Brandao has all the tools to succeed
Sometimes the obvious answer is the correct answer.
No contestant on this season of "The Ultimate Fighter" stood out more than Brazilian featherweight Diego Brandao. Not even close. All three of his fights ended in first-round knockouts -- all of which you could see coming at the start of the fight.
There are a few concerns about Brandao as he gets into the UFC, but the positives heavily outweigh the negatives with this young athlete. Not only do I expect him to have the most success of any fighter from the show, I also wouldn't be surprised to see him rise all the way to title contention in the next three years.
Let's touch on the weaknesses first: I see two. First, he's wild. Due to the way the reality show is set up, we often see guys take a conservative approach early to avoid a fluke-type loss or injury. Not Brandao. He opens up and comes forward immediately. A quick look at his 13-7 record shows four losses have been by knockout. He's hyper-offensive, which is fun to watch, but that takes away from his defense, and in the UFC that type of thing will get exposed.
The second concern is his stamina. It's difficult to maintain that aggressive style of his for 15 minutes. Another look at his record shows he's been to the final round six times in his career and lost three of those fights.
Now the positives. The skills are there. He's got a variety of strikes and knockout power in, it would appear, every one of them. The weaknesses mentioned above can be fixed. Brandao trains at a terrific camp with Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, N.M. Hopefully, as he matures, he'll learn how to balance his killer instinct along with fighting a smarter game plan.
Mentally, he appears extremely confident. Some might not put a lot of stock in that detail, but that's a mistake. Confidence is huge in MMA and it seems to come naturally for Brandao. That allows him to open up in the cage and it's intimidating to his opponents.
Brandao made a name for himself this season and I don't expect him to go away. At 23, we might not see him go on a UFC title run immediately, but the potential for him to do so is there.
Alpha Male creds make T.J. top dog
Based on the track record of Team Alpha Male, how can't this one be T.J. Dillashaw?
Urijah Faber has become a top-three fighter in two weight classes in his career, but more importantly, his two top pupils in Joseph Benavidez and Chad Mendes are top-three athletes in their divisions, as well.
Dillashaw still has a long way to go in terms of skill development, but in less than two years of competition, he's proved to be a natural guard passer with great ground-and-pound instincts and a knack for the submission game. Knowing that he has these traits, seeing how quickly he has assimilated other skills into his repertoire and looking at the track record of success, Dillashaw has a leg up on other fighters.
The only fighter on all of TUF 14 whose athletic potential matches Dillashaw is his 135-pound foil in John Dodson. However, Dodson lollygags in the gym and in the cage, often blowing fights that he could certainly win, such as the Pat Runez fight. On top of that, Dodson is a blown-up flyweight who is just biding his time for 125-pound action. In the interim, it gives Dillashaw a better prognosis for short-term success, in addition to the fact that he has major long-term potential.
Looking at his TUF run, Dillashaw seems to have done himself a disservice by being so clinical and thorough. To steal a line from boxer-stroke-kinda-rapper Roy Jones, "They got the nerve to say I didn't fight nobody; I just make 'em look like nobody." Double negatives aside, Dillashaw did beat some quality fighters.
Matt Jaggers is a well-traveled vet and got stomped. Injured or not, Roland Delorme is a good grappler and got submitted. Dustin Pague, who looked like he was going to earn a UFC deal on his own merits with five straight wins in the northeast, was dominated from bell-to-bell. Along the way, Dillashaw even showed that he can take a hard shot and keep trucking, a hard-to-teach quality that we constantly wait to see if crossover athletes have.
Team Alpha Male might have more logistic headaches on its hands, as we might not be far away from three top-10 -- even top-five or top-three -- bantamweights from the Sacramento, Calif., squad. Pretty alpha, indeed.
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