Since TJ Dillashaw emphatically demonstrated this weekend that he has Renan Barao’s number, it’s time to look forward and start discussing who’s next for the bantamweight champ.
Dillashaw took Barao out in the fourth round at UFC on FOX 16, and in doing so, violently put to bed any discussion of a rubber match with the renowned champ. Dillashaw also stopped Barao last May.
Following his win on Saturday, Dillashaw was asked about his short term future, and who he’ll face next. Here is some of what the 29 year-old had to say (quote via MMA Fighting.com):
“I mean, it’s so hard for me to think about anyone else,” Dillashaw said at the UFC on FOX 16 post-fight press conference. “I’ve been thinking about Renan Barao for over a year and a half. But we’ve got guys like Dominick Cruz and Raphael Assuncao. They’re both great fighters but they’re hurt now. Whenever they come back, I don’t know what the plan is, but I’d like to see either one of those guys. I don’t know. I’m not sure.”
Of course, both of those match-ups care compelling. Assuncao is the last man to defeat Dillashaw, and has won seven straight fights, so obviously, that’s a fight a lot of people would like to see.
But in Cruz, you have a former champ who never actually lost the belt. “The Dominator” was stripped of the title after spending a couple of years on the sidelines due to a knee injury (Cruz also injured his knee again earlier this year). In addition, Cruz has a sizeable beef with Dillashaw’s buddy and Team Alpha Male teammate, Urijah Faber, so there’s an interesting backstory there as well.
Well, while talking about Cruz specifically, Dillashaw had this to say about the renowned fighter:
“He’s a very elusive, high-paced fighter as well,” Dillashaw said. “I just don’t think he has the power behind his punches. You know, I don’t think he has the devastating threat that he can impose on someone. I see myself definitely winning that fight.”
There you have it. That’s a fight that would definitely feature a lot of movement, pressure and strikes. No question. Does Cruz have a rep for being heavy handed. No. But clearly that hasn’t prevented him from becoming one of the planet’s best bantamweights. In fact, during his run as WEC and UFC champ, Cruz was widely considered to be one of the best pound-for-pound fighters period.
It will be interesting to see what direction the UFC heads with Dillashaw, but if Cruz can go in the coming months, he’ll likely get the tap.