What’s Old is New Again in Boston

ufc-fn81Being a UFC champion usually means that you are considered the best in the world in your weight class.

It usually means that people have to figure out how to beat you and questions about a legacy as a champion can begin.

That has not been the case for T.J. Dillashaw since becoming the UFC Bantamweight champion though as he has been met with doubt at every step of his journey.

It started when he got the title shot against Renan Barão in a fight that many simply considered to be a place holder until Dominick Cruz, who had been stripped of the title due to inactivity, was healthy enough to return.

Everyone saw Dillashaw as a sacrificial lamb of sorts as he was going to lose and just keep Barão active until the real title fight.

Nobody seemed to tell Dillashaw though as he beat the champion that had seemingly cleared out the division and stood at the top of the weight class.

The surprise made Dillashaw a champion but so many thought he simply got lucky and that Barão just didn’t focus enough.

In a rematch people thought Barão was going to take things more seriously and easily take back the title on his way to Cruz.

That rematch took a while to get there after both fighters were forced to withdraw at different times and in between Dillashaw earned his first title defence against Joe Soto.

The rematch finally happened midway through 2015 and once again Dillashaw showed that he was the better fighter knocking out Barão in the fourth round.

That didn’t end the criticism of the unexpected champion though as a decision made by the rising star made plenty take a step back.

Since the beginning of his career in MMA Dillashaw had been a proud member of Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male and had been close with Faber the entire time.

When former UFC fighter Duane Ludwig joined the team Dillashaw took on another level and was a major reason for Dillashaw getting the belt.

Ludwig left Team Alpha Male to start his own gym and predictably Dillashaw followed the trainer that had helped him reach new heights.

Then the criticism began saying that Dillashaw was disloyal to his longtime friend and the person who started everything for the champion.

Leaving became an issue for so many people despite the fact that fighters move camps all the time and that Ludwig seemed to be the difference for Dillashaw who wanted to stay on top.

Dillashaw made a business decision but many seemed to hope that the decision to leave his friend wasn’t going to pay off.

The first glimpse of that would come at UFC Fight Night 81 when Dillashaw moved on from the Barão era of his title rein to take on the other fighter providing plenty of doubt.

Cruz has been doing that since he had the belt taken away after injuries kept him out for the better part of two years.

No matter who took the title there were always questions about whether or not they could beat Cruz, the first Bantamweight champion in UFC history, whenever he came back.

Nobody has been able to beat Cruz in his UFC career and he never truly lost the belt so people wondered how any champion would fair against the original champ.

Dillashaw took on the test in a match-up of a wrestler turned into a striker against a striker that was always one of the fastest in the promotion.mma-sidebar.fw

When the fight started it was clear that Cruz was ready to give Dillashaw a lesson as to why he was the first champion of the division and why nobody had beat him in the UFC.

The former champion used his great footwork and speed to stay out of the way of the champion and avoided being hit.

Meanwhile he threw his own shots and began picking apart Dillashaw on the feet while also going for the odd takedown and landing them, a rare occurrence against Dillashaw.

The champion began to get frustrated which only fed into the strategy of Cruz and his ability to move around and avoid damage.

In the championship rounds things began to change though as Dillashaw began to land a lot more shots and a lot more powerful shots against Cruz.

The tide began to turn and the damage began to build on Cruz who couldn’t move as well in the fifth round which made him more desperate and got him to open up more than the rest of the fight.

When the horn blew for the end of the fight it was a tough fight to score as Dillashaw had done well in the final two rounds but wasn’t able to hit Cruz in three rounds before then.

At the same time Cruz didn’t do a lot of damage despite avoiding damage and was out-fought in the final two rounds.

It was a close one but in the end the split decision went to Cruz who the judges, or at least two of the judges, deemed was better in the first three rounds giving him the win.

Dillashaw took the loss but is not likely to be out of title conversation for very long as he will likely receive a rematch with not many other challengers in the division.

For Cruz he is back on top and will once again continue to reign as champion and will look to get healthy after an apparent foot injury that he came into the fight with.

His next fight will likely be against Dillashaw or possibly Barão who was seen as a challenger to Cruz’s belt before Cruz was sidelined.

Dillashaw had plenty of doubters and for now many will claim to be right but until he can get back to prove them wrong the old champion is the new champion after a great night in Boston.

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