Two talented bantamweight prospects will duke it out on Wednesday night (July 11, 2012) as The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 14 runner-up T.J. Dillashaw takes on UK submission specialist Vaughan Lee on the UFC on FUEL TV 4 main card in San Jose, California.
T.J. Dillashaw was a favorite to win season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter but came up short in the finale to John Dodson. He rebounded in a big way by thoroughly smashing Walel Watson with punishing ground and pound for three straight rounds in his last fight. He'll be looking to do more of the same against Lee.
Vaughan Lee lost a close split decision in his UFC debut last November, but he stepped up against the legendary Kid Yamamoto in Japan, hurting the Japanese superstar on the feet before finishing him via armbar on the ground in front of a stunned Saitama crowd. He's hoping to play spoiler against another favorite this Wednesday night.
Can Dillashaw continue to ground and pound his way to victory? Will Vaughan Lee be able to catch the Team Alpha Male prospect with his wide array of submissions? What's the key to victory for both men this Wednesday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 5-1 overall, 1-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: Walel Watson (UFC on Fuel TV)
Key Losses: John Dodson (The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale)
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.
In the show finale, Dillashaw was never able to take John Dodson down in the first round, and suffered a tough knockout defeat via the quick hands of "The Magician."
The Team Alpha Male fighter rebounded in a big way by brutalizing Walel Watson on the UFC on Fuel TV main card earlier this year. Now, he'll be facing Vaughan Lee with a little bit more exposure this time around.
How he gets it done: Dillashaw will need to take advantage of his wrestling strength in this fight. He can't let Lee 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.
Even though Lee isn't a worldbeater on the feet, he did hurt Kid Yamamoto standing in his last fight so Dillashaw should just bury his head in the redcoat's chest and blast him into the canvas.The ground is Dillashaw's bread and butter and his opponents had serious issues dealing with his wrestling on both The Ultimate Fighter and in his last fight.
Lee can be tricky on the ground, but to counter that, Dillashaw just needs to be extremely active with punches and elbows from top position. It's hard to stay composed and think about submitting someone when you're repeatedly getting pounded in the face with fists.
Record: 12-7-1 overall, 1-1 in the UFC
How he got here: Vaughan Lee did not get off to the best start in his professional cagefighting career. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt lost his first three fights before reeling off six straight victories on the local England fight circuit to earn legitimate prospect status.
Lee would again hit a hurdle, losing three of his next four bouts including a TKO loss to Brad Pickett to nearly even out his record and send him back into the lower levels of the fight world.
The Birmingham native would not lose his next five bouts, but what really put him on the map was his tryout for season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) in which he submitted his opponent a ridiculous amount of times and was featured on Dana White's video blog.
He made his UFC debut last November, but was thwarted via split decision to Chris Cariaso. He was expected to be thrown to the wolves against Japanese legend Kid Yamamoto at UFC 144, but Lee came out swinging, hurting Yamamoto on the feet and then tapping the local hero out with a beautiful armbar transition to claim his first UFC victory.
Now, he'll be getting another stern test against one of the promotion's best young bantamweight prospects in T.J. Dillashaw.
How he gets it done: Lee actually looked respectable on his feet against Yamamoto in his last bout, so I wouldn't put it past him to try and stand with Dillashaw at least in the early parts of each round.
That being said, he's facing a very powerful wrestler so it's extremely likely he's going to get dumped on his back at some point, most likely in every round.
If he's stuck on the ground and can't get right back to his feet, Lee needs to be extremely aggressive with his submissions. He's got some serious skills and, as showcased in his fight against Yamamoto, he can chain submissions together. That's how he can beat Dillashaw.
If Dillashaw defends a triangle choke, switch to an omaplata. If he defends that, immediately transition to an armbar and work for a sweep or guard pass if Dillashaw starts to catch up to that. If he can stay one step ahead of Dillashaw, he can potentially beat him.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is all about whether or not Dillashaw can potentially spend 15 minutes inside Vaughan Lee's guard without getting submitted. Lee is a very talented Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but Dillashaw showed serious improvement in his aggression and ground striking in his last bout.
If he can do that again, Lee is going to not be thinking about submissions but instead about saving himself from getting put to sleep with punches.
Bottom Line: Great submission fighters against great wrestling ground and pounders are always fun match-ups. This fight will come down to who can make their opponent have to react to what they're doing more. Either Lee is going to force Dillashaw to play defense from his submissions or Dillashaw is going to be passing Lee's guard and making the Brit work to avoid getting battered in the face with punches and elbows. No matter who gains the advantage, the fans are the big winners here.
Who will come out on top at UFC on Fuel TV 4? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!