You got to give it to T.J Dillashaw. After a two-year absence from the sport due to testing positive for some serious performance-enhancing drugs, he returned to competition clean as a whistle, and earned an impressive victory. The innovative footwork and patent tenacity was fully intact, without the aid of illegal substances running through his system.
What’s most impressive about the performance was that it was against the most dangerous fighter in the bantamweight division,Cory Sandhagen. After absorbing a lot of damage and suffering a nasty cut above his eye, Dillashaw rallied back and won the fight in an absolute slobber knocker of a main event.
Compromised knee after Round 1
Precariously placed cut after Round 2
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 25, 2021
This fight had a lot of hype going into it, and it delivered. Dillashaw started the contest immediately pressuring Sandhagen. He pressed forward with conviction and forced the action from the get-go. Granted, steadily moving forward against a technician like Sandhagen saw him absorb a lot of damage.
He got his head snapped back on a couple of occasions and got dropped in the second round. He got pretty busted up for his efforts, but despite that, Dillashaw’s pressure did not relent. He came out with more vigor in the fourth round than he did in the first, and the result was a victory over one of the toughest fighters in the division.
— UFC (@ufc) July 25, 2021
All fight week Dillashaw carried himself with the same confidence in media appearances as he did when he was the champion. Though he took plenty of heat for the failed drug tests and the suspension during fight week from the fanbase. Many were routing for his failure and the opportunity to say “I told you so”. But Dillashaw was able to put all of that aside and won the hardest fight in the division right now. There was some mild controversy about the judge’s decision. But win or lose, Dillashaw’s performance warrants praise given the circumstances surrounding it.
It’s taken a while, but the lighter-weight divisions are starting to get the respect they deserve. Thanks to the current crop of elite talent, and fighters like Dillashaw and Sandhagen. Bantamweight is arguably the most talent-rich division out there right now. With Yan and Sterling with business to settle, there are a lot of fun fights out there for Dillashaw in the meantime.
In the post-fight interview, Dillashaw gave Sandhagen props for being an outstanding fighter. Telling Daniel Cormier that he believed in him before Sandhagen believed in himself. With his return fight now behind him, Dillashaw is adamant about fighting for the title next.
Back and ready to reclaim the throne 🏆
— UFC (@ufc) July 25, 2021
However, depending on how long it takes for Sterling and Yan to rematch, he also made it clear that he isn’t here to sit on the sidelines either. With a lot of great potential matchups out there, depending on the timelines and the opponent, we could be seeing the former two-time bantamweight champion back in the Octagon sooner rather than later.
But the fact is, Dillashaw hasn’t lost a step in the two years he has been away from competition. A lot of naysayers were waiting for him to fall, but instead he rose to the occasion and assumed his position as one of the best 135ers in the world.