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TJ Dillashaw (13-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 29 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 68″
  • Last Fight: TKO Renan Barao (7-25-15)
  • Camp: Elevation Fight Team (Denver, CO)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   UFC Bantamweight Champion
+   TUF 14 Finalist
+   3x NCAA Qualifier (Wrestling)
+   6 KO victories
+   4 first round finishes
+   Effectively shifts stances
^   Intelligently adjust to opponent
+   Favors overhands & uppercuts
+   Dangerous head/body kicks from Southpaw
^   Usually setup off left crosses
+   Active check right/jab
^   Uses to pull & return
+   100% Takedown defense rate
+   Excellent scrambler/back-taker
+/-Low lead hands standing
^   Heavily reliant on headmovement
+/-Willingness to play in counter-range


Dominick Cruz (20-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 30 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 68″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Takeya Mizugaki (9-27-14)
  • Camp: Alliance MMA (San Diego, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ *Former UFC Bantamweight Champion
+   WEC Bantamweight Title
+   Wrestling Base/Experience
+   7 KO victories
+   5 first round finishes
+   Consistent speed & stamina
+   Excellent distance management
^   Constantly moves & feints
+   Utilizes “Darts” & “Crouches”
^   Allows misdirection/directional changes
+   Solid knee-tap takedowns
^   Well-timed penetrations & executions
+   Intelligent & effective scrambler
+   Accurate R. crosses & counter hooks
+/-Low handed standing guard
^   Relies on head/overall movement
+   Great in-fight instincts/IQ


In a technical maelstrom of mixed martial arts potential, two different stories of unbeaten Champions will finally come to fruition as TJ Dillashaw meets Dominick Cruz. Not only are their stories very different, but I’m of the minority who feel their styles are also different as I explain why that is and how it could impact the possibilities of this fight. Let me first start off my citing and thanking my sources in researching this match, as Luke Thomas & BJJ Scouts’s video “Dominick Cruz Study Part 2” we’re very helpful in not just understanding the Former Champion’s style, but more importantly demonstrating the effectiveness in which he utilizes Crouches & Darts. Also, Jack Slack’s article “The Art of Shifting” was very insightful into the success of the current Champion TJ Dillashaw. I highly recommend you check out these articles as not only will it help you understand the breakdown of this fight, but it will further expand your overall knowledge & understanding of striking. Now that the pleasantries are aside, allow me to present my take on how each man’s technical particulars will fit into this puzzle of footwork & evolution.

Like many natural Orthodox fighters who switch to Southpaw, TJ Dillashaw will conduct traffic largely off of his right hand. Setting up left crosses & power kicks from Southpaw or favoring his hard uppercuts & overhands from Orthodox, it’s Dillashaw’s check right hand/jab that’s most impressive and a key to his offense. Using it to off-beat opponents offensive rhythms, TJ will add to the disarray by incorporating subtle but effective shifts that change the stance and even angle of attack. As much as I could pontificate on the shifting brilliance & technical progression of TJ, it’s his measured aggressive pacing that brings everything togethers-as I’ll explain. If you listen to Dillashaw’s corner, you’ll often hear head coach Duane Ludwig heavily emphasizing TJ to “TouchPullReturn“.

“Pulling & Returning” is a Boxing term that refers to a general method of drawing out attacks in order to return offense of your own. Let’s dive into how TJ translates this method to better understand possible applications(or implications) of his style in this fight. Touch: As previously stated, TJ wields a quick right hand(Darting from Orthodox or more typically conducting from Southpaw) that he uses to establish his range or setup a perceived range to his opponent. Pull: After initiating contact in hopes of rebuttal, Dillashaw will draw or even shift back in order to avoid the opposing counters with intent to set up counters of his own. Return: Once avoiding the counter attack, TJ will return an even heavier wave of offense assuming he’s made the correct angles & anticipations. Another fighter who utilizes Shifts to execute his Pull & Returns is-yes, Dominick Cruz.

However, Dominick does so in a more lateral fashion as he’ll heavily lean on “Darts” & “Crouches” to change direction and overall offensive terms as opposed to the Champions strongly linear approach(in regards to his attack). Though TJ may have a slight speed & aggression edge stylistically(which could be prove key), I see Cruz as having an edge in overall footwork as he more safely manages distance while showing & applying more lateral based options. Where I see his style being specifically effective, is the manner in which he exits exchanges while still deceptively staying in-range to counter. Using a Shifting style that in traditional Martial Arts is referred to as “Opening the Gate“, Cruz will swing his lead foot back(often from a Crouch) in order to change angles and present a false perception of range to his opposition. Often exiting to his right, Dominick will tac on accurate counter hooks that I feel will be his best weapon against TJ.

Hold on, won’t moving to the right put Cruz directly in line with Dillashaw’s left head kicks & crosses? -not necessarily. As stated above, from TJ’s left sided show-closers to his “Touch-Pull-Return” methods, his offense is largely predicated off the right hand. If Dominick can effectively navigate this through his movement, he may be able to negate a surprising amount of the Champions offense. I’ll spare you my ground predictions not out of laziness, but as I honestly don’t see much time being spent there. I feel Cruz has more motive & ability to take the fight to the floor, but Dillashaw’s 100% takedown defense rate coupled with his incredible ability to scramble will likely keep this war topside.

I’m a huge fan of the evolution of TJ Dillashaw’s style under Duane Ludwig and wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see intelligent adjustments made to dominate “The Dominator“. Ultimately however, TJ’s shown linear attacks & arguable over-willingness to trade has led him to take more damage(even in dominant victories) than I’m comfortable with. Despite Dominick not carrying your classic “One-shot Knockout Power”, I feel his style shows to be the more efficient fishing pole in regards to drawing bites and more importantly conducting action. With the obvious intangibles of Cruz’s time off & physical health, I strongly caution any serious plays here. Instead, enjoy what hopefully is a treat of the sports two most technical fighters.

Official Pick: Cruz – Decision

Official Outcome: Cruz – Split Decision


Anthony Pettis (18-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 29 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Rafael Dos Anjos (3-14-15)
  • Camp: Roufusport (Milwaukee, WI)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC Lightweight Champion
+   WEC Lightweight Title
+   Black Belt Tae Kwon Do
+   12 first round finishes
+   9 TKO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   Active Guard/Bottom game
+   Effective in scrambles
+   Improved wrestling/TD defense
+   Excellent feint utilization
^   Intelligently reads & reacts
+   Accurate shot selection
+   Dangerous kicking variety
^   Hard body kicks
+/-Plays along the outside
–    Struggles w/pressure against fence


Eddie Alvarez (26-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 31 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: SD win / Gilbert Melendez (6-13-15)
  • Camp: Blackzilians (Florida/Philly)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Former Belabor Lightweight Champion
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   16 TKO victories
+   13 first round finishes
+   5 Submission wins
+   Good  cardio & conditioning
^   Excellent recoverability
+   Underrated takedown ability
+   Accurate right hand/uppercut
^   Often setup w/ “Darts” or “Crouches”
+   Quick shifting lateral footwork
+/-Heavily reliant on headmovement
–    Low hand position/strike retraction
^   Counter availabilities
–    Lacking leg checks/defense
–    Dropped or shown hurt in last 8/10 fights


In an intriguing styles matchup, Boston’s Co-main event features two of the most exciting championship level Ligthweights as Anthony “Showtime” Pettis takes on “The Underground King” Eddie Alvarez. Coming off a devastating Title loss in which he was hurt early & often, it will be interesting to see how Pettis approaches this fight as I’m sure he’s hungry for redemption. Though not coming off a loss himself, this match will be equally important for Alvarez who’s had an adverse go of things in his past few fights/years of his career(suffered from in-activity between ’12-’15). Never the less, I suspect both men to come in top form as I conducted my usual in-fight studies to break this one down.

Possessing more than a solid kicking game, Eddie Alvarez is most known for his active Boxing based attacks. With his right hand being his most accurate & effective weapon, Eddie often enters with it off a “Dart” or setups the right uppercut from a “Crouch“. Utilizing excellent lateral footwork, Alvarez will Shift his position by stepping into an opposing stance in order to open up effective angles of attack. Though possessing good head movement, Eddie will employ this style with generally low hands(especially off his strike retraction). This, coupled with his signature aggression, has left Eddie consistently open to counters as he tends to hang out longer than he needs to offensively. With right hands being the usual culprit in that situation, he’ll need to mind the accurate counter-right of Pettis.

Though Anthony has underrated Boxing abilities, leaning on his dangerous kicking variety should serve him best in this fight. Despite Alvarez making a career of exciting fights, he’s actually faced a small sample size of effective “kickers” in MMA. Though his said lateral shifts can make him hard to target, we saw Eddie reluctantly check or defend kicks when exchanging with skilled kickers like Donald Cerrone or Katsunori Kikuno. Anthony’s deceptive but deadly head kicks could also help corral(or even catch) Alvarez as he attempts his lateral shifts & head movements. This technique theory of kicking to deter head movement is often referred to by Hall-of-Famer Pat Miletich in his commentary and could play a factor in this fight.

Make no mistake, as impressive as Anthony’s kicks may be, it’s his ability to process reactions & setup precision shots off feints that’s most spectacular. Although I give Alvarez a movement advantage standing, Pettis has the appropriate tools to equalize the playing field. I feel Eddie’s underrated takedown game is his best chance for success and a Key Factor in this matchup. Though Anthony has made strides in his Wrestling, we’ve seen him struggle with grappling pressure against the fence(which just so happens to be where Alvarez is most effective at corralling fighters). Eddie could ultimately use this pressure to takedown or at the very least stifle the Former Champion who tends to circle in this outside area. But with Alvarez being dropped or shown hurt in 8 of his last 10 fights, I’m not sure I like his chances against the dangerous attack variety of Pettis.

Official Pick: Pettis – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: Alvarez – Split Decision.


Travis Browne (17-3-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’7″ Age: 33 Weight: 236 lbs Reach: 79″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Andrei Arlovski (5-23-15)
  • Camp:Glendale Fight Club (california)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Purple Belt BJJ
+   13 KO victories
+   13 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Solid kicking variety
+   Improved Boxing
+   Deadly elbows in close
+   Underrated ground skills
–    Slightly low hands standing
^   Especially upon retreating
+/-Gets hit – recovers well


Matt Mitrione (9-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 37 Weight: 255 lbs Reach: 82″
  • Last Fight: Submission loss / Ben Rothwell (6-6-15)
  • Camp: Blackzilians MMA (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 10 Alum
+   Former NFL Pro Athlete
+   8 KO victories
+   5 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Excellent Athleticism
^   Closes distance quickly
+   Dangerous left hand
+   Deceptive right hook
+   Hard left power kick
–    Slightly low hands standing
^   Especially on strike retraction


In a fun showdown of Heavyweight strikers, Travis Browne faces off against Matt Mitrione. For many reasons Travis comes into this fight as an on-paper favorite, whether it’s his shown resume of finishes or his slightly more well rounded skill-set. That said, I feel based on each’s man shown record/want to stand & trade, this match will ultimately be decided striking. As both fighters carry knockout power, I feel the key factors standing will be footwork and defense. Browne came on to scene drawing attention for his size and ability to move, but has since refined his striking with his most recent relocation to the Glendale Fight Club.

Since making a concerted effort to clean up his Boxing, we’ve seen improvements on Browne’s standing guard & striking fundamentals. Now I feel this was an overall positive adjustment to his game, as this would give balance to his sporadic movements & shot selections. However, I feel this matchup in particular would better suit Travis’s previous sporadic stylings. Mitrione may be culpable to single-dimension criticisms, but none the less has intelligently worked hard to improve & support this part of his game. Calling Matt a natural athlete would be an understatement, as the former NFL Pro has translated his abilities into unbelievable in-cage speed, power, and footwork. It’s those key intangibles of speed & movement that can give Travis trouble should he come out in his more “plotting” Boxing stance.

Despite each man’s striking improvements, they still share the same criticism of largely single-shot attempts(which again make me lean toward the fighter with more efficient movement & timing). With Mitrione being a confident guy who’s hard to hurt, I feel Browne will have to either take this away by hurting him early, or disrupt his movement game by going back to his kick heavy approach. If Travis relies too heavily on his jab or timing a naked right hand, he could have trouble establishing his range given Matt’s Southpaw stance & footwork. Both men share a history under coach Neil Melanson and carry underrated ground skills. However, I feel Travis has shown to be more proficient & active in that category and could possibly sway this fight if he chooses to implement it.

Working closely with another one of the sports best grappling coaches Ricky Lundell, It will be interesting to see what strategy is employed as I feel Browne has a ground advantage(Although keeping Mitrione grounded can be harder than grounding him). This is one of those matches where I came in giving the edge to one man, only to end up siding with the other upon tape review. In fact, this fight is so close that if it took place in the small cage I’d likely have a different pick. However, this bout will contest in the large Octagon which caters more toward Mitrione’s conduction of offense and the terms it happens on.

Official Pick: Mitrione – Inside the Distance

Official Outcome: Brown – Inside the Distance.


Ross Pearson (18-9)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 31 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Paul Felder (9-5-15)
  • Camp: Alliance MMA (San Diego, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 9 Lightweight Winner
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Black Belt Tae Kwon Do
+   Brown Belt Judo
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   6 first round finishes
+   7 KO victories
+   5 Submission wins
+   KO power
+   Good feints & head movement
^   Looks to slip & counter
+   Accurate left hook
+   Improved takedown defense
+   Shows get-up initiative & technique
+   Excellent overall movement
+/-Dips head heavily to his right


Francisco Trinaldo (18-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 37 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Chad Laprise (8-23-15)
  • Camp: Evolucao (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF Brazil Alum
+   Jungle Fight Lightweight Title
+   Multiple Kickboxing Accolades
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   8 first round finishes
+   6 KO victories
+   5 Submission wins
+   KO power
+   Dangerous left hand
+   Underrated takedown ability
^   Counters off kick catches
+   Effective ground striker
+   Improved striking & defense
+   Good chin/Physically durable
+   Strong in clinch & on top
–    Gas tank bares watching


Kicking off main card festivities in Boston, the UFC will once again look to it’s Lightweight Division where we’ll get a closer look at quietly rising contenders Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson & Francisco “Massaranduba” Trinaldo. Pearson in my opinion is one of the best and most underrated fighters to come out of England. A UFC veteran who hasn’t shied from traveling, learning, and growing as a martial artist, Ross maintains a fairly straight forward approach. Using improved footwork & counter-wreslting, Pearson will look to manage range while trying to establish his own. Usually taking a round or so to do this, he’ll need to be on point against the dangerous fast starting Trinaldo.

Don’t let the age of Francisco Trinaldo fool you, he’s a man who’s fought adversity his entire life and still shows fight-to-fight improvements despite this stage of his career. His physical strength & heart alone has kept him in fights, got him out of bad spots, and even won him close decisions. Though Massaranduba comes from a Kickboxing base(carrying multiple Titles), I feel his best chances against the Englishmen will be by utilizing his grinding clinch & wrestling game. Despite Pearson’s shown counter wrestling improvements(particularly his get-up initiatives to turtle out and stand), we’ve seem him struggle against superior grapplers who deny him space to operate. Now I’m honestly not sure if Trinaldo is a superior grappler in any category against Ross, but this is something worthy of noting coming into this fight. Even if Francisco fails to keep Pearson grounded, his relentless engagements will still make Ross work and possibly stifle his offensive eagerness.

As stated in his pre-fight interviews, I see Pearson looking to avoid this and counter punch his way to a victory. As a justified favorite coming into this match, Ross earns that listing due to his shown striking prowess as he’s outstruck 12 of his 14 opponents in the UFC’s Lightweight Division. Over Pearson’s years spent with Alliance MMA he’s seemingly picked up some solid footwork habits from his stablemate Dominick Cruz. Though not utilizing the same footwork or Dart-like penetrations, Pearson does heavily rely on The Crouch as shown beautifully through “BJJ Scout: Dominick Cruz Study Part 1“(@BJJScout). Heavily dipping to his right, Ross will set into The Crouch position but won’t “open the gate”(stepping back with his left into a Southpaw stance in order to open more options).

Instead, Ross will load his right uppercut as he’ll generally start his counters by throwing this to the body or head(which also will naturally set up his accurate left hook from the blind side). Though I give Pearson the technical edge standing, he’ll have to be most careful here as dipping heavily right will put him in line with Trinaldo’s devastating left hand. Though the oddsmakers are seemingly giving Francisco more respect than usual, this fight is still probably a lot closer than what’s on paper. I’m self admittedly a big fan of Pearson’s style as I came into this one leaning toward him. But after watching film on both men I feel there are more paths to victory for Trinaldo who’s never been stopped and seldom seen hurt. I see those key intangibles keeping him in this fight as Massaranduba’s heart, power, and improvements always seem to make him a valuable dog play.


Official Pick: Trinaldo – Decision

Official Outcome: Trinaldo – Decision

Preliminary Card Predictions

  • Saunders def. Cote
  • Wade def. Baghdad
  • Herman def. Boetsch
  • Blanco def. Sanders
  • Felder def. Cruickshank
  • Latifi def. O’Connell
  • Rosa def. Mendes
  • Font def. Gomez
  • Mutapcic def. Barroso

Recommended Plays

Pieces for your parlay:

-Anthony Pettis
-Paul Felder
-Chris Wade

Props worth looking at:

-Anthony Pettis – Inside the distance
-Matt Mitrione- by KO/TKO
-Paul Felder – by Decision

Fights to avoid:

-Ross Pearson vs Francisco Trinaldo
-Rob Font vs Joey Gomez
-Alir Latifi vs Sean O’Connell

Fantasy MMA Picks

High Tier Picks:

-TJ Dillashaw
-Anthony Pettis
-Maximo Blanco

Low Tier Picks:

-Dominic Cruz
-Matt Mitrione
-Francisco Trinaldo

For the complete analysis of future & past UFC events visit MixedMartialAnalyst.com and for future breakdowns & your latest in world-wide MMA news, stay tuned & follow @MMALatestnws MMALatestNews.com

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