This Wednesday (Jan. 15, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweights T.J. Dillashaw and Mike Easton will face off in a pivotal Top-10 showdown on the main card of UFC Fight Night 35 from The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia.
No. 6-ranked Dillashaw saw a recent surge slip away in his last fight, losing a close split decision to No. 3-ranked Raphael Assuncao at UFC Fight Night 29 in October 2013. Prior to the loss Dillashaw had won his previous four mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts. There's no question that Dillashaw is benefiting greatly from the tutelage of Team Alpha Male head coach Duane "Bang" Ludwig, but he has his hands full with the more experienced Easton.
No. 7-ranked Easton has made a name for himself fighting some of the best 135-pound talent in the sport. He's been through some turbulent times as of late, losing a split decision to Brad Pickett at UFC on Fuel TV 9 in his only bout of 2013. Easton is on a two-fight skid after a prior loss to Assuncao.
But, before that, Easton only had one loss on his record. "Hulk" knows he can get right back in the mix with an impressive win over Dillashaw. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Dillashaw and Easton:
Record: 8-2 overall, 4-2 UFC
Key Wins: Hugo Viana (UFC on Fox 7), Vaughan Lee (UFC on Fuel TV 4)
Key Losses: John Dodson (The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale), Raphael Assuncao (UFC Fight Night 29)
Record: 13-3 overall, 3-2 UFC
Key Wins: John Dodson (UWC 4: Confrontation), Ivan Menjivar (UFC 148)
Key Losses: Raphael Assuncao (UFC on Fox 7), Brad Pickett (UFC on Fuel TV 9)
Dillashaw brings a solid wrestling skillset to the table, having finished tenth in the nation at 133 pounds during his senior year at Cal State Fullerton. Recently he's been relying on his new-found striking prowess, and it paid off in spades for a while. Dillashaw came back down to earth a bit against Assuncao, however.
Perhaps going back to his base skill of wrestling would play into Dillashaw's best interests here.
With seven decision wins to his name, Taekwondo black belt Easton is more of a standup fighter who prefers to pick his opponents apart. "Hulk" also has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, so Dillashaw can't get careless when looking for a takedown. Easton will most likely look to keep this fight standing. He's only been stopped once and that was due to injury, so he won't be scared of Dillashaw's power.
But, he'll need to be cautious rather than overconfident in Georgia, because the Team Alpha Male-trained product can end any bantamweight's night rather abruptly.
This fight is absolutely paramount for the career paths of both men. A win will earn the victor a fight against a Top-5 opponent while the loser will fade off into 135-pound no man's land. For Easton, it's especially important so he doesn't lose three in a row.
Dillashaw is confident in his all-around skills and Easton has been reeling a bit. It's on "Hulk" to prove he can still hang with the best in the world. Because of that, this should be a war that fully showcases the considerable talent of both fighters.