Here it is, a prediction piece I never thought I would have to write. Renan Barao is out of UFC 177 due to – from what I’ve heard – passing out while attempting to make weight. Not wanting to cancel the card on such short notice, the UFC has now promoted none other than Joe Soto to take on T.J. Dillashaw for the UFC bantamweight championship.
I would have personally preferred to see Anthony Birchak get this impromptu title shot, but it doesn’t matter much either way. UFC 177 is now a completely ruined fight card, so far short of the standard to be worth $45 or more that it’s comical. I feel bad for Dillashaw, a truly great fighter who is now in a no-win situation. He’s going to fight the relatively unknown Joe Soto in the main event of a show that almost nobody is going to watch (at least, not legally) in a situation where everybody will expect him to win, and win emphatically. I wanted Dillashaw to cement his place as the clear best bantamweight in the world. That’s not happening against Soto, a fighter I picked to lose to Birchak.
So how does Soto win this fight? Know going in that Dillashaw is an outstanding wrestler with excellent offensive striking. He’s good at creating angles and mixing up his strikes, he can keep his opponent off-balance with his dual threat of strikes and takedowns, and his submission game is very good too. Dillashaw can do it all.
Let’s focus instead on Soto’s strengths and weaknesses. Soto’s biggest strength is his submission game. His record includes a win by gogoplata to go along with wins by various forms of choke. Soto also has decent takedowns, but his striking is very ordinary. He throws strikes at a slow pace.
I’ll be very surprised if Soto can land a takedown on Dillashaw, and beyond shocked if Soto finds a way to submit Dillashaw. The reality is that Dillashaw is the far better wrestler and should easily be able to avoid being caught in guillotine chokes or things of that nature. Soto’s best chance of winning is to just go crazy… “swing for the fences” and try to win by knockout. He’s not really competitive against Dillashaw.
As for Barao, I think the Nova Uniao team should strongly consider taking every one of their current fighters and having them move up a weight class. All of them. Nova Uniao has had far too many problems with fighters cutting weight in the past. It’s better for the long-term health of Barao, Jose Aldo, and everybody else competing there to not have to cut so much weight.
If this doesn’t force the UFC to re-evaluate their current business model of putting on so many fight cards, then nothing will. There have been times in the past where a main event was ruined, only for the pay per view to still be viable because the co-main event was still a draw. This is not one of those times – the talent in the UFC is spread too thin. I’m not watching UFC 177 tomorrow. There are better things to do on a Saturday night. And it’s a shame, because Dillashaw deserves better.
Pick: T.J. Dillashaw by KO