John Dodson (14-6) vs. Darrell Montague (13-2) Flyweight
When we last left our heroes...I feel like it's been forever since we got some flyweight action, and like any other scrap in this division, this one should be a doozy.
Dodson is coming off a completely respectable loss to Demetrious Johnson in a bout that revealed everything we love about this division. The funny thing, however, is that Dodson wasn't always such a world beater. There's a reason he started on TUF and that's because he was an 11-5 fighter at the time doing Midwestern shows. His ceiling seemed rather limited. Now it seems like his career has just begun.
Montague is similar to Dodson career wise. He made a name for himself on the small circuit, and is now being given the opportunity to show what he can do on the big stage. He hasn't lost since a hard fought 3 round war against Ian McCall. Since then he's rattled off four consecutive wins, one of which came against the once perennial king of all things afro and lighter weight MMA, Mamoru Yamaguchi.
Montague has always been the "a matter of when" type small show fighter. It was only matter of time until he got his shot in the UFC. Now it's a matter of how he'll make that impression.
What both men can do: At the lighter weights, power is a unique thing to have over your opponents. Dodson has that in spades. It's the reason he seemed to have a better chance to beat Johnson. Because five round fights tend to favor the more dynamic. While the implication shouldn't be that Dodson is dynamic (in point of fact he's kind of a one trick pony), he is a special flyweight.
In addition to his heavy right hand the once Chuck E. Cheese employed fighter is capable on the ground, possessing a solid enough wrestling pedigree to compliment his aggressive boxing.
Montague's assets are a little more subtle. He has real solid head movement for one, which is relatively rare in MMA in general. In addition, he varies his kicks from his southpaw stance with very high efficiency. Whether to the leg, body, or head, he chambers his left kick well. He seems to enjoy throwing to the leg and body, leg and body, leg and body until finally throwing to the head.
His boxing is not necessarily what makes him a solid striker. But he throws a good right hook, and pops a solid straight left made all the more effective by his constant movement.
What both men can't do: The problem with Montague, as we saw with the McCall fight, is that he's prone to well-timed takedowns. In addition, he can catch a bad case of ‘deer in headlights' when he stalks his opponent for too long on the feet. Plus against Dodson, he'll need to make his strikes count, and he doesn't throw with enough authority to make opponents feel truly threatened.
Dodson is kind of similar. He hits patches in a fight where his rhythm gets lost; his failure to retain or sustain momentum was a real sticking point for him on the small circuit in losses to Pat Runez and Mike Easton. And old habits die hard they say.
X-Factor: The good ole' judges. I feel like this is the kind of fight that goes to a decision which then means that the judges are forced to pretend like they have to resolve dilemmas involving the large hadron collider. It's the perfect fight for a 'bad' decision because of Montague's style which isn't flashy per se, but very effective.
While I think it'll be extremely competitive, I like Dodson to land enough strikes to earn a legitimate decision win, if not a TKO. I feel like Montague leaves just enough room to get hit despite being mostly good at defending himself on the feet. But Dodson does so many other things well that I don't see Montague getting into a proper rhythm.
Prediction: John Dodson by TKO, round 3.