CHICAGO — A kick sending T.J. Dillashaw to the mat changed his perception of Renan Barao.
Dillashaw rallied quickly and successfully defended the UFC bantamweight title, stopping Barao by technical knockout in the fourth round at UFC Chicago on Saturday night.
Dillashaw (13-2), solidified himself as one of the best pound-for-pound for fighters in UFC with the convincing victory over a Barao in the rematch fight.
Dillashaw finished Barao with a series of punches 35 seconds into the fourth.
Dillashaw wasn't convinced that Barao would be ready for the fight, but that changed in the opening minutes. In the first round, Barao knocked down Dillashaw with a right kick, which sparked the champ. Later in the round, Dillashaw delivered a combination of jabs to the face of Barao, which started to change the momentum of the fight.
"I thought he was beat before the fight until he started," Dillashaw said. "He came out to win. He came out aggressive, he threw some big bombs. That first 30 seconds — 'All right he means business.' — but as the fight kept going I kept getting stronger and he kept getting weaker, I thought,"
Barao had a couple of quick takedowns in the second round, while Dillashaw was more effective landing punches. Dillashaw landed a right uppercut, and a quick combination at the end of the third round. The momentum carried over to the fourth round when Dillashaw had Barao pinned against the octagon where he landed a series of blows to the face of Barao before Herb Dean called the fight.
Dillashaw shocked the MMA world by taking the title away from Barao (35-3) at UFC 173 with a fifth-round victory in Las Vegas.
But it appeared that Barao was never the same fighter after that match.
The rematch was supposed to happen last Aug. 30 in Sacramento, but Barao was removed from the rematch after falling ill during his weight cut on the day before the fight. Dillashaw then had to fight Joe Soto, who was bumped up from an undercard fight. He beat Soto in the fifth round.
Many were questioning if Barao was going to be prepared for the fight after his weight cutting issues.
"I had some questions about Renan Barao coming into this fight. I didn't think he looked great in his last fight, but he looked great tonight," said UFC president Dana White. "There are situations when a guy loses a certain fight a certain way and he is never the same."
Barao's last fight came in December, a three-round win against Mitch Gagnon. There was another attempt at a rematch in March, but that fight was postponed after Dillashaw broke his rib during training.
In the co-main event, Miesha Tate won in a unanimous decision over Jessica Eye in the bantamweight fight. Tate had her work cut out for her. Eye controlled the first round by landing a combination of punches. Late in the round, Tate landed a right hand knocking Eye to the ground and keeping her there until the end of the round. Tate controlled rounds two and three with multiple takedowns.
Barring a major upset next week, Tate will most likely face Ronda Rousey for a third time. Rousey is scheduled to fight Bethe Correia for the bantamweight championship at UFC 190 in Brazil on Aug. 1.
Tate is relishing another opportunity to fight Rousey.
"I'm always ready. I love punching Ronda in the face," Tate said.
Earlier in the evening, Tate was in the corner boyfriend Bryan Caraway for his bantamweight fight between Eddie Wineland. Caraway (20-9) set the tone for Tate with a three-round unanimous decision over Wineland (21-11-1).
"I was prepared to put it behind me either way," Tate said. "So once he won it was great, but I knew no matter what happens I was going to separate my fight from his fight, emotionally."
On the main card, Joe Lauzon (25-11) didn't waste any time taking care of former Pride champion Takanori Gomi (35-11) in a lightweight fight. Lauzon dropped Gomi to the ground and then dropped punches to the head of Gomi before referee Dean called it midway through the first round.
In the second fight on the main card, Edson Barboza (16-3) won in a unanimous decision over Paul Felder (10-1). Felder scored on multiple kicks to Felder's body. In the first round, Barboza's spinning right kick caught Felder in the groin area, sending him to his knees. The referee gave Felder a few moments to gather himself before resuming the fight.