John Dodson vs. John Moraga: A Full Head-to-Toe Breakdown
UFC Fight Night 42 on Saturday features a prime-time matchup in the flyweight division. Former title contenders John Dodson and John Moraga meet in an important battle that will see the winner move back into title contention.
Dodson is currently ranked as the No. 1 contender in the division, and Moraga sits at No. 5.
Of the two, Dodson came closest to dethroning champion Demetrious Johnson. His hand speed and power gave the champion fits early in the bout, but he faded and allowed the champion to dictate the later rounds.
The stakes are high for this amazing flyweight bout, and it will not even be the co-main event in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Let's take a look at the head-to-toe matchup between the elite flyweights.
Moraga has been improving his stand-up in recent years, but he is not on Dodson's level. That is not to say he cannot catch Dodson, but it will be difficult.
Dodson has turned his striking into his biggest asset. He is dynamic and powerful with his shots. Ask the champion about that. Ask the newly crowned bantamweight champion about it too.
Moraga also possesses power in his hands, but he does not find the mark as often as Dodson. The FightMetric stats don't lie. Dodson lands more significant strikes per minute and has a statistically better defensive game, although he's absorbed more strikes per minute than his opponent. A lot of credit for that goes to Demetrious Johnson, though.
Dodson will have the edge on the feet.
Both men are talented wrestlers.
Dodson was a state wrestling champion who ended up at a D-I university, but Moraga accomplished more at a higher level.
Also, he uses his wrestling more in the cage.
Where things get a bit tricky in the breakdown is taking into account Dodson's 80 percent takedown defense. How much might that factor into this matchup? A good bit, in my opinion.
I still give a very slight edge to Moraga due to his pedigree, but do not be surprised if he fails to take Dodson to the mat in the fight.
The submission game between these two top-tier fighters is fairly close, but one fighter has proved himself more than the other, and that's the difference.
Dodson prefers not to go after the submission. He loves to strike and use ground-and-pound. Moraga, on the other hand, has six career submission finishes to his credit.
When pushed to choose between them in this category, I have to go with the statistical evidence. Moraga has shown that he deserves the edge. As the better wrestler on paper, he should also attain better positions should the fight hit the mat.
Dodson is still capable of locking in a submission, but Moraga narrowly gets the advantage.
Dodson's X-Factor: Speed
Dodson is one of the fastest fighters in the UFC today. His speed rivals that of Demetrious Johnson.
It will also be one of his biggest advantages against Moraga.
Dodson's overall speed will be a key component in this fight. Will he get off first in the exchanges, can he get out of range of Moraga's offense, and will he be able to take control of the action? Those are all tall orders, but his speed gives him a great chance to do them.
Moraga's X-Factor: The Grind
How can Moraga negate the speed advantage? Grind.
If he can wrestle with Dodson, he will likely score more points, but over the course of the fight he will also slow down his opponent. He can wear on him early, which will be beneficial in the later rounds.
Moraga has to make this a grind. Playing at range with Dodson's power could be a vital mistake.
Breaking down each area separately can give a false look at a fight. Judging purely by the slides, one may assume that Moraga should be the favorite, but that is false.
That is what makes MMA so special. It is how you blend those aspects together inside the cage—something Dodson is better at than Moraga today and is still getting better.
While Moraga has the edge in the grappling and submission departments, Dodson is not far behind and could very well win those battles inside the Octagon. However, in the stand-up, it is clear who has the advantage. Dodson is the top contender for the title for a reason.
This could be a three-round battle, but I think Dodson will slip in an early fight-altering punch. He will rock Moraga and pounce. Once he goes in for the finish, it won't take long for the referee to pull him off.
Dodson takes an early victory and sets himself up for another title shot.
Prediction: Dodson defeats Moraga by TKO in the first round.