At UFC 166, John Dodson scored an impressive victory when he dropped Darrell Montague in sudden fashion, solidifying himself as one of the best contenders for Demetrious Johnson's flyweight title. But this win also added another element to Dodson's persona in the Octagon; because of his finishing ability, Dodson may be the last man that a highly-ranked flyweight should be willing to fight in his first appearance for the UFC.
Dodson has a 4-1 record in the Octagon, and all four of his wins came against opponents who were making their first appearance in the eight-sided cage. Three of these bouts ended in first round knockout. Even his UFC debut against T.J. Dillashaw, which occurred at bantamweight, ended with Dillashaw put away in the first round. However, despite being UFC newcomers, both Jussier da Silva and Montague were ranked in the top ten of the weight class, and da Silva was in the top three before he was dispatched in highlight reel fashion.
Looking at Dodson's performance numbers, it's interesting that his current fighting style is completely different than the background that brought him into the world of mixed martial arts. Dodson was a multiple-time state champion wrestler in high school, but didn't compete in collegiate wrestling. Yet since joining Greg Jackson's camp in 2002, Dodson has grown into into a well-rounded fighter that has the potential to one day control the flyweight division. In five UFC fights he's leaned on his striking abilities, and has been very successful in doing so.
Dodson has a 35 percent rate of striking accuracy, and many of his shots land with a power that can put an opponent away quickly. For example, according to Fight Metric, Dodson landed only ten shots against Montague, but all of them qualified as a significant shot. He also had a high accuracy rate against Da Silva and Dillashaw. However, it was his UFC on Fox 3 matchup against Tim Elliott where Dodson had to draw on his wrestling abilities and score two of three takedowns while defending against five. In this fight and his others, he’s demonstrated the ability to transition from striking to wrestling nearly seamlessly, a la Georges St. Pierre.
In the one bout where he lost, cardio seemed to be the main factor that slowed “The Magician” down. In the first and second rounds of their UFC on Fox 6 bout, Dodson was able to drop the champion twice, even though Johnson was able to outstrike the challenger overall. However, Dodson's cardio problems really came into focus during the championship rounds, where he tried to implement his wrestling, but couldn't keep up with the champion. While some observers believe that Dodson should have won the decision, the judges on hand did not believe he had done enough work to get the victory, and the way he faded late played a major part.
Those five rounds may be the most important that Dodson has experienced at this point in his career. As he puts together a campaign to earn a second shot at the belt, he needs to be better prepared to fight for 5 rounds. He should also be better prepared to finish the champion early if he has him hurt in a similar fashion. Either way, one could expect an improved version of John Dodson as he continues on his path in the UFC. One should also expect that fighters who are making their first appearances under the Zuffa banner will to begin avoiding “The Magician.” If not, he will continue to make their hopes of making successful Octagon debuts disappear, along with their grasps on consciousness.