The Ultimate Fighter 14: 10 Fights for John Dodson to Take Next
Saturday marked the first time in The Ultimate Fighter history that a bantamweight champion was crowned.
That man, 5'3" John Dodson, earned the rights to a UFC contract by dismantling Team Bisping's TJ Dillashaw via a first-round KO.
With an impressive victory over a well-rounded power wrestler, who happens to train with Urijah Faber, the 27-year-old Dodson could be the real deal.
He's fast, compact, strong and extremely athletic. He may even be the most prepared fighter to come off the show in recent memory.
Heading into 2012, which will feature even more exposure for the 135 lb. division than ever before, "The Magician" could be poised for greatness.
Based on his talents, inexperience inside the Octagon and willingness to fight, here are 10 bantamweight fights that could bode well for the TUF 14 Finale winner.
This is one of the first fights that comes to mind.
John Dodson and Johnny Bedford already fought on "The Ultimate Fighter" for the chance to win a UFC contract on the show's finale.
The semifinal bout was a back and forth affair, until Dodson caught Bedford with a vicious strike, ultimately securing the TKO victory.
However, on a night when Dodson secured a UFC contract with his win over TJ Dillashaw, Bedford also displayed well-rounded talents in the Octagon, beating down fellow TUF 14 fighter Louis Gaudinot.
Bedford looked exceptional, using his long reach, power and killer instinct on the ground to absolutely dominate his opponent.
Bedford looked more polished than before, and with Dodson's quick victory over a hungry Dillashaw, these two guys could duke it out once again.
Nick Pace is currently riding a two-fight losing streak with those defeats coming against Miguel Angel Torres and Ivan Menjivar.
Pace is a well-rounded 24-year-old looking to get back into the thick of things at 135 lbs.
A matchup with Pace could allow John Dodson to showcase more of his arsenal, especially his wrestling.
If Dodson were able to dismantle Pace with a deciding victory, it could launch him into consideration for a fight with a top-10 bantamweight, such as the previously mentioned Torres.
Scott "Young Guns" Jorgensen
Scott Jorgensen is one of the most skilled veterans at the bantamweight level, so it's possible that John Dodson may have to win one or two more fights before he takes on a guy of this caliber.
Jorgensen is an outstanding wrestler who boasts great conditioning and aggressive striking, so Dodson would clearly have his work cut out for him.
However, both guys are two of the smaller and more compact athletes in the division (think 5'3" and 5'4"), which is something that could provide instant fireworks.
If the UFC lets Dodson get his feet wet very early into his Octagon career, a victory over Jorgensen is arguably the best-case scenario for the TUF 14 winner, besides winning the bantamweight title of course.
Alex "Extremo" Soto
Despite recently being on the wrong end of a Michael McDonald KO, which was arguably the sickest KO of the year, Alex Soto is seriously talented.
He's a very wild striker, which is something that would play directly into John Dodson's strengths, which include powerful short punches and quick footwork.
Fighting Soto would be a great opportunity for Dodson to make a name for himself by taking out another hungry bantamweight.
Let's hope Soto isn't still regrouping from that McDonald uppercut because an early-2012 bout could be in line for these two prospects.
Alex "Bruce Leeroy" Caceres
Similar to John Dodson, Alex Caceres came onto the scene after testing the waters on "The Ultimate Fighter."
Caceres didn't win the whole show, but he recently secured a unanimous decision victory over Cole Escovedo at UFC on FOX via great striking.
A fight between these two natural athletes would most certainly be a stand-up contest, as Caceres possesses some of the most unorthodox striking in the division and Dodson boasts incredible power.
However, Caceres is currently slated to take on Edwin Figueroa at UFC 143, so a match with Dodson may not come until mid-2012.
Jeff "Big Frog" Curran
Jeff Curran is a big-time name at 135 lbs.
If John Dodson was to take on Curran and beat him, adding a guy of his caliber would supplant the TUF 14 winner as a top-15 UFC bantamweight.
Curran's resume include: Matt Serra, Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Mike Brown and Scott Jorgensen.
Depending on how the UFC wants to use Dodson, a fight against Curran could be in the works considering "Big Frog" has dropped four of his last five fights.
It would be a true test, but isn't that what a TUF winner should want?
Edwin "El Feroz" Figueroa
As previously mentioned, Edwin Figueroa is currently scheduled to fight Alex Caceres at UFC 143 in February.
The winner of that fight could end up facing John Dodson if in fact the 27-year-old wins his next bout.
Figueroa may be an easier fight for Dodson considering he's a little more orthodox than Caceres.
But besides that, either one of these guys would prove worthy adversaries for Dodson and offer a great chance to move up the bantamweight ranks.
Despite his last name, Ken Stone is no stepping stone.
He has already fought elite bantamweights such as Scott Jorgensen and Eddie Wineland, so it's possible that John Dodson may want to fight somebody else before he touches gloves with Stone.
However, Stone would be more than willing to stand and bang with Dodson, which is something that would benefit the 5'3" TUF winner by allowing him to land some inside bombs.
With that said, the chin of Stone may not be enough to ward off Dodson inside the ring, but his resume may be too impressive to warrant an instant matchup.
Time will tell.
Chris "Kamikaze" Cariaso
Chris Cariaso may be the best fight for John Dodson and the UFC.
Cariaso is a well-established Muay Thai striker within the bantamweight division, currently sporting a 2-1 record in the UFC (12-3 overall).
The 30-year-old's most recent loss came at the hands of the presumably elite Michael McDonald, which is something that's happening to a lot of 135 lb. fighters as of late.
Regardless, Cariaso's victory over Vaughan Lee could put him in line to face Dodson, which is a very promotional fight for the UFC.
The problem for Dodson in this fight would be trying to constantly defend Cariaso's head kicks.
I honestly think John Dodson can hold his own against the very talented Eddie Wineland, but that's for the UFC to decide.
Matching the TUF 14 winner against a top contender like Wineland could allow Dodson to instantly rank among the top bantamweight fighters in the UFC, but it could also be like throwing a lamb to a lion.
Despite his impressive victory Saturday, Dodson is relatively unproven against top-notch mixed martial artists, especially someone like Wineland who has taken on some of the best 135 lb. fighters in the world.
However, considering the 27-year-old Wineland was unable to capture victories over Joseph Benavidez and Urijah Faber, the UFC could ultimately decide to schedule this fight when, or if, Dodson is able to win one or two more fights.
Heading into 2012, this is easily a fight to look for because besides the four-inch difference, Dodson and Wineland possess similar techniques and abilities.