And when the bout finally went off Saturday at UFC on FOX 16, it looked a whole lot like the first.
Dillashaw schooled Barao to retain the title he took from Barao back at UFC 173 on Memorial Day weekend last year. Dillashaw won via fourth-round TKO in the main event at United Center.
"I had him where I wanted him, but he's a pretty tough guy," DIllashaw (12-2) said. "I finally cornered him and got the finish."
It became clear from the outset that Dillashaw was faster, stronger, and had more energy in the tank than the former champion. Dillashaw used his lead left hand to relentlessly batter Barao. He also pressured and relentlessly pursued him in order to cut off the angles from which Barao likes to throw his kick.
Dillashaw almost seemed to be mocking Barao, as he kept his hands low for much of the fight. But Barao was never able to take advantage of the taunting target. But the end of the second round, Barao, who was rumored to have had a tough weight cut, was visibly sucking wind.
If there were any questions about the way the fight was going, Dillashaw seemed to answer them late in the third. Dillashaw, circling away, with his hands by his waist, darted in and drilled an unsuspecting Barao with a right hand that seemed to break his will.
Barao survived a late flurry at the end of the third, but had no answer when Dillashaw opened up another vicious flurry to start the fourth. Herb Dean waved it off at the 35-second mark.
That puts an end to a strange saga. The two were scheduled to rematch last summer at UFC 177 in Sacramento, but Barao's weight cut went awry and he was pulled the day before the event for unheralded Joe Soto. The two were also supposed to meet in the main event of UFC 186 in April in Montreal, but a Dillashaw rib injury waved off the bout.