This Saturday night (Oct. 19, 2013) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) flyweights John Dodson and Darrell Montague will kick off the pay-per-view (PPV) main card of UFC 166 from Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
Dodson -- the winner of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 -- looks to get back to another title fight after dropping a decision to champion Demetrious Johnson at UFC on FOX 6 this past January. Before the loss, Dodson was on an impressive five-fight win streak that included three straight victories in UFC.
The lightning-fast "Magician" will welcome the debuting Montague to the Octagon in Houston.
Montague remains relatively unknown, but he's been making noise in mixed martial arts (MMA) for some time now. The former Tachi Palace Fights (TPF) flyweight champion has a penchant for finishing his opponents with ruthless efficiency, having earned a stoppage in 10 out of his 13 victories. He brings a four-fight win streak into UFC 166, and a victory over Dodson would instantly put his name on a short list of worthy contenders for Johnson's belt.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for John Dodson vs. Darrell Montague.
Record: 14-6 overall, 3-1 UFC
Key Wins: T.J. Dillashaw (TUF 14 Finale) Jussier Formiga (UFC on FX 5)
Key Losses: Demetrious Johnson (UFC on FOX 6)
Keys to Victory: Greg Jackson-trained product Dodson nearly had the belt strapped around his waist this January, but he let his momentum trail off in the later rounds of that bout and the fight slipped out of his grasp.
Dodson is one of the fastest fighters currently on the UFC roster, and he may have worn himself out throwing a high volume of power strikes. That won't be as much of a problem here in a three round fight, which will open up an opportunity for Dodson to throw his heavy leather.
He's arguably the most powerful puncher in the UFC 125-pound arena, so he'll be looking to end Montague's night early at UFC 166. Dodson also has the experience advantage over his debuting opponent. While he doesn't have that many more overall fights than Montague, he does have valuable Octagon experience on his side.
Dodson probably won't be looking to take this fight to the mat. He's going to rush in with a finish on his mind, and he has the skills to get it if Montague isn't at the absolute top of his game.
If and when Montague looks to take the fight to the ground, Dodson has the wrestling know-how to keep the fight standing and unleash his varied combinations. Avoiding takedowns against a wrestler like Montague will be paramount to success in this bout and Montague will also be looking for submissions. Dodson has proven that he's extremely tough to finish, and that confidence will pay dividends should Montague seek out one of his many submission holds.
Dodson will be the glaring favorite over the debuting Montague in this bout. It's his fight to lose, so he should implement a good sprawl and submission defense to make sure that there's always an avenue for him to score points via strikes. If Dodson can earn one of his trademark knockouts in Houston, he'll reaffirm his claim at another flyweight title shot.
Record: 13-2 overall, 0-0 UFC
Key Wins: Ulysses Gomez (TPF 8)
Key Losses: Ian McCall (TPF 10)
Keys to Victory: Montague is an experienced fighter who just now makes his way way to the UFC. His signing may have been overdue, as he's been one of the better flyweights in the world for some time.
The promotion has wasted no time in throwing him to the wolves.
Dodson is undoubtedly one of the most talented 125-pounders available, but Montague has enough well rounded skills to take out any flyweight in the Octagon. In Houston, It's going to be a matter of how he controls his emotions on the grand stage.
We've seen countless fighters with massive potential get signed to UFC with heaps of praise upon their shoulders. When it's time to prove themselves in their debut bout, they wilt under the massive pressure of the bright lights of a PPV.
That's not to say Montague can't handle it, because he could definitely show up and deliver a surprising performance.
To do so, he's obviously going to have to stay out of "Magician's" dangerous striking range. One looping hook could spell the beginning of the end for Montague, so it's in his best interest to shy away from too many striking exchanges.
With five submission wins to his name, it could be advantageous for Montague to look to drag this fight into deep water on the ground. Dodson has won two fights by way of rear naked choke throughout his career, but he's certainly not a submission master. Montague should hold an edge on the ground, and has shown a propensity for mixing it up with finishing holds on the ground.
Dodson has never been finished, so that will be no easy task.
But if Montague can avoid getting clipped by Dodson's dynamic striking, Montague will open up a chance to make this his fight. He has a wrestling background that will help him get this bout to the mat. From there, Montague will at least control the bout while looking for an opportunity to shock fans with an upset due to submission.
Montague doesn't have a lot to lose heading into this bout because he's supposed to lose this bout on paper. If he can control his emotions and implement a good gameplan, an upset may be within reach.
Bottom Line from Houston: The bottom line here is that this is a dangerous bout for Dodson. While most will pick him to win handily, Montague is a fighter who can potentially beat any flyweight on the planet.
In a division that is still developing in UFC, there will still be debuting fighters who aren't easy walkovers for the established UFC veterans. That can't be said for most of the divisions in MMA. Montague lost to McCall via submission the last time he fought a UFC contender, but Dodson probably won't be looking for the tapout.
There's legit knockout power in his hands and he'll be looking to put that skill to use early and often in Houston. If Montague doesn't allow his emotions to overwhelm him, he can implement a wrestling-heavy gameplan.
Dodson is no slouch in the wrestling department, but grappling is Montague's area of expertise. This fight could truly end with one punch, so it's on Montague to make sure that shot doesn't find its mark.
If he can do that, the chance to make a huge debut will be there for Montague. If he can't, "Magician" will add another name to his bag of tricks. This fight isn't being talked about too much, but when the dust settles on UFC 166 it could go down as one of the best bouts of the night.