Seven years ago today, TJ Dillashaw shot to MMA superstardom. In the main event of UFC 173, Dillashaw challenged Renan Barão for the UFC Bantamweight title. Barão, at the time, was undefeated in the UFC and had not lost a bout since his debut fight in 2005. Barão, the heavy favorite, was shocked by TJ after being finished by a flurry of strikes within the final round. The fight earned the “Upset of the Year” accolade and led to a miserable decline within the career of Renan Barão. This is the first instance of the Curse of the Snake.
The Curse of TJ Dillashaw
After losing his title, Barão looked to bounce back in a big way. He fought Mitch Gagnon on December 20, 2014, earning a submission victory and a Performance of the Night Accolade. The win earned him a rematch with TJ Dillashaw and on July 25, 2015, the pair squared off in front of an electric Chicago crowd. In the fourth round, TJ unloaded an immense number of shots that rocked Barão and eventually led to Herb Dean waiving off the contest.
More venom was shot into the veins of Barão.
“The Baron” lost his next fight to Jeremy Stephens but was able to jump back into the win column after knocking off Phillipe Nover on September 24, 2016. This would be the last time Barão would get his hands raised within UFC cage.
At UFC 214 Barão dropped a unanimous decision to current bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling. In 2018, he’d lose to Brian Kelleher and Andre Ewell. Luke Sanders then knocked him out in February 2019 and at UFC Fight Night 164, Douglas Silva de Andrade handed him a fifth straight loss. In December 2019 Barão was released from the UFC.
The Curse of TJ Dillashaw and the Downfall of Cody Garbrandt
After a lot of bad blood and brutal verbal exchanges, TJ Dillashaw squared off against Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217. At the time, the surging Garbrandt boasted a perfect 11-0 record with 9 KOs. Garbrandt found some early success and even stunned the challenging Dillashaw at the end of the first round. However, the fight ended abruptly for Garbrant after Dillashaw landed a stiff right hand followed by a flurry of stinging strikes in the middle frame of the second round.
With an injection of venom, Garbrandt lost his UFC Bantamweight title.
A Lethal Injection
“No Love” challenged TJ in an immediate rematch at UFC 227. After becoming overzealous in his attack, Dillashaw caught Garbrandt with a pair of stiff right hooks that dropped him. Dillashaw followed up with a few more clean shots and then unloaded on the dazed Garbrandt. After seeing enough, Herb Dean stepped in to waive off Dillashaw’s onslaught.
The snake’s fangs sunk deep into Garbrandt.
Cody’s Fall from Prime
The Team Alpha Male fighter reentered the cage at UFC 250 against Raphael Assunção with a desperate need to win. “No Love” looked to be back to business after scoring a highlight reel knockout that earned him a Performance of the Night bonus. This past weekend Cody looked to jump back into title contention when he squared off against Rob Font in a five-round contest. Cody, although patient throughout, had no answer for Font’s crisp striking and appeared to be a shell of the fighter he once was.
Since stepping into the cage with TJ Dillashaw with a record of 11-0, Garbrandt now sits at 12-4 with 3 TKO/KO losses.
Is Cory Sandhagen Next?
TJ Dillashaw has a curse—a venom’s bite. Seemingly unstoppable fighters enter the cage with TJ and leave changed for the worst. Cory Sandhagen is a bright, young star within the bantamweight division and is not too far off from a title shot. The pair are scheduled to clash sometime this year. If TJ Dillashaw can defeat Cory Sandhagen, will the outcome be the same? Do you think the curse of the snake is real?