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Joe Soto’s Big Break

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Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images What a difference a day makes. For Joe Soto, the first Bellator Featherweight Champion, it was an opportunity that he simply couldn’t pass up. Renan Barao, the challenger to the bantamweight throne of TJ Dillashaw, was hospitalised during his notoriously difficult weight cut prior to UFC 177 in Sacramento. With just over twenty four hours until the PPV, the UFC machine scrambled, forced to scrap the already under hyped rematch.

Joe Soto emerged the contender, a man prepping for Anthony Birchak on the 177 prelims. A man who has already fought this month for Tachi Palace. Dillashaw had picked apart Barao in May at UFC 173 to end the Brazilians reign and unbeaten streak. The UFC quickly moved in for a rematch, just a few months later. Dillashaw himself believed it to be the company’s mistake, citing that he had exposed major problems in Barao’s technical striking, and that a summer could never give his opponent time to reinvigorate his game.


The quick rematch was a startling choice by the promotion—had Barao been knocked out in the ill-fated rematch, then it would have been twice since May 24th, showing the depths the company will go to make big fights and narratives. After the bout was cancelled, Dillashaw quickly demeaned the Brazilian, believing that Barao’s corner wanted the fight more than he did. Barao, in Dillashaw’s eyes had not emotionally recovered from UFC 173, and was unconsciously looking for a way out. 

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