref makes a SHAMEFUL call and stands them back up from the back mount, and with thirty seconds to go they’re on their feet. Miesha bulls forward swinging from the restart and lands a body kick before going for another takedown. Eye blocks it and lands a hard elbow and a knee from close range, but the fight ends there. 10-9 Tate for a 30-28 win. Great fight, too.

To the scorecards and it’s officially a unanimous decision for Miesha Tate, 30-27 all round. Can’t argue with that. Difference was basically that while Eye had the faster hands, Miesha was landing the more damaging shots, obviously landed the two knockdowns and also had total dominance on the ground. Really fun fight though as both women really brought it and exchanged wildly at points. Of course in the big controversy, Zuffa didn’t end up giving the title shot to Tate in the end and went with Holly Holm instead. My take is that I can see why Miesha would be pissed – apparently they didn’t tell her until they’d already announced Holm as challenger, which sucks – but the anti-Zuffa brigade are fucking idiots as THEY were the ones pooh-poohing Miesha as challenger because she’d already lost twice to Ronda and they should be booking something fresher, and then as soon as they *did* book something fresh in Holm, it’s all about how the big bad Zuffa fucked Miesha over and how Holm didn’t deserve the shot. Ridiculous. As it goes of course, with Holm upsetting and dethroning Ronda, we might see Miesha get a title shot after all as Holly says she wants to fight again quickly while Ronda’s not down until UFC 200. We shall see.

UFC World Bantamweight Title: TJ Dillashaw vs Renan Barao

This one had of course been about a year in the making. For those that have forgotten, Dillashaw unseated Barao back in May 2014 in one of the all-time great MMA upsets, taking the Bantamweight title and knocking the Brazilian off his perch on top of the P4P rankings. The rematch was booked immediately for August 2014 (UFC 177) but Barao missed weight and had to go to the hospital, and so TJ defended on last-minute notice against Joe Soto, looking great in the process. Barao came back a little later in December and beat Mitch Gagnon, but didn’t really look great in doing so. Rematch was booked for UFC 186 but TJ injured his ribs and pulled out, and so we ended up here. As far as a pick, although the original match had been a huge upset, I thought TJ would pull it off again. After all, it wasn’t a GSP/Serra type deal where it’d been one big punch to take out Barao – he’d been systematically dismantled over five rounds – and his performance against Gagnon suggested that the beating had taken more from him than we’d initially thought. Throw in the fact that Barao had taken damage off a ton of previous opponents too, and I thought Dillashaw would replicate the gameplan he had in the first fight and defeat the Brazilian again.

Round One and TJ dances around on the outside and avoids the early strikes from Barao. Nice counter right lands for Dillashaw and he shrugs off an attempted clinch. Body kick into a left hook lands for Barao but TJ takes it well. Clinch follows and the challenger lands a pair of knees to the body before Dillashaw separates and lands an uppercut and a body kick of his own. Big head kick misses but he pops Barao with a stiff jab and then a knee. Short right hook from close range hurts Barao and he instinctively ducks for a takedown, but TJ stuffs it and nails him with another right hook. The Brazilian manages to hold onto the clinch to slow Dillashaw up, but he was definitely in trouble there. They exchange some short knees inside the clinch and Dillashaw lands some nice dirty boxing too. Really hard knees connect inside for Barao. They break and Dillashaw lands a right hook and a body kick, but slips down and has to pop up quickly. Left hand lands for Barao but Dillashaw catches a kick and lands a quick flurry off it. Barao pushes forward some more but he walks into a few nice counterpunches and Dillashaw dodges the challenger’s shots deftly too. Right hook stuns Barao again and it looks like he’s bleeding from the mouth. Pair of jabs snap Barao’s head back. Sharp leg kick from Dillashaw. Left hook lands for the champ too. Leg kick comes back for Barao. Body kick from TJ. Head kick into a right hook follow and Barao looks hurt again. WILD TRADE sees Barao tag TJ with a HARD combo, but Dillashaw eats it right up and taunts him a bit before ending the round with a glancing high kick. 10-9 Dillashaw.

Round Two begins with Dillashaw again dodging Barao’s shots and he lands with a body kick and a crisp combo. Clinch from Barao and they exchange knees, before Dillashaw drives him into the fence and drops for a takedown. Barao blocks it well but he can’t shake TJ off him and they remain clinched as Goldie mentions that Barao’s never been taken down in his UFC career. That’s an insane stat. They break off and Dillashaw cracks him with a one-two and follows with a quick combo. Takedown attempt from Barao and he gets TJ down for a second, but Dillashaw pops right back up and lands a knee inside the clinch before looking for a takedown of his own. Again Barao blocks and lands a knee inside. Looks like TJ might be using the GSP gameplan of using the clinch to make Barao gas. They break and TJ catches him with a pair of beautiful right hands. Barao looks a bit wobbly actually. Dillashaw calmly circles out, but goes down off an inside leg kick for a second before popping back up. Nice high kick into a right hand from TJ. Left to the body follows. Barao is beginning to look a lot slower. Two more straight lefts land for TJ without reply. Big overhand rights glance for both men. Another combination lands for Dillashaw. His hand speed and movement are phenomenal. Takedown attempt from Dillashaw in the waning seconds of the round and although Barao blocks it, they wind up clinched again with Dillashaw leaning on him. Round ends in the clinch with some TJ dirty boxing. 10-9 Dillashaw.

Round Three and Barao’s face is messed up going into the round. Dillashaw looks fresh and continues to move on the outside and constantly pop the challenger with punches while dodging Barao’s slower swings. He’s so confident that he’s even hanging his hands by his waist at points. Big head kick into a right hand from Dillashaw. Slick combo follows. Barao looks so flat footed in comparison. Takedown attempt from Barao is easily stuffed and TJ sprawls out and spins to take the back too. Barao tries to get hold of the leg again and they come back to their feet. Head kick lands for Dillashaw and a right hook follows. Right hand from TJ sets up a body kick. Barao looks exhausted. Uppercut into a right hand from Dillashaw and they clinch, where Barao manages to land a few knees. Dillashaw peppers him with some dirty boxing as Barao tries desperately to secure the plum. Another good knee lands inside for Barao. TJ can’t get Barao down but this is wearing out an already gassed opponent. Finally they break off and Dillashaw cracks him with a right hook. Left hand follows. Big head kick misses for Barao. Combo has him badly hurt though and Dillashaw begins to tee off! Round ends though with Barao just about hanging on. He’s badly rocked going into his corner. 10-9 Dillashaw and it doesn’t look like Barao can take much more.

Round Four and Dillashaw comes out shuffling his feet like he’s Muhammad Ali. He closes in with a combo and a BIG LEFT HOOK wobbles Barao badly. He stumbles back into the fence and from there Dillashaw OPENS UP with a SICK ACCURATE COMBO like an evolved version of Phil Baroni on Dave Menne. Barao is OUT ON HIS FEET and Herb Dean rescues him before he goes down. That was one of the most insane finishing sequences I’ve ever seen in MMA as Barao was trying to fire back and TJ just kept slipping the punches and landing HAMMERS to the head over and over.

Masterful performance from TJ Dillashaw. If anything he was more dominant here than he’d been in the first fight, as the opening round at UFC 173 was relatively even until late on when Barao got dropped. Here though Dillashaw came out just supremely confident in the knowledge that he could basically use the same gameplan again to beat Barao and sure enough that’s exactly what happened. Barao was just too plodding, too flat-footed and could never catch TJ cleanly while Dillashaw danced around and picked his shots until it was time to put the Brazilian away, and put him away he did. Sad to say but I actually think Barao might be finished at the very top level too after taking those two beatings from TJ – he’s already hit that ten year mark in his career and has taken a lot of punishment already even though he was always able to win before. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if he gets upset again in his next fight. As for Dillashaw? Next up for him – FINALLY – is Dominick Cruz, and assuming Cruz is actually healthy then who the hell knows what happens there? It’s a can’t miss fight at any rate. And if he gets past him? Surely we’ll get TJ vs. Faber after all that controversy. The future is so bright for TJ he ought to wear shades permanently like something off Top Gun.

-Show abruptly ends right after Joe Rogan interviews TJ and is in awe of him.

Final Thoughts….

With the odd outlier the Fox UFC shows always seem to deliver fireworks and this one fit that trend too, as we got a brutal finish from Lauzon, a fun striking match between Barboza and Felder, a real throwdown between Tate and Eye and then another virtuoso performance from TJ Dillashaw – probably his best yet in fact – in the main event. In terms of main card action I’d call it the best UFC on Fox show this year so far. Easy thumbs up.

Best Fight: Tate vs. Eye
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time,

Scott Newman: