T.J. Dillashaw walked into the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento in a lose-lose situation after his original opponent, Renan Barao, fell out of their main event bout just 24 hours out from the show and he was replaced by newcomer Joe Soto in his Octagon debut.
Dillashaw was the favorite to beat Barao for a second time, but facing a UFC rookie like Soto, the expectations were even higher for him to go out and defend his title in impressive fashion.
When the fight started, it was clear Dillashaw was going to be the faster and more accurate striker as he cracked Soto with combination after combination on the feet. Soto stuck to his guns and blocked punches as best he could, although Dillashaw’s volume of strikes was going to be hard to handle by anybody in the bantamweight division. When the fight was over, Dillashaw out-landed Soto by a total of 151 to 62 in significant strikes.
As the rounds kept ticking away, Soto was showing he was a game opponent, taking Dillashaw’s punches and just pressing forward and asking for more. Dillashaw was happy to oblige and he nailed Soto with a barrage of strikes while mixing in a couple of takedowns as well.
When the fifth round started it was already a shutout for Dillashaw, just like in his last fight, but the champion wasn’t about to slow down. He kept pushing forward on Soto with punches, and after getting the newcomer to duck down looking for a punch, Dillashaw unleashed a right high kick that nailed his opponent directly to the side of the head.
Soto was out on his feet and as he crumbled to the mat, Dillashaw landed one more punch to finish him off as the referee swooped in for the stoppage.
"There’s no way I’m not going to put on a show for you guys," Dillashaw said after winning in his first title defense.
Dillashaw looked crisp in his performance and there may not be a better fighter in the UFC right now when it comes to putting together combinations with speed and volume. Dillashaw also notched a record for his resume as he became the first fighter in UFC history to get two finishes in the fifth and final round.
With the win in his hometown, Dillashaw solidified his spot as the best bantamweight in the world and now he’s ready for a vacation after two grueling fight camps in a row. As far as who comes next, Dillashaw will leave that up to the UFC.
"I’m going to fight anybody they put in front of me and I’m going to beat them," Dillashaw said.
Soto also deserves a standing ovation for coming out and sticking around until the fifth round and giving Dillashaw everything he could handle. Chances are that even in defeat, this UFC newcomer’s stock just doubled by what he did on Saturday night.