Let us get this out of the way: T.J. Dillashaw’s first defense of the Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight title, at UFC 177 on Aug. 30, 2014, was one of the worst championship matchups in the modern history of the promotion. Dillashaw had shocked Renan Barao to win the belt at UFC 173 a few months earlier, and when their scheduled rematch at UFC 177 fell through because of Barao’s failed weight cut, Joe Soto, who was about make his UFC debut, was thrust into a title fight on a day’s notice.
Soto was a solid bantamweight who entered the UFC on a six-fight win streak. He was also the answer to a great trivia question, as the first champion in Bellator MMA history, but the change was laughable. Soto had been scheduled to take on Anthony Birchak, who had lost his own UFC debut a few months before, and instead found himself fighting one of the best fighters on the planet in a five-round fight. Unsurprisingly, Dillashaw entered the Octagon as an over 10-to-1 favorite.
As it turned out, the championship rounds did factor into the fight. While Dillashaw dominated throughout, likely winning the first four rounds on every judge’s scorecard, the pace of the fight was surprisingly deliberate. In the final frame, Dillashaw dispatched the banged-up and bleeding challenger with a huge head kick and follow-up punches on the ground, ending the mauling at 2 minutes, 20 seconds of Round 5. While it wasn’t the most compelling fight, Dillashaw had officially defended his title.
Dillashaw and Barao rematched the next summer, where the American put a definitive stamp on the rivalry with an even worse thrashing than in their first fight. Soto got his delayed day in the cage with Birchak the next summer as well, losing in the first round, but he would stick around the UFC for several more years before retiring in 2018.
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