The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 winner John Dodson will battle Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson in the UFC on Fox 6 main event this Saturday night (Jan. 26 2013) at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
"The Magician" burst onto the mainstream mixed martial arts (MMA) scene via TUF, winning four straight fights with three knockouts in a weight class above (135 pounds) the one in which he normally fights (125 pounds). Once the promotion added the Flyweight division, Dodson dropped down and defeated two more top fighters, including a finish of former No. 1-ranked Jussier Formiga.
Next, the Greg Jackson-trained product will attempt to dethrone the newly crowned champion. Does "The Magician" have the skills to squash "Mighty Mouse"?
Let's take a closer look:
Dodson is primarily a striker and has some of the heaviest hands in the division, with six of his wins coming by way of knockout. He is both a skilled counter striker and aggressor, and has one of the more diverse and unpredictable striking attacks in the sport.
"The Magician" is an extremely quick fighter and has excellent foot work. Dodson will bounce just outside his opponents' striking range before cutting hard angles and slamming them with his left hand. The southpaw is constantly flashing his jab, and has a solid right hook and uppercut.
Dodson specializes in two boxing attacks, the left straight to the body and left hook.
In fact, Dodson throws many straight punches to the body. He's is normally shorter than his opponents, so the body is open to punches and it causes their hands to drop. An excellent example of Dodson's devotion to working the body is his fight against Formiga, a Brazilian grappling specialist. Dodson didn't want to over-commit to a strike, so for the first round he hammered Formiga's body repeatedly.
By the second round, Formiga's hands were lowered and Dodson's left hook was much easier to land.
"The Magician's" finishing punch is almost always his left hook. Dodson often leads with his left hook and constantly feints with it to open up his other strikes. He's very good at ducking a punch, cutting an angle, and then bashing his opponent's face with his left hand.
Take a look at some of the many examples:
In addition to his dynamic boxing, Dodson has some powerful kicks. He likes to throw leg kicks, even tying inside and outside leg kicks into the same combination. In addition to his leg kicks, Dodson constantly throws jump kicks and other flashy attacks. Like the rest of his game, Dodson's kicks are lightning fast and are difficult to catch.
Dodson has some of the quickest knees in MMA, only surpassed by Featherweight champ Jose Aldo. Dodson is quick to attack with knees in the clinch, normally after his opponent fails a takedown, and is very good at timing flying knees. When his opponents get over aggressive, he will step forward and throw a thudding knee to the body.
While Dodson has excellent footwork, his head movement leaves much to be desired. Even though he is a pretty basic striker, Formiga was able to land consistently on Dodson and Tim Elliott smashed him in the final round of their fight, repeatedly landing looping punches.
Dodson is a two-time state champion wrestler, but generally uses his wrestling in reverse to keep the fight standing. Most of Dodson's takedowns are simply opportunistic -- he catches a kick and then throws his opponent to the mat. When Dodson wants to takedown his opponent, he will feint with a left hook, which causes his opponent to cover up, and then explode into a double leg. Dodson managed to takedown Elliot, a skilled wrestler, with a big slam after he broke his hand.
Dodson's takedown defense is incredible. His sprawl is above average, but the real reason he's so good is that Dodson can't be held down. The second his opponent shoots, Dodson will run, roll and fight his way out. Skilled wrestlers like Elliott, T.J. Dillashaw and Johnny Bedford couldn't keep Dodson down, even though all were larger fighters.
In his fight with Elliott, he repeatedly grabbed single leg takedowns. Every time, he'd raise Dodson's leg above his head and try to kick out Dodson's remaining leg, and every time he would fail. Dodson's balance was so spectacular that he was able to bounce around with his foot held hire in the air until he got his back to the fence or Elliott gave up on it.
The one problem with Dodson's style of takedown defense is that it is exhausting. It is all based on explosion, and if a fighter can hold onto Dodson for a prolonged period of time, he will gas himself out.
Since Dodson has literally never been taken down in the UFC, it is impossible to know how he looks off of his back. It is unlikely that Dodson has a deadly guard because he has put all his focus into scrambling back to his feet.
The only insight into "The Magician" that exists is his two first round rear naked choke victories over Zac White on regional circuit. Unfortunately, there is no video, the most recent was 2007, and the rear naked choke is one of the easiest moves in jiu-jitsu.
In short, Dodson's jiu-jitsu is a complete mystery and could be tested against "Mighty Mouse."
Dodson is incredibly quick, very explosive and able to end the fight in an instant. Dodson's explosiveness is the biggest reason he's so successful, as he's able to land powerful punches and get out of the way before his opponent can return strikes.
In fact, he's so athletic that his camp claims the 5'3" Flyweight can dunk a basketball.
The skill that is most impacted by his extreme athleticism is his takedown defense. Dodson has fought bigger, stronger guys who just can't keep up with him on the ground. They'll get in deep on a takedown, maybe even get Dodson's butt to the mat, and then he will turn and literally sprint away from them.
Like many other energetic, muscular fighters, Dodson's cardio can't keep up with his offense. Dodson is prone to coasting as the fight goes on, especially against Albert and Elliott in the later rounds of their fights. This will be a major problem against Johnson, who is just as quick, but can fight hard for five rounds.
Best chance for success
For the first time in his MMA career, Dodson will face someone who is just as athletic and fast as he is. To make up for this, he'll have to focus heavily on cutting angles. Dodson can not allow Johnson to control the center of the Octagon, where he will have many options to avoid Dodson's heavy hands.
Dodson should be able to defend most of Johnson's takedowns and even if he is taken down, "Mighty Mouse" isn't the best at holding fighters down, so Johnson should be able to explode back to his feet even if he is taken down. The important thing here is to punish Johnson every time he shoots, that way he'll be tentative and it will become a striking match.
Just as Dodson has to punish takedown attempts, he also needs to strike when Johnson kicks. If he can turn this into a boxing match, he should have an advantage.
Will "The Magician" knockout Johnson, or will "Mighty Mouse" send Dodson tumbling back down the contender ladder?