The UFC has wasted no time in legitimizing their recently commenced flyweight division. Friday's UFC on FX 5 event will be the launchpad for another top-ranked flyweight in Brazilian Jussier da Silva, who takes on John Dodson to shake out the 125-pound division's next #1 contender. His arrival will augment the UFC's 125-pound roster with an astounding 9 of the world's consensus top-10 ranked flyweights. UFC on FX 5, which will air 4 fights on the FX channel at 8:00 p.m. following the 8-piece preliminary card on Fuel TV and Facebook, is capped off by a heavyweight tilt between Travis Browne and Antonio Silva.
After he won the Shooto South America 123-pound championship and proceeded to pick off alpha-flyweight Shinichi "BJ" Kojima, Jussier "Formiga" da Silva (14-1) was alone atop the 125-pound world rankings. Da Silva, who represents the Kimura branch of Andre Pederneiras' prestigious Nova Uniao team, then maintained his pristine record by defending his Shooto South America title and debuting successfully against Danny Martinez in the Tachi Palace Fights (TPF) promotion, which had become a stateside hotbed for flyweight talent.
Da Silva was expected to overtake the TPF throne and was aligned in a #1-contender bout on the same night that flyweight champion Ulysses Gomez defended against Darrell Montague. The two upsets that resulted from that event -- Tachi Palace Fights 8 "All or Nothing" -- would significantly alter the flyweight division's hierarchy: Montague stole the strap from Gomez and da Silva was out-battled by none other than current UFC flyweight Ian McCall (fight video embedded after the jump). "Uncle Creepy" went on to submit Montague with a 3rd-round choke and become the TPF champion and #1 flyweight in the process, though he recently surrendered that honor to current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.
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Another name commonly found on the flyweight world rankings before the UFC boom was Jackson/Winklejohn product John "The Magician" Dodson (13-5). The wide-smiling Dodson got his first big dose of exposure when he won season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter as a bantamweight, finishing Team Alpha Male's T.J. Dillashaw via semi-controversial TKO at the live finale. Dodson was quick to leave 135-pounds and returned to his natural fighting weight in his next and most recent match, drawing hard-nosed debutante Tim Elliott, who was soaring on an 8-fight win streak that included a 2nd-round KO of former UFC lightweight champ Jens Pulver.
Either Elliott is a serious sleeper or the lower weight class had a drastic effect on Dodson's speed advantage, which is typically momentous. As a bantamweight, Dodson employed nauseating quickness to run circles around his heftier counterparts but was never bullied due to his wrestling acumen -- re-emerging at flyweight was a different story. Despite dropping a decision, Elliott had his moments, hung close in every round and won the final frame convincingly. Dodson did injure his hand in the fight but, compared to his bantamweight bouts, the prominent edge in speed and agility he normally enjoys was amiss.
Continued in the full entry.
Da Silva is at the black-belt level in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, the latter of which he undertook at age 8, and his 14 wins are split amongst submissions and decisions at 7 apiece. He's not a gifted striker but his stand-up is adequate as a smokescreen for his vacuum-like grappling.
In the realm of scrambling and transitions, da Silva is unreal. He has the rare quality of being extremely adhesive: with exceptional grace and speed, da Silva knifes his way into the clinch and either hits a trip or a takedown, pulls guard intelligently or magically transports onto his opponent's back. He's the type of gifted submission grappler who initiates whirlwind scrambles and always ends up in the more advantageous position.
The aforementioned speculation on Dodson's speed, agility and quickness at flyweight stems from how imperative those traits will be against da Silva. At bantamweight, Dodson shook off incoming takedowns with ease and was already launching a side-stepping counter punch by the time his opponent adjusted for the new angle. In fact, pivoting right and uncorking a monster left hand when his opponent charges is exactly how Dodson finished Johnny Bedford on the show as well as Dillashaw in the finals.
That same high level of elusive footwork, sharp counter striking and sound takedown defense will be of the utmost importance against da Silva. Dodson has never been submitted and is quite capable on the mat, but there's no sense in spending any excess time in da Silva's clear area of expertise and Dodson is definitely the better striker. Even though he's coming down from a higher weight class, Dodson will be 2" shorter but have a considerable strength advantage; da Silva is thin and gangly but also deceivingly agile.
His wrestling is solid but da Silva's Judo background is evident in his takedowns, and that gradual, clinch-friendly and more methodical approach might be better suited for Dodson than springing double-leg takedowns from a distance. Most of Dodson's TUF opponents tried to flash out distracting strikes and explode into his hips with a level drop, and committing to that attack left them highly vulnerable Dodson's counters. Da Silva stalks forward constantly with precisely measured steps, all the while slinging busy strikes and changing angles and levels, and looks to tie up in the clinch before maneuvering for takedowns.
This metes his attack out in a prolonged sequence of smaller actions and allows him to keep the pressure on full blast while minimizing his risk to counter strikes. Whether or not it will ultimately be more effective, it's a different style than Dodson's accustomed to.
It's anyone guess whether da Silva will be able to get Dodson on the floor or keep him there if he does -- but failing will prevent him from mounting any memorable offense with his spidery grappling. I'll come out and say it: I think Dodson might be better off at bantamweight. His quickness was utterly unparalleled there and his short-but-wide frame, athleticism, footwork and takedown defense compensated perfectly against larger opponents. That theory might come into play later on in his UFC tour, but Dodson should still be well enough equipped to take da Silva out of his game.
My Prediction: John Dodson by decision.