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UFC champ T.J. Dillashaw says he can beat Renan Barão even faster in rematch

T.J. Dillashaw, left, kicks Joe Soto on his way to successfully defending his Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight belt at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on Aug. 30, 2014.

T.J. Dillashaw, left, kicks Joe Soto on his way to successfully defending his Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight belt at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on Aug. 30, 2014.

(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

T.J. Dillashaw remembers when Renan Barão was deemed the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s top fighter.

Dillashaw ended that era and now says he believe his Saturday night rematch with Barão at Chicago’s United Cente should further reveal the divide between the new champion and the fallen Brazilian.

Not only did Barão fail to make the 135-pound limit for last summer’s scheduled rematch, Dillashaw (12-2) has sought to strengthen his cardio advantage over Barão (35-2) by training in the high altitude of Colorado.

“I see myself finishing the fight a little faster,” said Dillashaw, 29, a Cal State Fullerton product. “It’s a huge advantage for me for multiple reasons. Not only does it affect the body carrying too much weight — he gasses out in fights — I’ve been training at the weight I’ll fight.

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“I’m concentrating on the fight, not fighting the scale. There’s added pressure in cutting weight. I’d rather be the faster, better conditioned fighter.”

Fox will televise UFC Fight Night starting at 5 p.m. Pacific Saturday.

In their first meeting on May 24, 2014, Barão entered with a 22-fight win streak, but Dillashaw, a 7/1 underdog, punished the champion throughout and finished him with strikes in the fifth round in what stands as the UFC’s biggest title-fight upset.

They were due to fight again in August in Dillashaw’s training hometown, Sacramento, but Barão couldn’t make weight and Dillashaw proceeded to defeat last-minute replacement Joe Soto by fifth-round knockout.

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Despite talk by UFC President Dana White that Barão likely would move to featherweight, he made weight Dec. 20 and submitted Mitch Gagnon by arm-triangle choke in the third round.

“I know there’s nobody working harder than me,” Dillashaw said. “I’m in shape, have done it the right way.”

Does that conditioning edge make wrestler Dillashaw more intent to make it a five-round fight rather than allow Barão to end the bout earlier with his submission and striking strengths?

“It’s always in the back of your head that this is a crazy sport,” Dillashaw said. “You keep your feet moving, you’ll be good.”

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Dillashaw said he believes his dominant showing in the first Barão meeting already has confirmed that he’s the better fighter. He said Barão barely deserves a rematch.

“I’m sure it’s going to be different. He’ll bring out a different game plan. So will I. You can’t be too predictable,” Dillashaw said.

“With every champion, after every [victory], it occurs to you that you’re here on top and you’re here to stay for a long time.”

Saturday’s card includes a women’s bantamweight fight between former title challenger Miesha Tate (16-5) and Jessica Eye (11-2) in a bout expected to send the winner to a title shot against the Aug. 1 winner of champion Ronda Rousey’s defense against Brazil’s Bethe Correia.

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