The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 7 runner up, CB Dollaway, is set to battle with former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida, this Saturday (Dec. 20, 2014) inside the Ginasio Jose Correa in Barueri, Brazil.
After his loss to Jared Hamman in 2011 -- which was a truly terrible performance on CB Dollaway's part -- "Doberman" made some changes. Since then, Dollaway has slowly improved his striking and overall game, which has basically led to him winning his last five fights, though the judges botched the decision in his bout with Tim Boetsch.
Now, Dollaway faces a major step up. For the first time in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career, he takes on a true top contender and former champion.
Can he overcome "The Dragon?"
Let's find out.
Dollaway's work with Jose Benavidez Sr. has greatly improved his boxing ability, both offensively and defensively. In addition to becoming quite a bit more fluid with his strikes and movement, Dollaway has definitely found his power.
The most notable differences in Dollaway's attack are his movement and posture. Rather than simply charging his opponent in an attempt to eventually get his offensive wrestling going, Dollaway circles, moves in-and-out, and is generally out of the way of his opponent's strikes until he chooses to engage.
Once Dollaway looks to punch, his objective is to close the distance. He is, after all, still an All-American wrestler at heart. Again, his development in this area is more than obvious. Rather than simply reach with punches, Dollaway lowers his stance and moves his head as he steps in. With basic boxing head movement, he's able to avoid his opponent's punches and get in closer to land his own shots.
From this new, lower stance, Dollaway likes to attack his opponent's body. He'll toss a few jabs towards his opponent's head to judge range before shoveling a body jab into his opponent's chest with his head off the line. Additionally, he now likes to deliver left hooks and straights to his opponent's midsection.
Dollaway has found plenty of success by leading with his right hand. Instead of throwing it as an overhand, he bounces into his right hand before quickly angling off.
As mentioned, Dollaway actively seeks to counter punch much more often. While guarding his chin with his lead shoulder, Dollaway baits his opponent in. His defense from this position isn't perfect, but he usually moves his head well enough to cause most blows to simply glance off. Plus, he is usually aware of his opponent's incoming strikes.
After his opponent throws his power hand, Dollaway will interrupt the combination with a compact right hand of his own. He successfully knocked out Cezar Ferreira with this technique as well as landing it on Boetsch numerous times.
Dollaway's money punch is his left hook. He frequently looks to land a check hook as his opponent comes forward, but he'll also use it as a lead. After ducking under or slipping a punch, Dollaway frequently comes up with his left hook.
Finally, Dollaway has a pretty decent kicking game. He repeatedly landed hard body kicks on Daniel Sarafian, which slowed the Brazilian down. He's also been looking for the high kick quite a bit in his last few appearances, which is something to look out for.
Dollaway did a very nice job chopping at Francis Carmont's legs with low kicks. Anticipating Dollaway's takedowns, Carmont was standing very wide, which Dollaway countered by digging into his thighs repeatedly. When Carmont stood up taller in order to check the kicks, Dollaway was then able to land takedowns.
This combination of weapons will be very important against Machida.
Despite Dollaway's improved defense, he's still hittable. In particular, his style of boxing -- which often has him leaning forward and slipping blows -- can make kicks harder to defend. Both Carmont and Boetsch landed hard low kicks fairly easily, and Carmont also forced Dollaway to stand taller with body kicks and kicks straight up the middle.
A Division 1 All-American from Arizona State University, Dollaway is one of the most talented wrestlers in the middleweight division. Thanks to his increased boxing ability, Dollaway's been able to bring his wrestling into the cage more effectively than in his past.
Dollaway has a very strong double leg, To set it up, Dollaway often pushes his opponent back into the fence before changing levels. Alternatively, Dollaway will look to duck under his opponent's wider punches to get in on the hips.
In addition, Dollaway transitions between his single leg and double very well. After trying to dump his opponent by running the pipe, Dollaway frequently transitions into a head-outside double. If that fails, Dollaway will often look to circle around to his opponent's back.
Finally, Dollaway is an excellent clinch wrestler. He often secures a low body lock, driving through his opponent's hips. In an impressive move, Dollaway transitioned from a jab slip directly into a body lock throw against Francis Carmont.
On a related note, Dollaway's ability to work over his opponent with dirty boxing and knees is excellent. Against Tim Boetsch -- a noted inside striker -- Dollaway used the Muay Thai plumb to deliver some dangerous knees to the body and even landed a sharp, angled knee to Boetsch's leg. He also showcased some sneaky elbows when Boetsch attempted to force the clinch, motivating "The Barbarian" to abandon his grip.
Once Dollaway gets his opponent to the mat, his control is pretty excellent. Dollaway uses the wrist-ride very well, folding one of his opponent's arms underneath him and making moving quite difficult. Additionally, Dollaway is always looking to pin down a limb with his knee. In both of these techniques, Dollaway is making it difficult for his opponent to move while creating opportunities to land ground strikes.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Dollaway possesses some truly excellent front chokes. He looks for them often, especially as his opponent attempts to stand up.
First, let's take a look at CB Dollaway's Peruvian necktie victory over Jesse Taylor. After reversing into top position, Dollaway controlled "JT Money" with a front headlock. While controlling the arm and neck, Dollaway moved off to the side, creating the necessary angle for the choke. From there, he stepped over Taylor's head with his one leg and sat back. As he fell back, Dollaway threw his other leg over Taylor's back, preventing him from rolling.
Take a look by clicking HERE.
For the most part, the pressure of this choke comes from Dollaway's lower body. Dollaway eliminates any space around Taylor's neck by keeping his grip tight, but the squeeze comes when Dollaway extends the leg over Taylor's head. Basically, Dollaway's thigh pushes Taylor's neck forward, but it cannot go anywhere due to Dollaway's grip.
In one of my personal favorite submission victories, Dollaway finished Joe Doerkson with a high-elbow guillotine. At first, Dollaway secured an arm-in guillotine, while Doerkson stood up and defended. In this situation, most inexperienced fighters will squeeze really hard, gas their arms out, and then eat ground strikes.
Instead, Dollaway remained patient and attempted to get an angle on the choke. To do this, he opened his guard, and Doerkson responded by attempting to pass. When the Canadian jumped up, Dollaway switched his grip to the high-elbow guillotine.
At this point, Doerkson realized the trouble that he was in and attempted to spin. However, Dollaway rolled with him perfectly and kept his grip tight, eventually landing in full mount. By then, the submission was already locked in, and the fight was over.
Best chance for success
Many MMA fans are completely looking past Dollaway. That's not an unreasonable viewpoint; Machida is a former champion and current top contender, while most people never imagined that Dollaway would work his way into the top 10.
With that in mind, Dollaway is a considerable threat to "The Dragon."
First and foremost, Dollaway is an excellent wrestler. He's possessed that skill for years, but it's really his new ancillary skills that will allow him to utilize his takedown skills. Namely, Dollaway's new focus on moving forward with head movement -- instead of reaching with punches -- will be incredibly important. Plus, Dollaway's increased output to the body will be important, as it's always easier to land strikes to the mid-section on evasive fighters.
Finally, Dollaway's low kicking game that he showed against Carmont will be important here as well. Weidman used kicks to occupy Machida, essentially keeping him busy until the champion could shoot for a takedown. Dollaway's kicking isn't quite that developed, but it can potentially slow Machida down and give him another weapon to worry about.
Will CB Dollaway pull off one of the bigger upsets of the year, or will Machida return to the win column?