T.J. Dillashaw is the latest in a long line of prospects produced by Team Alpha Male. | Photo: Dave Mandel
“The Ultimate Fighter 14” Bantamweight Final
John Dodson (11-5, 0-0 UFC) vs. T.J. Dillashaw (4-0, 0-0 UFC)
The Matchup: Both 135-pound finalists come from quality camps, as Dodson is a longtime student at Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts in Albuquerque, N.M., and Dillashaw is entrenched at Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male gym in Sacramento, Calif.
Undefeated in four professional bouts, Dillashaw wants to impose his will through wrestling, much as he did in overwhelming Dustin Pague in the bantamweight semifinals on the reality show. Dillashaw ate a knee from his opponent in the first round, but most of the action centered on the 25-year-old’s relentless takedowns and ground-and-pound from inside Pague’s guard.
He will not find domination to be so simple against Dodson, a former state champion wrestler in high school with excellent takedown defense. While Dillashaw possesses solid hands and punching power, he does not match up with the athleticism of “The Magician” on the feet. Dodson throws kicks with frightening speed and precision while fluidly moving in and out of harm’s way. He possesses a toolbox of innovative attacks that he is not afraid to unleash when the opportunity presents itself. If there is a fault with Dodson, it is that he occasionally lets showmanship take first priority in the cage; when it comes to physical ability he has very few peers at his level.
Dillashaw will want to make this a grinding, physical bout, using his standup to set up shots and takedowns. Dodson will sprawl and defend, so Dillashaw must not become frustrated and stray from this approach if it does not succeed immediately. Though Dodson is comfortable at 135 pounds, his preferred class is flyweight, where he is ranked No. 10 in the world by Sherdog.com. Dillashaw’s best chance is to wear down Dodson by pressing him against the cage and testing the New Mexican’s gas tank. When fighting at distance, Dodson will rack up the points quickly with his fast hands and feet.
The Pick: Dodson will set the tone early with his striking, connecting enough times so that Dillashaw decides to turn the bout into a wrestling match. Taking Dodson to the mat is easier said than done, however, as the Californian will spend the majority of the bout chasing his opponent around the Octagon. Even if Dillashaw lands a couple takedowns, Dodson will have done enough damage elsewhere to win a unanimous decision.
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