UFC 177 recap: TJ Dillashaw retains his title with fifth round KO of Joe Soto

phot credit: Heidi Fang MMA Fight Corner

phot credit: Heidi Fang MMA Fight Corner

In the main event of UFC 177, bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw defended his strap against Joe Soto on just 24 hours notice and retained his title after pulling off another brutal knockout in the fifth round. He becomes the first fighter in the UFC to dispose of back-to-back opponents in the fifth round. This time Dillashaw unleashed a head kick followed by punches that had Soto out on his feet.

Originally, Soto was slated to make his promotional debut against Anthony Birchak on the preliminary card. Once Dillashaw’s original opponent, Renan Barao, was hospitalized following a poor weight cut, Soto got the call to fight for UFC gold. A native of Northern California, Soto was brought in to the UFC on the strength of a 6-fight win streak.

Soto was a former Tachi Palace Fights and Bellator champion and proved he was a game opponent. In the first, he even put the champ on wobbly legs with a power right. Though he had only prepared for three rounds, he hung in for over 20 minutes. He showed his composure and looked to counter, he even managed to cut the champ under both eyes in the battle.

But Dillashaw, who was fighting in his own backyard of Sacramento with over 600 in attendance from his hometown of Angels Camp, brought on strong combinations and set a frenetic pace. He defended every takedown Soto attempted. His footwork and ability to put together lightning fast combinations gave him the edge. Even though Soto landed several strong overhand rights, Dillashaw powered through on the feet.

The UFC’s unofficial stat tracker showed Dillashaw outstruck Soto 216 to 74. The champ also took home and extra $50,000 for his performance.

Ahead of the main event, Barao spoke with Joe Rogan (via translator) about his failed weight cut that landed him in the hospital. Though UFC president Dana White said Barao’s lost his chance to fight for the title, Barao still has his sights on getting a shot at the strap.

“I trained harder than ever for this fight. I wanted to make T.J. swallow his words from everything he’s been saying,” Barao said. “I want to come back and tear T.J.’s head off.”

White said in the post-fight press conference that Barao will not get paid, nor will Henry Cejudo. Both failed to make weight and withdrew from their bouts. Anthony Birchak and Scott Jorgensen, who were left without opponents, were paid their show and win money.

The co-main event resulted in a split decision that had the Sleep Train Arena booing. Sacramento’s own Danny Castillo took on Tony Ferguson with “El Cucuy” taking the win.

Ferguson came out with strong leg kicks in the first. Midway through the first, he tied up Castillo in a D’arce choke. But, Castillo escaped the submission and took top control to end the fight.

In the second, Castillo took control. After he stumbled from a leg kick thrown by Ferguson, a ground scramble ensued. Ferguson used the cage to get out of trouble and briefly had mount, but Castillo reversed and took top control. Ferguson stayed busy striking off his back.

By the third, Castillo was able to get Ferguson down twice. Though he had control, Ferguson stayed busy off his back. The fight went to the scorecards and the split decision was seen in favor of Ferguson.

“I’m not happy,” said Ferguson in a post-fight statement. “I left it to the judges and you’re not supposed to do that. I threw kicks but he just laid there and didn’t do anything. I’m just mad I didn’t finish him. If you can’t pass my guard, you can’t do anything off the top. I was holding him down and looking at Herb Dean to see if he’d stand us up. He didn’t, so I scooted towards the cage. But when I was on the bottom, I was busy. He threw maybe one shot per round, but there wasn’t much he could do. Honestly, the guy is a wrestler and I have no animosity towards him. From one wrestler to another, I tip my hat off to him. I didn’t think he was going to be that elusive. I would’ve kicked him a lot more. I wanted to give you guys a good show. I felt his strength and if I would’ve gone in there and taken him down, I think I would’ve had him.”

Brazil’s Bethe Correia pulverized Shayna Baszler to force a stop to the fight in the second round.

“The Queen of Spades”, who was making her UFC debut, had Correia in trouble in the first round. Known for her ability to submit her opponents, Baszler had Correia tied up early. She threatened with an armbar and one point, but Correia escaped.

Correia made adjustments and came out in the second round ready to unload on Baszler. Baszler went to close the distance and clinch with Correia. Baszler had her back pressed against the cage and Correia lit her up with a barrage of punches. The stoppage was called while Baszler was still standing, but she had taken a ton of punishment.

After the fight was over, Correia began campaigning for a title shot against Ronda Rousey. “My message to Ronda: If there’s someone who will retire without any losses in the UFC, it’s going to be me. I’m going to retire with the belt, not her.”

White explained in the post-fight press conference that Rousey had texted him asking to fight Correia before someone else beats her. He told Ronda to calm down and stated that there were others in line. White mentioned Cat Zingano is still on that list. She fights Amanda Nunes at UFC 178 next month.

Lightweights Ramsey Nijem and Carlos Diego Ferreira earned Fight of the Night for their showdown. Nijem came out aggressive and firing out combinations from the start of the fight. Ferreira answered with a leg kick that Nijem caught and dropped him with, but Ferreira returned to his feet quickly. Later in the round, Nijem was dropped with a hard right and began hunting for a submission, but Nijem escaped.

In the second, Ferreira stunned Nijem, dropping him with a punch as he came in to kick. Ferreira went to lock up a guillotine, but Ramsey escaped again. When the fight returned to the feet, an overzealous Nijem got dropped by Ferreira again. This time, Ferreira was able to finish him with punches.

Yancy Medeiros stormed into the Octagon to face promotional newcomer Damon Jackson. Jackson came in to the fight undefeated with a recent win over Leonard Garcia. Typically, Jackson fights at featherweight, but made his short notice debut at lightweight.

Medeiros’ striking proved to be too much for “The Leech” in the opening frame. From uppercuts to body shots, Medeiros was able to land power shots and multiple combos on Jackson.

In the second round, the native Hawaiian showed that his training with Nick and Nate Diaz had paid off for him. Jackson came forward with a front kick, mixed up his shots and even grazed Medeiros with a head kick. But Medeiros answered with more jabs and combinations before backing up Jackson to the cage. Jackson shot in for a leg giving Medeiros his window to sink in a guillotine choke. Medeiros then twisted it into a what appeared to be a bulldog choke. In the official call, it was dubbed a reverse guillotine choke. The unusual submission earned Medeiros an extra $50,000 for Performance of the Night.

For a fight card that took a lot of flack for changes to the lineup and not having star-studded matchups, UFC 177 produced with six finishes in eight bouts, a solid main event, and a gate of over $700,000 and 11,000 plus in attendance.

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