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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Fight Night 96’s John Dodson resident fighter analyst -- and aspiring professional fighter -- Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC Fight Night 96 headliner John Dodson, who looks to announce himself as a contender this Saturday night (Oct. 1, 2016) inside Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight title contender, John Dodson, will throw down with Brazilian brawler, John Lineker, this Saturday (Oct. 1, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 96 inside Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.

Dodson is in an interesting position. His attempts to capture the Flyweight strap came up short due to the dominance of "Mighty Mouse," but Dodson honestly looked a bit flat in his last couple appearances.

Luckily, a change of scenery proved to benefit "The Magician," as he ran through Manny Gamburyan in less than a minute. That’s a solid first step, but this bout is Dodson’s chance to prove himself a contender at 135 lbs.

Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:


Competing in division’s filled with high-volume punchers, Dodson definitely stands out. The Southpaw usually does not throw a ton of punches, as he either explodes into short combinations or waits for the perfect counter punch opportunity.

The only reason Dodson can afford to be the exception is because he packs such a huge punch. Dodson has a fair number of fights that run through at a snail's pace and are quite boring, until he suddenly lands a vicious punch that ends the bout in an instant.

Dodson largely operates at one range. He stays just out of reach of his opponent's boxing range, but within distance to kick. While Dodson is often the shorter man — particularly at Bantamweight — his quickness allows him to avoid most kicks, unless his opponent is willing to risk a counter to really commit and step into one.

From the outside, Dodson very often is content to do nothing. He'll feint and avoid his opponent's shots, but Dodson simply hangs around and waits. In many of his victories, Dodson spends much of the fight in this stage, where his opponent is growing frustrated and cannot land while Dodson chooses not to throw much.

Now, of course Dodson occasionally throws some shots from range. He's actually a really powerful kicker when he commits, but he mostly just shoots out quick low kicks to score.

This strategy, consisting largely of waiting around and showing feints, is only possible at such a high level because of how good Dodson is at both covering distance and counter punching.

When Dodson chooses to explode forward, it's sudden and unpredictable. While the punches themselves are fairly predictable -- "The Magician" relies very heavily on his left hand -- Dodson's speed is truly unmatched (GIF).

Dodson’s last bout ended early thanks to one of his quick blitzes. After batting his opponent’s hand aside with his right, Dodson stepped into range with a trio of left hands. With just a single flurry, Dodson added another knockout to his record (GIF).

A very important aspect of Dodson's game is body work. He's very diligent about setting up his knockout punch, usually the left cross or overhand, with strikes to the mid-section. It's very common for Dodson bounce in from the outside, score with a left to the body, and exit the exchange (GIF). After just a couple of these land, it's difficult for his opponent not to drop his hands and leave an opening for the knockout blow. Additionally, he'll sometimes double up on his left hand, going low before coming up with a second power shot (GIF).

One of the more improved aspects of Dodson's game that has shown through in his last few fights are his kicks and knees. This was important against a long fighter in John Moraga, and it will be even more vital against the bigger Bantamweights.

From his usual range, Dodson has shown some stepping knee strikes a couple of times, which is an unexpected technique. Additionally, he’ll look for the Jackson-Winkeljohn standard of snap kicks from range. At the end of his bout with Moraga, Dodson began finishing his combinations with roundhouse kicks, and one of them badly shattered his foe’s nose (GIF).

Finally, Dodson's counter ability is extremely dangerous. For the most part, Dodson capitalizes on opponents who get frustrated and began to chase him. After many exchanges of coming up short, it's pretty common for his opponent to lunge toward him with a big right hand, which Dodson will slip. While slipping the shot, he'll deliver a cracking left hook of his own (GIF).

While Johnson rarely gets frustrated or over-extends himself, he also ran into a few of Dodson's counter punches. Johnson excels at shifting between stances as he punches in combination, which did allow him to close the distance effectively as the fight wore on.

However, it also gave Dodson a few opportunities to clock him with hard punches (GIF ).


Dodson was a two-time state champion wrestler, but it's not really a skill that he consistently relies on. He largely uses his wrestling ability to keep the fight on the feet, but he is opportunistic and will drop down for a takedown if there's a lull in the action.

When Dodson does shoot, it's usually at the end of a flurry of after a feint of his left hook. If his opponent's guard is up or his back is to the fence, then Dodson will most likely finish the takedown. He's just so quick to drop in on his opponent's hips, and his physical strength all but guarantees he'll be able to lift and finish the shot.

Admittedly, Dodson doesn’t do all that much from top position, but it helps keep his opponent off-balance.

Dodson is an incredibly tough man to take down. His footwork is very good, meaning that it's tough to walk him into the fence or even close range. This causes many shots to be taken from too far out and without proper setup, which simply won't work against an athlete like Dodson.

On the occasion that Dodson's opponent does lock horns with him, it's difficult to hold onto the Jackson's MMA-representative. Dodson squirms with all his might, twisting, turning, and yanking his way out of the clinch. If his opponent is particularly insistent and really throws himself forward, Dodson may even shoot for a takedown of his own just to disrupt the attempt.

It also helps that Dodson has some spectacular balance. Tim Elliott attempted to lift up a high single leg and kick out the remaining leg a number of times, but it never results in anything. Dodson simply bounced around the cage on one foot until his opponent gave up.

Finally, Dodson is similarly difficult to keep down. Once his butt touches the mat, he springs to his feet and scrambles. While it's undoubtedly effective, Dodson's style of exploding off the mat and out of the clinch is very exhausting. If he's forced to do it numerous times, he definitely slows down becoming easier to both wrestle and hit.

The only man to effectively out-wrestle Dodson with any consistency was Demetrious Johnson. The champion did an excellent job of cutting off the cage and moving into the clinch, alternating between knees and takedowns. Since he was able to get in on his opponent’s hips often, he eventually wore through his opponent’s defense.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

To be completely honest, Dodson has shown almost no jiu-jitsu inside the Octagon. That's not to say he's a bad grappler necessarily, but he actively avoids getting into exchanges on the mat. He's yet to attempt a submission in UFC and hasn't won a fight via submission since 2007.

Even when Dodson is put on his back, his sole focus is scrambling. He's not playing guard -- Dodson is simply trying to get his back to the fence and work up or shove his opponent's face into the mat.

It's just not a priority for him.


Dodson is 12 years into his professional career, and he’s been forced to abandon his goal of becoming Flyweight champion. Bantamweight is a new start for him, but the stakes are high with each match up. Dodson cannot really afford to lose any matches right now, as it push him out of the title picture and leave him without any clear path moving forward.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.

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