Thirty-two wins in a row for the Brazilian champion.
Possibly the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Problem was, someone forgot to tell T.J. Dillashaw that he was only supposed to be there for the ride.
In an astounding performance, Dillashaw pulled off one of the greatest upsets in UFC history on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Dillashaw dominated Barao for the entire fight before finishing him off midway through the fifth round. Referee Herb Dean waved off the bout at 2:36.
"I've dreamed this for so long," Dillashaw (10-2) said. "All you have to do is believe, man, Barao's the best in the world in my eyes, he's the best in the world, that's what brought it out in me."
It was especially poignant win for Dillashaw on two fronts: For one, his gym, Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, finally won their UFC elusive championship after coming up short in several attempts. For another, it was the final night in which retired fighter Duane "Bang" Ludwig served as the camp's coach.
Dillashaw gave the first indication he wasn't about to be cowed by Barao's aura early in the first round simply by not showing Barao undue respect. He fearlessly closed the distance and waded in and out.
Late in the round, the approach paid off, as Dillashaw dropped Barao with a huge right hand which nearly knocked him out, swarmed him, then got a tight guillotine choke. Barao, who was rumored to have a difficult weight cut, survived the round, but the crowd at the MGM furiously rallied around the underdog from that point on.
In round two, Barao did his best to get untracked, but Dillashaw had a counter for everything Barao attempted. Using footwork reminiscent of Dominick Cruz, Dillashaw refused to get baited, and picked his spots with effectiveness.
By rounds three and four, it was clear the butt-kicking was on. Dillashaw mixed up punches and kicks and appeared to break Barao's nose. Whenever Barao attempted his vaunted spinning back kicks, Dillashaw would parry and then rush in.
Dillashaw seemed to have the fight in the bag by round five, but that wasn't stopping him. The former Cal-State Fullerton wrestler stayed aggressive and got the finish, dropping Barao and landing hammer fists until Dean waved it off.
Barao, who lost for the first time since 2005, wasn't making any excuses for the loss.
"It was really a tough fight," Barao said. "I congratulate him, it was his fight tonight but I’m coming back."