Despite some early signs of a competitive fight, the champion peppered his opponent throughout the affair and ended up landing a headkick that brought an end to the contest at 2:20 of the fifth round.
“I’m going to fight anybody they put in front of me and I’m going to beat them,” Dillashaw said, after the win.
The champ prevented a takedown early, securing the back shortly after. Soto was able to return to the feet, where he landed some counter shots, and the two got into a heated exchange in the final moments of the opening round.
Soto impressed as the second round went on, using his head movement to avoid much of the champion’s strikes, and countering to land head punches. Soon after, Dillashaw landed several strikes, peppering Soto with punches throughout the frame.
Dillashaw continued throwing in heavy volume in the third round, landing a number of strikes to the head and body. Soto landed power shots, but not at the same rate that Dillashaw was able to deliver, and the champion continued to find opportunities to score points.
The jab proved to be his most useful weapon going into the fourth round, as it opened up a lot of opportunities for Dillashaw. The champ scored a takedown, dominating the challenger from top position and earning the round before entering the final stanza.
In the fifth, Dillashaw landed a perfectly placed headkick that wobbled Soto. The champ followed the kick up with a punch to the head and the referee stepped in to put a stop to the fight thereafter.
Soto came into the fight on 24 hours notice, replacing former division champ Renan Barao. In the hours leading into Friday’s weigh in, Barao fainted, hit his head and was taken to the local hospital. Ultimately, he was pulled for the fight for what the UFC called “medical reasons.”
The switch in opponent left Dillashaw surprised, but the titleholder wanted to ensure he would put on a performance for the local crowd.
“Man, it’s been crazy,” Dillashaw said, referring to the last-minute change of competition. “But obviously I wanted to do it for Sacramento.”
With the win on Saturday, Dillashaw collects the first defense of his title. He earned the belt by beating Barao by TKO in his last fight.
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