Northern California fight fans rejoiced at the opportunity to see two title fights and a quality flyweight brawl when the UFC first announced its return to Sacramento for UFC 177. Fast forward just a few months and the fight card looks nothing like what was initially planned for Saturday night at Sleep Train Arena.
Most recently, the card's main event -- T.J. Dillashaw vs. Renan Barao -- will have to wait after Barao passed out during his weight loss process and as not able to make the weigh-in.
UFC replaced Barao with former Bellator featherweight champion Joe Soto. Soto, originally scheduled to fight Anthony Birchak, takes a huge jump in competition for a chance at UFC gold in his promotional debut.
Despite his 15-2 record and advanced skill-set, the opportunity was given to Soto out of necessity. If there were another more worthy fighter available, would Soto have been given the fight?
Dillashaw and Danny Castillo, who faces Tony Ferguson, both fight for Team Alpha Male of Sacramento.
DILLASHAW vs SOTO – BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE FIGHT PREVIEW
Not the title fight many expected -- or saw saw coming -- but it’s what we've got.
Soto enters having won his last six fights all by stoppage. Many envisioned Soto as a title contender in the UFC, but few imagined it would happen so soon. His track record is impressive with eight submission victories, but he has been finished twice in his career. At 27 years of age, this bout presents a potential launching pad for a successful career in the UFC.
As for Dillashaw, Soto represents a very dangerous matchup. The champ was preparing for five rounds against Barao and now must defend his title against a last minute opponent. Team Alpha Male coach and trainers will get Dillashaw all the information he needs to be victorious, but a loss or sub-par performance could deal a major blow to Dillashaw’s standing as champion and face of the bantamweight division.
FUTURE FOR BARAO
It was reported Friday afternoon, just hours before weigh-in, that Barao had passed out in his hotel room tub while cutting weight and was rushed to a Sacramento hospital. The former champion was later released, but was not cleared to continue his weight cut or fight.
Barao was champion for over two years before losing to Dillashaw in May. Before that bout he looked unhealthy and unnatural at the weigh-ins. With Friday’s news, many believe it is time for Barao to move up in weight class. Featherweight or even lightweight could be next.
Despite all its changes, UFC 177 still has the feel of a can’t miss card because there is a chance of a major upset and the UFC’s bantamweight division getting turned upside down.
UFC 177 Fight Card
T.J. Dillashaw vs. Joe Soto
*Bantamweight Title Fight*
Tony Ferguson vs. Danny Castillo
Bethe Correia vs. Shayna Baszler
Ramsey Nijem vs. Diego Ferreira
Yancy Medeiros vs. Damon Jackson
Lorenz Larkin vs. Derek Brunson
Ruan Potts vs. Anthony Hamilton
Chris Wade vs. Cain Carrizosa