Renan Barao vs. TJ Dillashaw | UFC 173
It would not be surprising to see some MMA fans rank this as their number one fight at bantamweight. This fight was a huge deal because soon after winning the UFC bantamweight championship against Faber, Cruz was forced to take time away due to injuries. He defended the title twice before relinquishing it after 1117 days as reigning champion.
Cruz giving up the title opened up the door for Jose Aldo's friend, Renan Barao. Barao beat Eddie Wineland at UFC 165 to become the interim UFC bantamweight champion. He went on to defend his title against Urijah Faber, who at the time was Dillashaw's coach. Now, with two title defenses under his belt and a 32-1 record to boot, Barao was pitted against a young TJ Dillashaw who was a +650 underdog going into the fight.
With the UFC and fans chasing finishes so much for entertainment purposes, Dillashaw put himself on the map with one of the greatest performances in UFC history. Despite going 0-3 on takedowns, Dillashaw shocked the world by staying disciplined and using his footwork and speed to land more blows. Over the course of 5 rounds, Dillashaw landed 140 of 309 significant strikes before landing a head kick and follow-up punches.
This was truly the start of a new era at 135 pounds. Cruz was injured regularly, the MMA world thought Barao was going to be around for a long time, and team Alpha Male was starting to look like the gym to train at by mid-2014.