TUF 14 Finale had some great moments as they rolled out the entire 16 man cast (minus an injured Akira Corissani), and allowed everyone to get their shot at a UFC contract. With so many new faces in a budding division, we need to sit down and figure out who’s going to make a splash and who will quickly be swept under the rug. Below are the winners of the undercard and all four finalists in a critique of their performance.
The question we ask with these prospects is:
Where do they fall into this newer division?
Are we seeing a new superstar, a tough journeyman, or divisional food for bigger fish?
John Dodson: One of the smallest Bantamweights on the show, John Dodson was in turns annoying and spectacular in his time on the show, and continued that pattern into the finals. Having proven his speed and killer instinct are beyond compare, he made very short work of Team Alpha Male’s TJ Dillashaw with a volley of punches. Though the end of the fight was a somewhat quick stoppage, Dodson’s blazing hand speed and surprising power were on display.
Where does he fall in? Near the top, as a serious threat
While I’m not sold on Dodson’s supposedly impenetrable takedown defense, his raw athletic ability and reflexes make up for any wrestling disparity. There are very few fighters at the top of the division who will be able to hang with Dodson, and could well take a 125 lbs. division by storm.
TJ Dillashaw: Team Alpha Males TJ Dillashaw performed well throughout the show. Having the suffocating wrestling you’d expect from his team, Dillashaw also surprised many with his cracking power punches. While his fight with Dodson was almost too short to show improvement, you can be sure his time with an elite team will help him bud.
Where does he fall in? In the middle, but looking like he needed to lose that fight
My one and only issue with Team Alpha Male is that everyone on the team thinks they’re Urijah Faber. Faber is a fantastic fighter, but this has more to do with his own incredible athletic ability, and his style doesn’t always translate well to everyone who trains with him. Dillashaw’s ridiculous stance of sticking his chin out with his hands down did him little good against the much faster Dodson, and hopefully pounded some sense into him. As soon as Dillashaw learns to fight like Dillashaw, he’ll start being dangerous in the UFC.
Diego Brandao: While his attitude did little to endear him to fans of the show, his skill set can’t be denied. Hacking his way through the show with accurate power strikes, Brandao had a tooth and nail fight in the Finale against Dennis Bermudez that showed a lot of both fighters’ talents. Having been dropped with a stiff right hook, Brandao looked on an armbar and gave no quarter to Bermudez, snapping his arm and walking away with the contract.
Where does he fall in? Knocking on the champion’s door
As much as I hate his personality, Brandao is undeniably talented and showed strong offense and composure when in danger against Bermudez. While everyone was afraid of his striking on the show, it’s really his BJJ that will spell doom for many opponents in the future, and I expect him to be in a title fight within the next four fights.
Dennis Bermudez: One of the best “characters” on the show, Bermudez showed grit at every turn, grinding down his foes for the win. With excellent wrestling and power in every single punch, Bermudez had tough fights in the house, but none tougher than his Finale bout with Brandao. Having come back from being hurt early, Bermudez used constant pressure and nearly finished Brandao before having his arm broken in a flash.
Where does he fall in? Near the top, looking better than expected
Bermudez looks like the FW version of Rick Story, and is going to be an issue for a lot of fighters IF he gets with an elite camp. I have nothing against Long Island MMA, but when I’ve never heard of a gym before now, they’re not going to have much to offer at this level. One must assume Bermudez is the best guy in the gym, and therefore needs to find a new place to hone his skills. If Bermudez can fix his defensive faults or improve his striking accuracy, the sky is the limit.
Johnny Bedford: A hard-nosed fighter if there ever was one, this gigantic BW had several solid showings on TUF, showcasing a solid chin, quick scrambling ability and the resolve to push forward in a tough fight. Having lost to Dodson by vicious KO, Bedford found his way into the Finale against Louis Gaudinot, and proceeded to dish out 10-8 rounds until the ref mercifully ended the bout in the 3rd round.
Where does he fall in? Mid-level in a new division
Bedford has the size to cause problems and showed improvement, but isn’t great at anything. His striking is coming along, but appears to lack power and his grappling is quick but sloppy. Time will tell if he sinks or swims in a rapidly developing division, but for now he’ll probably be content to fight fellow casemates’ and thin the TUF 14 herd a bit.
John Albert: A team-mate to Dennis Hallman at Victory Athletics, Albert flew under the radar a bit in his time on the show. Having been eliminated by John Dodson, Albert went into the Finale as somewhat of an unknown, but proved his skills with a one minute victory over Dustin Pague.
Where does he fall in? As a tough draw outside the top
Albert probably isn’t going to be holding a title at any point, but brings heavy accurate hands and some underrated submission grappling skills to the game. While he’ll be out-struck or out-wrestled by the division elite, he’ll be an absolute nightmare to deal with for most of his cast mates and fellow BW fighters.
Marcus Brimage: One of the fastest strikers on the show, Brimage came all the way from “bama” to take the TUF contract. My personal pick to fight for the FW finale spot, Brimage was derailed by Bryan Caraway in a poor showing of takedown defense. Coming in against undefeated Steven Bass at the Finale, Brimage showed how much he’d blossomed in the time between show and finale, soundly beating Bass by decision.
Where does he fall in? As the second best of the season
Brimage showed exactly what happens when elite-level athletes get a platform to perform to their best. With his sole issue being his takedown defense, Brimage showed against Steve Bass that he won’t be hustled on the mat easily anymore, and his striking will make short work of many in the division. Brimage is a guy to watch in the future and will defeat any and all cast mates aside from Brandao.
Bryan Caraway: A WEC veteran that found his way into the house, Caraway highlighted some major confidence issues alongside his technical grappling savvy. Having out-grappled two solid opponents on his way to the semi-finals, he fell to Diego Brandao in a brutal fight where he was beaten unconscious by the future finale winner.
Where does he fall in? Near the bottom and fading fast
Caraway highlighted exactly why he wasn’t scooped up by the UFC when they took over WEC fully in his bout with Dustin Neace. Having completely uncoordinated striking and loose standing defense, Caraway is a one-trick grappling pony who won’t be in this division long.
Steven Siler: Having soundly defeated the Micah Miller on his way into the TUF house, Siler was out to prove that you can’t write him off. While his bout with Miller was an impressive display of aggressive striking and slick submissions, his bout with Diego Brandao showed how chinny tall guys can be. With that bout behind him, he went into the finale against replacement fighter Josh Clopton, taking a decision win after a dominate performance.
Where does he fall in? Lower than you might think
Siler is a can crusher through and through, using aggressive clinch attacks and forward movement to make low-level opponents flounder under the assault. Against strong competitors, Siler’s lack of chin and predictable pattern will spell a short UFC career for him.
Roland Delorme: With a submission win getting him into the house, Delorme declared that “wrestlers better watch out”. Ironically, it was wrestler TJ Dillashaw who knocked him out of the competition with his takedowns and fast hands, sending him into a bout with Josh Ferguson at the finale. In a close fight, Delorme took advantage of a slip by Ferguson and locked on a beautiful RNC for the win.
Where does he fall in? Bottom rung
While Delorme’s win against Ferguson was exciting and well-done, he’s going to have a real issue with most of the Bantamweights out there. Between awkward striking, carrying his chin high, and a willingness to give up bottom position, Delorme won’t be long for the division if he doesn’t receive favorable match-making.
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