LAS VEGAS – T.J. Dillashaw, fighting with poise, precision and power, pulled off arguably the greatest upset in the UFC's 20-plus-year history on Saturday when he stopped Renan Barao in the fifth round of their bantamweight title fight at UFC 173.
Dillashaw dominated from start to finish, ending Barao's 22-fight winning streak and 34-fight unbeaten streak, handing the Brazilian his first defeat since his pro debut in April 2005.
Dillashaw, a college wrestler, mainly used his hands to defeat Barao, who was a 9-1 favorite at the MGM Grand sports book. Dillashaw finished it at 2:22 of the fifth, pummeling Barao on the ground until referee Herb Dean stopped it.
"He's the best of the world and that's what brought it out of me," Dillashaw said. "I had to bring my A-game because I was fighitng the best in the world."
Dillashaw used a lot of lateral movement and kicks early in the fight, as Barao stalked forward. But Dillashaw began to land his punches midway through the round and it was clear they were taking a toll on the Brazilian.
Dillashaw knocked Barao down with a right hand late in the first and nearly finished him. Only Barao's resiliency kept him in the fight.
But Dillashaw, who ended a long streak of title fight losses for his Sacramento, Calif.,-based gym, Team Alpha Male, fought with great poise and never got rattled. He didn't take unnecessary chances, but he stuck to his plan and repeatedly blasted Barao with hard shots.
"It was a tough fight," Barao said. "I have to congratulate him."
He couldn't do anything else, because Dillashaw put on one of the great performances in the history of the UFC. As far as upsets, the only bout that rivals it in significance was Matt Serra's knockout of Georges St-Pierre at UFC 69 in 2007 to claim the welterweight title.
But this win may top that. St-Pierre was clearly a dominant fighter at the time, but he wasn't on the kind of lengthy winning streak that Barao brought to Saturday's bout. Plus, Barao was a consensus top-five pound-for-pound fighter and had been touted by UFC president Dana White as the best in the world.
But he wasn't close to the best in the cage on Saturday. He never landed anything that caused Dillashaw any difficulties and he slowed down noticeably in the second half of the bout.
Dillashaw finished it with a punch, a kick and another punch that dropped a dog-tired Barao flat on his back. Dillashaw immediately pounced and landed several hard shots on the ground until Dean waved it off.
There was a bit of complaining among some in the fan base when Dillashaw got the fight because he wasn't perceived to have a chance.
But he came through with a performance of a lifetime in a fight that will be remembered forever in UFC history.