Reigning UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw silenced any remaining critics Saturday night in Chicago, dominating former champion Renan Barao for the second time in 14 months to retain his gold.
To many, including Joe Rogan, it was as masterful a performance as the first.
Dillashaw now enters uncharted waters, approaching a training camp that won’t be focused on his Brazilian counterpart in Barao. Still, he’ll be looking to remind the world of his status as the best 135-pound fighter on the face of the Earth.
The best healthy one, as former WEC and UFC bantamweight king Dominick Cruz would have you believe.
“No secret I’m pretty interested in this Barao-Dillashaw match-up, as I’d love to school one of them on my first fight back,” Cruz said in a brief video posted on Twitter. “Coming soon.”
For obvious reasons, the media was pretty intrigued in this match-up, as well.
“[Cruz is] the biggest fight,” Dillashaw said at the post-fight press conference. “That’s what’s going to make my name the biggest at this weight class, fighting Cruz as soon as he’s able to come back.”
Scores of fight fans were quick to tie the two names together long before Dillashaw’s rematch with Barao. The first fight gave us a glimpse at the sort of fighter he’d eventually evolve into—a fighter whose footwork resembled that of the former champion Cruz.
Despite the comparisons, Dillashaw thinks he has the edge.
“He’s a very elusive, high-paced fighter as well,” Dillashaw said. “I just don’t think he has the power behind his punches. You know, I don’t think he has the devastating threat that he can impose on someone. I see myself definitely winning that fight.”
Cruz has been sidelined with the latest of several ACL injuries since late December. He’d staged a brief comeback last September, handing Takeya Mizugaki a first-round TKO to extend his winning streak to 11. It was the first time Cruz stepped into the Octagon in nearly three years.
There’s no word on when he’ll return.