(“Renan Barao is a MONSTER!” — Barao’s dance coach. / Photo via Getty)
Coming off his first unified bantamweight title defense against Urijah Faber in February, Renan Barao will return to the Octagon at UFC 173 (May 24th, Las Vegas), where he’ll take on Team Alpha Male’s TJ Dillashaw in the main event. UFC 173 was originally supposed to be headlined by the middleweight title bout between Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida, but that match was bumped to July due to Weidman’s knee injury.
Dillashaw had already been booked to face Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 173, but he’s now been promoted to a championship fight, despite being on a one-fight win streak. (It should be mentioned that Mizugaki has won his last four fights. Asian brother can’t get no love, man?) As MMA Junkie reports, the far-more-deserving Raphael Assuncao was also being considered for Barao’s opponent, but lingering injuries will keep the Brazilian contender sidelined a while longer.
Essentially, Renan Barao vs. TJ Dillashaw is one of those title fights that was thrown together out of convenience and desperation. Due to a recent wave of injured champions, the UFC’s options are very limited right now in terms of arranging big fights on short notice. To put it gently, most UFC fans will probably decide to save their $55 when May 24th rolls around, when you consider that the current UFC 173 main card lineup looks like this…
Renan Barão vs. TJ Dillashaw*
Junior dos Santos vs. Stipe Miocic**
Takeya Mizugaki vs. TBD***
Tony Ferguson vs. Katsunori Kikuno****
Jamie Varner vs. James Krause*****
* Bantamweights are a weak PPV draw even under the best circumstances. Keep in mind that Barao only pulled in 230,000 buys against Urijah Faber, and Jose Aldo was on the same card.
** OK, at least the co-main event is solid.
*** Yikes. Of course, it’s possible that a prelim fight will be promoted to the main card, but it’s not like there’s a lot to choose from there, either. UPDATE: Mizugaki will now be fighting Francisco Rivera on the main card.
**** Ferguson’s always entertaining, but he’s fighting a guy who made his UFC debut on the prelims of the Royston Wee Fight Pass card.
***** For a “loser might get fired” fight, it could be worse.