It's been a difficult journey for The Ultimate Fighter season seven winner Amir Sadollah since the show's finale back in June of 2008. With the onus of becoming a proven prospect due to his impressive wins on the show, many fans expected Sadollah to make waves as a phenom in only his second professional bout under the Octagon lights. Unfortunately, it only took NCAA Division I wrestler Johny Hendricks twenty-nine seconds to prove that Sadollah was still a work in progress, deflating the hype around him and putting him on a program to slowly build him into what some believe is a world class fighter.
The hype around Sadollah as he exited the show, in retrospect, was unfair. The reality series has only produced arguably two solid prospects in season winners, Nate Diaz and Ryan Bader, over the last eight seasons. The depth of talent on the show hadn't come close to what it was in the first four seasons, mainly due to the competitive nature of the market for prospects. And Sadollah won the show without a single professional fight. Impressive, but not indicative of a fighter who will catapult through the ranks quickly.
Surprisingly, Sadollah has fought admirably in the UFC's welterweight division. The level of competition he has faced has been above average when compared to the prospects battling it out for attention in the remote regions of the world, and he's succeeded more times than not in those encounters. For a guy who entered the UFC with no record, victories over Brad Blackburn, Peter Sobotta, Phil Baroni, and C.B. Dollaway are far from laughable considering his greenness in the sport.
Saturday night's contest at UFC Fight Night 24 against DaMarques Johnson, runner-up on the ninth season of The Ultimate Fighter, will serve as another stepping stone in Sadollah's progression to become a top talent in the division. Johnson, who enters the contest after defeating Mike Guymon at UFC: Fight for the Troops 2 in January, is on a similar path, hoping to prove he has what it takes to challenge better competition. A win over Sadollah may be the first step in the right direction for Johnson. It would be a disastrous setback for Sadollah.
At 30 years old, Sadollah's time is shorter than most prospects entering the sport today. Amir has already shown the ability to learn quickly, improving his stand-up skills incredibly since his entry into the sport. He's a versatile fighter with the capability to become, at the very least, a solid, mid-echelon fighter. Every fight is important, but Saturday night's showdown with DaMarques Johnson could be the most significant of his career if he wants the opportunity to become a relevant player in the UFC's welterweight division before time runs out.