T.J. Dillashaw looks to prove his first win over Renan Barao was no fluke while the former champion looks to avenge the first loss he's suffered in nearly 10 years and this is just one reason to tune into UFC 177 on Saturday night.
By Damon Martin
Fate wasn't smiling on UFC 177 this weekend when former bantamweight champion Renan Barao was forced out of the main event against T.J. Dillashaw just a day before the bout was scheduled to take place.
Thankfully, newcomer Joe Soto was waiting in the wings and quickly pounced on the chance to take the fight with Dillashaw in the main event. Dillashaw has to now deal with a completely different matchup while facing a fighter with more experience and a former champion to boot.
In addition to the headline title fight, Dillashaw's teammate Danny Castillo will look to shine in the spotlight after landing in the co-main event when he takes on former Ultimate Fighter winner Tony Ferguson.
As you get ready for UFC 177: Dillashaw vs. Soto this weekend, we've got five good reasons to tune in Saturday night to see one of the biggest rematches in bantamweight history.
T.J. Dillashaw Still Has Something to Prove
It was called one of the biggest upsets in UFC history when T.J. Dillashaw unseated Renan Barao as the bantamweight champion of the world, but the former Ultimate Fighter runner up saw it more that he was finally unleashing his true potential in the Octagon.
While Dillashaw won't get the chance to prove the first win over Barao was no fluke, he still has something to prove on Saturday night facing newcomer Joe Soto.
Soto is going to enter the fight as a massive underdog, probably one of the biggest of all time, but that puts the pressure back on Dilllashaw to go out there and dispatch of the newcomer in relatively easy fashion. Anything less than a dominant, one-sided victory will result in more questions coming at Dillashaw about the legitamcy of his title run.
That said, Dillashaw was quite emotionally charged after the weigh-ins on Friday and chances are it's Soto who will feel his rage inside the Octagon on Saturday night.
Joe Soto More Than a 'Rocky' Story
Whenever a fighter steps into a fight on short notice or they come in as a huge better underdog, the first comparison is to say this is a 'Rocky' story come to life. The classic boxing tale written by Sylvester Stallone about a small time boxer, who gets the call to face the best heavyweight in the world and nearly beats him is the oldest sports trope in the book, but what's going on with Joe Soto taking on T.J. Dillashaw trumps that story by leaps and bounds.
Soto was fighting on the undercard against another newcomer just two days ago. Now he's stepping up to fight the best bantamweight on the planet and when he steps inside the Octagon, that will be the first time he's ever done that in his 17 fight career.
24 hours notice is ridiculous, but Soto seemed game for the idea and maybe the time he spent training with Dillashaw a few weeks ago gives him some confidence that he can topple the champion and pull off an unlikely upset to win the belt. Also, let's not forget Rocky loses in his fight in the movie -- it's probably pretty likely Soto would rather win than to be compared to the outcome in that film.
The Last Call for Castillo
Patrick Smith/Zuffa LLC / Zuffa LLC
Danny Castillo is honest enough to admit that at 35 years of age, time is ticking on his chances of being able to compete with the best lightweights in the world before his career is over. Castillo got a late start with fighting when he had his first fight at 28, but he's developed quickly and joined a team responsible for a slew of top fighters littering the rankings at flyweight to featherweight in the UFC.
Unfortunately, Castillo has come up short in a couple of key bouts that could have pushed him into top 15 status and he knows you only get so many chances in the UFC before you attain nothing more than gatekeeper status for life.
When UFC 177 lost its original co-main event between Demetrious Johnson and Chris Cariaso, the promotion called on Castillo and his opponent Tony Ferguson to step in to the co-headline slot just below the championship bout between Dillashaw and Barao.
The spotlight is on Castillo and Ferguson in this fight because there is no greater moment to go out and pick up a win on this kind of stage. For Castillo this may be a make or break moment -- either he's a top 15 lightweight capable of beating any lightweight in the world as he's touted going into this fight or he's just another 155-pound fighter on the roster looking to maintain a roster spot.
It doesn't get any bigger than this and Castillo needs to shine or he'll soon find himself on the outside looking in at the top 15 ranked fighters in the world for the remainder of his career.
One Down, Two to Go
Patrick Smith/Zuffa LLC / Zuffa LLC
Undefeated Bethe Correia might find herself in an enviable position with a win over Shayna Baszler at UFC 177. Sure it would be a nice victory to tack onto her resume considering Baszler's veteran status in the sport, but more importantly it could get Correia just a step away from a shot at UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.
It's been well publicized that following her last fight in the UFC when Correia defeated former Ultimate Fighter competitor Jessamyn Duke that she motioned towards her corner -- with both Rousey and Baszler sitting there -- and motioned with four fingers before lowering one as if to say one down, three to go.
Rousey along with her teammates -- Baszler, Duke and Marina Shafir (who isn't in the UFC) -- call themselves 'The Four Horsewomen', nicknamed after the infamous professional wrestling team, 'The Four Horsemen'. Their signature symbol was to hold up four fingers and Rousey's crew have followed suit doing the same whenever they are together.
Correia was bold enough to taunt Rousey just slightly after beating her teammate and things will only get more intense if she can beat Baszler this weekend at UFC 177. Of course, Correia might want to be careful -- Rousey obliterates the nicest and most respectful of opponents in 16 seconds -- it's hard to tell what she'll do if you make her really angry.
The Best Cards Are Sometimes the Unlikeliest Cards
Listen, even UFC president Dana White is going to have to admit that UFC 177 didn't turn out the way they had hoped when this card was booked a couple of months ago. As circumstances went, the show lost a main event and a co-main event within the span of about four weeks.
Actually, the main event fell apart 24 hours away from the show and that just doesn't happen very often so when UFC commentator Joe Rogan called this the haunted card, he may have meant to say the cursed card.
That said, the best cards often happen when everybody is saying this is going to be a bad night of fights. There are only eight bouts total so this show is a rapid fire series of fights, with everyone gunning for a bonus and a chance to prove people should tune in to see what's unfolding.
There are a slew of newcomers, up and comers and fighters with something to prove and that always makes for a dangerous combination of talent. This certainly isn't the strongest card on paper, but once the fights start to unfold, the athletes competing on Saturday night have the chance to shine in the spotlight and win some hearts and minds with a memorable performance inside the Octagon