MANILA, Philippines – After the middleweight championship clash between current titleholder Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida fell out due to an injury last week, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has booked another title tilt to headline UFC 173 on May 24 (May 25 in PHI).
UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao is set to defend his belt against The Ultimate Fighter alumnus TJ Dillashaw.
Barao (32-1, 1 NC) boasts an incredible 32-fight winning streak and has not tasted defeat since his unsuccessful professional debut in 2005.
The 27-year-old Brazilian claimed the organization’s interim bantamweight trinket by outpointing Urijah Faber via unanimous decision at UFC 149 in July 2012 and then dominantly defended the crown against Michael McDonald and Eddie Wineland.
He was scheduled to unify the belt versus longtime bantamweight ruler Dominick Cruz at February’s UFC 169, but a groin tear forced Cruz to withdraw from the unification bout, instantaneously promoting Barao as the official 135-pound king.
In his first assignment as undisputed bantamweight champion, Barao thumped Cruz’s replacement Faber by first-round technical knockout in their rematch at UFC 169.
On the other hand, Dillashaw (9-2) has won five of his six outings since yielding to John Dodson at The Ultimate Fighter season 14 finale in December 2011.
His lone setback during that stretch was against Raphael Assuncao, who was highly touted to challenge Barao for the belt.
Moreover, the 5-foot-6 Team Alpha Male standout is coming off a one-sided unanimous decision victory over Mike Easton at UFC Fight Night 35 this past January.
UFC 173, which takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, was supposed to be bannered by Weidman squaring off with Machida, but the middleweight champion sustained a knee injury and the marquee match-up was moved to UFC 175 on July 5 (July 6 in PHI).
Aside from the announcement of the Barao-Dillashaw showdown, UFC officials publicly confirmed that Fil-Am Robbie Lawler will step in for the injured Tarec Saffiedine to take on Jake Ellenberger at the aforementioned pay-per-view event.
Lawler (22-10, 1 NC) is fresh from his split-decision loss to new UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks at UFC 171 last month, while Ellenberger (29-7) has been out of action since July 2013 when he bowed down to Rory MacDonald. – Rappler.com