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UFC 200 Fighter to Watch: T.J. Dillashaw

Peyton Wesner

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If anyone is filled with the most motivation to get back on track with a victory this Saturday, then look no further than former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw.

Dillashaw (13-3, 8-3 in UFC), who had two title defences after dethroning Renan Barao at UFC 173 in 2014, is practically just a win away from receiving his coveted rematch with current belt holder Dominick Cruz. But, before he gets the opportunity to achieve revenge, he must get his hand raised against the only other man to defeat the California native since 2012: Raphael Assuncao (23-4, 7-1 in UFC). Like this past January versus Cruz, Dillashaw also fell to Assuncao via a questionable split decision (29-28, 28-29, 28-29). However, the result aside, since that October evening, the 30-year old has honed and transformed his skills into one of the in bantamweight.

When analysing T.J. Dillashaw, one is immediately attracted to his great stand-up. Out of such a position, he initiates brutal, and fluid combinations that have the potential to end an opponent on the spot. Moreover, these strikes are complemented by the Cal State Fullerton product’s footwork. Comfortable and effective in both the orthodox and southpaw stances, Dillashaw’s movement is in the top tier with the likes of Demetrious Johnson and Dominick Cruz. Though, something he does arguably better than the aforementioned duo is changing directions within the pocket and even in front of opponents. By doing this, Dillashaw’s head is never still and the opposition finds a left hook or right uppercut blasting him in the face constantly on the way out of exchanges.

With his outstanding movement, one can imagine how hard T.J. Dillashaw is to hit. But, he has, even more, wrinkles in his game to keep opponents off balance. One of these ‘wrinkles’ is his superb faints.

Especially when getting into a groove with his combinations, a Dillashaw fake has the potential to cause opponents to block in defence. When the previous transpires, the top-ranked bantamweight contender utilises sharp leg kicks and strikes from the opposite hand. A featured faint and corresponding strike, which was seen at its highest volume in his first match versus Barao, is a low faint kick followed up by a high snap kick. This deception and action by Dillashaw has the potential to cause great damage, if not send the opposition into a wobbling session.

Aside from the former bantamweight champion’s stand-up game, his wrestling and takedown skills are formidable and underrated. For example, in the Mike Easton fight, which was the first win of his previously ended four bout victory streak, Dillashaw displayed a relentless takedown approach and high-level ability on the ground. Additionally, in the 2nd round, he had brutal bombs as a part of his ground and pound while administering hard knees in an edge of cage clinch.

On defence, Dillashaw has great intelligence on how to keep himself out of trouble. From keeping his neck and limbs out of submission attempts to staying patient against equally aggressive fighters, he is the opposite of a finishable opponent.

Though, Raphael Assuncao hopes he can get an early stoppage. If not, he still looks to enjoy the same result as the first. Assuncao, the 3rd ranked bantamweight in the world, enters UFC 200 with a lengthy seven-bout win streak as well as a well-rounded set of attributes. Almost three years ago, the 33-year old was able to keep Dillashaw off-balanced by letting the latter come to him. Explicitly, Assuncao persisted to land strikes time after time as the latter was coming in. Also, he caught many of Dillashaw’s impending kicks, leading to damage to the California native.

To leave T-Mobile Arena happily, T.J. Dillashaw must be aggressive, but withhold patience at the same time. Many times early in his career and a few instances have happened since he has been predictable with his times of attack. Thus; he is drilled and absorbs punishment on his way into exchanges. Frankly, the 30-year old is too intelligent and has too great of movement to allow such to happen.

Furthermore, the vengeful bantamweight needs to avoid becoming one-dimensional. Against Dominick Cruz in January, Dillashaw rested on the laurels of striking and seemed not to pursue an active home for his leg kicks. The previous has to be corrected and have a more defined role in his repertoire versus Assuncao.

Now, if one remembers correctly, Dillashaw was the first inside the octagon to takedown Raphael Assuncao. In fact, he almost won by submission, via a rear naked choke and neck crank, in the 1st round. If the former champion can land an early takedown or even have a solid submission attempt to set the tone, it very much could make his opponent more hesitant to come forward, leading to more success against a less mobile fighter.

However, out of all the things listed for T.J. Dillashaw to have the perfect fight and set up a rematch with Dominick Cruz, the most important may be to allow his speed and elusive movement to keep his chin out of trouble. Let’s face it, when he is at his best, he is not being hit. Hence, if Dillashaw brings back the movement seen in his bouts with Renan Barao and Joe Soto, it will surely result in a pleasant return journey for the California native.

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Fighter to Watch

Can Darren Till fill Michael Bisping’s role of being the UK’s MMA golden boy?

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After his explosive TKO finish of UFC legend Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone at UFC Gdansk, Darren Till is the name on everyone’s lips.

Am I surprised? Absolutely not. Prior to the fight Till had 15 professional MMA wins to his name and 44 kickboxing wins. And although he was relatively unknown to some, there is no denying the talent the Liverpudlian has, in fact, he oozes class.

The UK MMA community is buzzing with the level their homegrown talent is performing at and there have already been calls to have Till main event a UFC fight night in his home town of Liverpool. With rumours circulating that Michael Bisping could soon retire, could Till be the man to fill his boots when it comes to being the poster boy for British MMA?

Next stop Echo Arena Liverpool ? 👀 @danawhite @ufc 🦍

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It’s no secret that Bisping is brilliant at marketing himself, but at times his nationality and popularity in the UK alone would be enough to sell out any arena in the UK.

But with Bisping currently holding the middleweight title, he has many PPV match ups and big fights in the US ahead before his impending retirement.

That leaves a big question mark over the future of the UFC in the UK. After all, 3 out of 4 of Bisping’s most recent main event fights have been in the UK and have all pulled in impressive ticket sales with very flattering gate numbers. 9 of Bisping’s 27 UFC fights have taken place on this side of the pond, showing how valuable he has been in selling tickets and growing the sport in the UK.

With the sport growing rapidly in the UK & Ireland thanks to a certain charismatic Irishman, the UFC must keep up this momentum by putting on solid cards with good main event fights and local talent.

With Marc Diakese, Jimi Manuwa and Gunnar Nelson all losing in their last fights respectively we are unlikely to see them main event a UK event for sometime.

So who’s better to trust than the man who just demolished Cerrone in one round? With Dana White calling Till the “the future” then surely he must be the future of UK MMA and the man to step in ready to fill Bisping’s boots when he eventually throws in the towel on his remarkable career.

He is perfect to become the next face of UK MMA, he has the back story, the physical attributes and most importantly the talent.

Who knows maybe it could be Darren Till vs Mike Perry in early 2018, to start his reign as the new boss of UK MMA. But one things for sure, he’s certainly capable of filling Michael Bisping’s role as the UK’s primary main event star.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts below!

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Bellator

Hey, Reminder, Aaron Pico is Fighting Again Tonight

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In case you missed it, the so-called “greatest prospect in MMA history” Aaron Pico is fighting tonight, and it seems as if nobody is talking about his second MMA bout.

Pico made his MMA debut back on June 24th, at Bellator NYC and we all know what happened there.

His debut could not have gone any worse, and that’s putting it lightly. Pico was a -600 favorite and his opponent, Zach Freeman, was dubbed a journeyman who also had a second job as a window salesman. Nobody, and I mean nobody gave Freeman a chance to beat Pico. Yet 24 seconds later, the MMA world was left in shock.

Bellator NYC was the promotion’s biggest card they put on to date and that was largely in part due to the hype behind Pico. Analysts and experts had deemed him the greatest prospect of all time. No matter how great of a prospect he is, that’s still quite the title to give to a 20-year-old making his MMA debut. Yes, Pico is an accomplished wrestler and boxer, but is it crazy to think that the pressure was just too much for Pico in his first professional bout?

Who knows what led to Aaron Pico’s crash and burn debut, but Pico has reportedly simplified his approach in preparation for his second MMA bout. Tonight, he has the chance to redeem himself, and prove he is a legit prospect to all the doubters who relished in his defeat. Pico is facing Justin Linn (7-3) at Bellator 183 this evening, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to the adversity he has faced so far.

Pico is a junior Golden Gloves champion and national champion in wrestling, the skill is inevitably there. If he ever wants to make it in this brutal sport he has to put his debut behind him, and display a dominant performance at Bellator 183.

Bellator 183 takes place at the SAP Center in San Jose, California. The main card starts at 6 pm PT. Aaron Pico vs. Justin Linn is the first fight on the main card.

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Fighter Profile

The humble beginnings of the Korean Zombie

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Korean Zombie UFC

The featherweight division has become one of the most exciting in the UFC in the last few years. With the arrival of Conor McGregor, and an influx of exciting talent, new life has been breathed into a division that was suffering due to Jose Aldo’s dominance.

A notable absentee during this rise has been “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, who returns for the first time in three years against Dennis Bermudez on Saturday. The fight features as the main event of UFC Fight Night 104, and Jung is making his long awaited return after serving his mandatory military service duty for the South Korean Army.

With the fight with Bermudez fast approaching, the buzz for Jung’s return is noticeable throughout the MMA community. With a return of this magnitude, it is always fun to look back at the career of the fighter and relive the moments in his career that make the fan in all of us excited for his return.

The humble beginnings of the Korean Zombie

Chan Sung Jung was widely considered to be one of the best prospects to emerge from the far east when he was signed by WEC to face Cub Swanson in 2010. An injury forced Swanson out of the contest and Leonard Garcia stepped in as a replacement.

The fight between the two would take place on the preliminary card of Jose Aldo Jr. vs. Urijah Faber for the WEC featherweight championship. The event was the first and only WEC pay-per-view card and with Zuffa on board, the event was treated as such with Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan on commentary.

That night, MMA fans were treated to one of the greatest fights in mixed martial arts history and widely regarded as the best fight ever in the lighter weight classes. Many fans call a fight “a war” in an exciting contest between two fighters, but the fight between the Zombie and Garcia was more like a demolition derby.

Both men threw their strikes with wreckless intent and dropped each other on numerous occasions. The fight went to a split decision with Garcia getting the nod from the judges. Many considered Jung the winner, but the fight received praise from every media outlet in the days following the card. Dana White would wear a shirt with the now famous “Korean Zombie” logo at the following UFC PPV weigh ins in support of the epic fight.

Jung returned to the cage to face George Roop in his next outing in the WEC and lost the fight by a vicious head kick. This would be his final fight in WEC as the UFC went on to absorb the WEC’s featherweight and bantamweight divisions and bring both into the UFC.

Jung was scheduled to make his promotional debut for the UFC against Rani Yahya at UFC Fight Night 23, but was forced out of the fight with an injury. Ironically Leonard Garcia’s opponent Nam Phan would suffer an injury before their scheduled fight. It seemed like fate that Jung and Garcia would do battle once more. The Korean Zombie came in as a late replacement for the injured Phan. The rematch between the two was highly anticipated and the UFC was promoting the fight as the rematch to the greatest fight ever.

The fight was set as the opener to the main card for UFC Fight Night 24. What came next was history in the making. Both fighters were tentative in the early exchanges in the fight and didn’t have the same enthusiasm to brawl as the previous encounter, but in the final few minutes of the opening round, Jung took the back of Garcia.

In an unorthodox position on the ground, Rogan said on the desk, “Looks like he is setting up for a twister”. The twister was not seen in the UFC at this point and with the clock ticking, Jung stretched Garcia in a position where his spine was turned into a pretzel and Garcia tapped. Jung stated in the post-fight interview with Rogan that he had learned how to do the submission watching videos of Eddie Bravo doing the move. The win won multiple awards for submission of the year.

After that win, Chan Sung Jung was set to face Mark Hominick at UFC 140 in Toronto. Hominick, who fought Aldo for the title at UFC 129 in his hometown, came into the fight as the underdog, but in seven seconds that all changed. Jung cracked Hominick, tying the record for the second fastest knockout in UFC history. A win over a former title challenger launched the South Korean into title contention.

Following another historic win, Chan Sung Jung was now set to take part in his first ever main event against rising star Dustin Poirier with the winner receiving a title shot against UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo at a later date.

Jung went on to put on another fight of the year that night. The one-man zombie horde overwhelmed Poirier in the early rounds with his aggressive style. Numerous submission attempts and transitions by Jung frustrated Poirier. As Poirier became more aggressive and careless in the fight, Jung launched a flying knee in the third round and rocked his opponent. Poirier attempted to take Jung down, but the Zombie caught Poirier in a D’Arce choke in the third round to get the win.

Multiple injuries, and scheduled title fights between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar; and Aldo and Anthony Pettis, delayed Jung’s title shot. After Pettis was forced out of the title fight with Aldo because of an injury, Jung was called up as a late replacement and finally get the title shot he earned by defeating Poirier a year earlier.

The fight would take place in Brazil and was surprisingly lacklustre. Both fighters were sizing each other up for the majority of the contest. Jung suffered an injury during the fight when he dislocated his shoulder and in typical zombie fashion, Jung attempted to put his own shoulder back in place. Aldo used this time to attack, winning the title fight by TKO.

This would be the last time we saw the zombie in the cage as he would be drafted by the South Korean Army to do his two-year mandatory military service. Jung has not fought in three and a half years.

Now the burning question is how will the Korean zombie look after such a long absence. One thing is sure though, fans are extremely excited to see his return and on Saturday, The Zombie Apocalypse could be on the cards if the South Korean comes out of the cage with a win.

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