After several weeks of filming, months of editing and a full season of television, the first bantamweight 'Ultimate Fighter' will finally be decided this Saturday night (December 3, 2011) when Greg Jackson-trained John Dodson takes on Team Alpha Male's T.J. Dillashaw on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 Finale.
Dodson was the pint-sized brawler on the show, always showing a fun-loving attitude. He was branded a traitor for revealing fight match-ups to the opposite team but he persevered and advanced to the finals with his speed, power and proper foot movement. Winning The Ultimate Fighter would be an incredible accomplishment due to the fact that he's so undersized.
T.J. Dillashaw was a major favorite to take it all, simply because of who he trains with. Team Alpha Male fighters have been very successful in the UFC and he was equally successful on the show, dominating three foes with superior wrestling to advance to the finale. He's confident and ready to fulfill the already high expectations on Saturday night.
Will Dodson be the David to Dillashaw's Goliath? Can Dillashaw continue Team Alpha Male's success in the UFC? What does each talented bantamweight have to do to become the next Ultimate Fighter?
Let's find out:
Record: 11-5 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: Mike Easton (UWC 4)
How he got here: Despite just being 27 years old, John Dodson has been competing professionally for seven years now. He was a highly decorated high school wrestler and was recruited to train with Greg Jackson as early as 2002.
At 5'3 and being able to easily make 125 pounds, Dodson had significant trouble finding opponents his size and moved up to both bantamweight and featherweight, which is one of the primary reasons behind his losses, all of them being decisions.
The eccentric scrapper signed up for The Ultimate Fighter season 14 and scored a first round knockout to gain entry into the show. During the season, he defeated John Albert via decision and then knocked Johnny Bedford out cold to advance to the finale.
How he gets it done: Dodson will enter his fight against T.J. Dillashaw with a height, reach and strength disadvantage. The key for him will be speed and footwork. Training with Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn should be a big boost for him in that department.
Dodson showed that he does have power, knocking out two opponents on the show, so he needs to either counter or find the perfect angle to get in, do damage and get out. While he was a terrific high school wrestler, Dillashaw was a strong collegiate wrestler and he trains with great wrestlers as well so Dodson would be ill-advised to stay inside for extended periods of time and risk being put on his back.
The convivial combatant is very flexible and can throw strong kicks, but that would be a bad idea as they could lead to takedowns. He popped back to his feet easily on the show, but Dillashaw would be a whole different level of top control and it's not worth the risk. If Dodson wants to win, he's going to have to work his angles and avoid getting cornered.
Record: 4-0 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: none
Key Losses: none
How he got here: T.J. Dillashaw was a successful college wrestler at Cal State Fullerton and UFC middleweight Mark Munoz was one of his coaches. When his collegiate career was over, he gravitated towards Munoz and found himself recruited by Urijah Faber and the Team Alpha Male camp.
He adapted quickly to mixed martial arts, posted a 2-0 amateur record and after a 4-0 start to his professional career, he was given an opportunity to compete on season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter.
On the show, he was labelled arrogant, but he proved himself with three straight victories, the last over scrappy Muay Thai specialist Dustin Pague to punch his ticket into the finals.
How he gets it done: Dillashaw will need to take advantage of his size and strength in this fight. He can't let John Dodson dance around him on the outside, he must cut him off and either take him down or put him against the fence where he has no escape.
Standing and trading wouldn't be the worst thing in the world either, but why take the risk when you can wear your opponent down with ease?
If Dodson overcommits to a punch or kick, don't be surprised one bit if Dillashaw either changes levels and takes him down, or catches the kick and takes him down. The ground is Dillashaw's bread and butter and his opponents had serious issues dealing with his wrestling on the show.
With how much bigger he'll likely be than Dodson on fight night, he has a very good opportunity of breaking his spirit either on the ground or if he can pin him against the fence.
Fight "X-Factor:" The X-Factor here could be experience. John Dodson is the smaller fighter, but he's faced UFC level competition several times throughout his career and he's been competing professionally for five and a half years longer. As talented as Dillashaw is, there's no way he's absorbed enough information in his two years to make up for what Dodson knows.
There is a very real possibility that something happens in this fight that Dillashaw might not be prepared for and he'll be forced to adapt with no first hand knowledge to fall back on. That could be Dodson's moment to pounce.
Bottom Line: Both young fighters will be welcome additions to the UFC bantamweight division (at least until the flyweights are added for Dodson) and both are very talented fighters. Depending on how Dodson is able to fend off takedowns, this fight could either be taking place primarily on the ground or it could become a stand-up battle. Both men are capable strikers and with the size disparity, it should be a very entertaining bout to watch live. There's definitely some potential for a bonus-winning stoppage if either man can connect solidly.
Who will come out on top at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!