There was one clear star that emerged out of UFC 173 on Saturday night in Las Vegas, one fighter who may not have bn a star prior, but with his performance in the event elevated himself into history. Him along side 2 others stood out head and shoulders above others to complete my three star selection.
3rd Star – Robbie Lawler
Taking a fight just 2 months after losing a 5-round title fight, in which he got battered with a plethora of punches from heavy puncher Johny Hendricks, Robbie Lawler made good on his #1 UFC welterweight ranking against Jake Ellenberger. In a fight pitting two heavy hitters with 1-punch knockout power, it was Lawler who shut down the striking game–and wrestling game for that matter–of Ellenberger. Over 3 rounds, Lawler was able to beat Jake to the punch, time and time again—landing punches and kicks before Ellenberger could retaliate. Lawler emerged victorious with a 3rd round TKO after two punches to the eye of Jake Ellenberger caused a stoppage to the bout. And with barely a scratch on him.
Post-fight Lawler showed about as much charisma as Robbie Lawler will ever show and made his goal clear, saying “I wanted to show everyone what I’m capable of and let everyone know I’m coming for that title.”
2nd star – Daniel Cormier
Everyone knew what Daniel Cormier was capable of when it comes to wrestling, but still the former Olympian impressed the audience by throwing another fellow Olympian around the octagon like a rag doll. Cormier submitted Dan Henderson with a rear naked choke in round 3 to improve to 15-0, but what got people talking was the two spectacular takedowns he landed on the former Pride and Strikeforce champion. That along with his smothering top game, completely shut Dan Henderson down in the fight. Cormier didn’t stop after the win, he got on the mic and called out UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, in search for his first UFC title shot.
1st Star – T.J. Dillashaw
Team Alpha Male was always thought to be a great camp, but the whole time what was alluding them was a UFC champion. Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes, all tried but came up short. Until tonight, when T.J. Dillashaw became the man to bring home the gold back to Sacramento, California. Dillashaw, counted out by most–coming in as a 7-to-1 underdog, had the performance of a lifetime against champion Renan Barao. Dillashaw, the head pupil of coach Duane “Bang” Ludwig, showcased just how much he has improved in the stand up department by out-striking the Brazilian over all 5 rounds. Unbeaten in 33 straight fights, no longer was Barao, as Dillashaw continued his rampant pace in the 5th, landing several unanswered shots to end the fight by TKO.
T.J. Dillashaw became the NEW UFC bantamweight champion in his 12th career pro fight. And a new star was born.