Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Saturday, May 24, 2014 | 6:55 p.m.
Updated Saturday, May 24, 2014 | 10:02 p.m.
Note: Full results from the preliminary card available at the bottom of the page.
T.J. Dillashaw wanted to test his striking against Renan Barao in the main event of UFC 173 Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
He got his wish — and passed with flying colors. Dillashaw busted the longest win streak in mixed martial arts history, denying Barao a 33rd straight victory with a TKO at 2:26 of the fifth round. The Team Alpha Male fighter who closed an 8-to-1 underdog is the new UFC bantamweight champion.
“I’ve dreamed of this for the longest time,” Dillashaw said as he leaned back in the octagon. “All you have to do is believe, and you can do anything.”
No one could have believed this. Even those bold enough to think Dillashaw, who only got the opportunity against Barao because of an injury to top contender Raphael Assuncao, had a chance couldn’t have called for a fight this lopsided.
Dillashaw won every round before his late finish, including a near stoppage in the first-round when he flattened Barao with an overhand right. He could have cruised to a decision win but opted to press Barao in the final round.
Dillashaw nailed Barao with a head kick before finishing the job with punches both standing and on the ground.
“That’s who I am,” Dillashaw said. “I’m aggressive. I’ve done it in the gym every day. I want to finish every fight. I don’t want to leave it to the judges ever again.”
The debates on whether Barao deserved to be called the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world are moot now.
“It was really tough fight,” Barao said through a translator. “I have to congratulate him, but I’m coming back.”
The other two headlining bouts were less surprising. Daniel Cormier dominated Dan Henderson, smothering the 43-year-old with his wrestling before eventually rendering him unconscious with a rear-naked choke at 3:53 of the third round in their light heavyweight fight.
“I knew if I wrestled him I would control the entire fight,” Cormier said.
Robbie Lawler also found a finish in the final round, scoring a TKO over Jake Ellenberger at 3:06 of the third round in their welterweight bout.
Lawler dropped Ellenberger with knees and let his ground-and-pound take over from there. Ellenberger possibly broke his orbital bone in the deciding sequence.
Jamie Varner had a ghastly injury of his own, breaking his ankle in the first round to lose via injury TKO to James Krause in a lightweight bout. In bantamweight action early on the main card, Takeya Mizugaki won a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) over Francisco Rivera.
Mizugaki figured the victory brought him closer to Barao. Turns out it brought him closer to Dillashaw.
Read below for the Sun’s live coverage of UFC 173 and come back later for more content.
The debate over Renan Barao’s viability of becoming one of the biggest stars in the UFC has drawn enough words to fill a novel and enough energy to power the MGM Grand Garden Arena this week.
It’s clear that’s what the UFC expects of the bantamweight champion, almost as obvious as the public’s overall indifference at this point of his career. If Barao keeps winning, though, sooner or later he’ll just be too difficult to ignore.
Barao goes for a jarring 33rd straight victory tonight in the main event of UFC 173 at the MGM against T.J. Dillashaw. Las Vegas’ annual Memorial Day weekend card fell victim to injuries this year, but the UFC was able to restructure and put together the pay-per-view-quality event fans have come to expect this time of year.
The championship fight in the main event is surrounded by two bouts with title implications. In some ways, the co-main event feels like the main attraction.
Daniel Cormier and Dan Henderson have graced as many billboards and garnered as much television time as Barao and Dillashaw. UFC President Dana White has stopped just short of calling a light heavyweight title eliminator, but both fighters are approaching it that way.
Henderson said a “big reason” he took the fight is because he was promised a chance at the winner of Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson II with a victory. Cormier has been considered the next guy in line after Gustafsson for months, ever since he stopped Pat Cummins in his 205-pound debut down the street at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Welterweight Robbie Lawler might be as close as Cormier to a title shot in his division. Lawler fell just short against Johny Hendricks in March for the vacant title, but put on such an entertaining performance that some want him right back in for a rematch.
Jake Ellenberger, a longtime top-10 170-pounder, stands in the way. It looks like the most competitive fight on the main card.
Despite Henderson’s unrivaled list of accomplishments, he’s 43 years old and not expected to be the first opponent to seriously test the undefeated Cormier. Likewise, Dillashaw is extremely talented but seen as a level below Barao.
Both are more than 5-to-1 underdogs.
The first two fights on the main card are a bantamweight bout between Takeya Mizugaki and Francisco Rivera preceded by lightweights Jamie Varner and James Krause battling.
Stay tuned for a round-by-round blog of the UFC 173 main card and look below for full results from the preliminaries.
Aside from getting in a couple semi-vulnerable positions, Michael Chiesa blew past Francisco Trinaldo in a lightweight bout. Chiesa defeated Trinaldo by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26), earning two 10-8 scores for a first-round performance that saw him nearly TKO the Brazilian after securing mount.
Save one of those Performance of the Night checks for Tony Ferguson. Ferguson brutally knocked out Katsunori Kikuno with a right hand at 4:06 of the first round after having already piled on the punishment previously.
Chris Holdsworth showed why he's so highly regarded as an up-and-comer in the bantamweight division. Holdsworth beat up Chico Camus in every area during a unanimous-decision victory (30-27, 30-27, 30-27), dropping him with a punch in the opening minutes before making use of his smothering grappling game the rest of the way.
Mitch Clarke pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year in a lightweight bout against Iaquinta. Clarke, the biggest underdog on the preliminary card, bounced back from nearly getting knocked out in the first round to submit Iaquinta with a d'arce choke at 0:57 of the second round.
Vinc Pichel may not have many new fans, but he gained something more important — a victory in the crowded lightweight division. Pichel used his strength to overpower Anthony Njokuani in a unanimous-decision victory (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) after a first round that saw the eventual winner both eye-poke and low-blow the local veteran.
Aaron Phillips hurt Sam Sicilia in the first round of their featherweight bout but couldn't keep the same pace in the next two. Sicilia surged past Phillips with his wrestling in a unanimous-decision victory (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
Li JingLiang defeated David Michaud by split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29) in a welterweight bout between two UFC newcomers.