By AMBER PAPPE
For The Union Democrat
LAS VEGAS—After months of training, sacrifice and focus, 20 fighters battled at The Ultimate Fighter Season 14 finale on Saturday.
Looking to realize a dream, Angels Camp native TJ Dillashaw faced John Dodson on the bantamweight main card.
For the heavily-favored Dillashaw, who beat Matt Jaggers, Roland Delorme and Dustin Pague to earn a spot in the finals, the finale did not go as planned.
Round 1 opened quickly with a Dillashaw kick. The compact Dodson responded with a left hand, but did no damage.
The two agile fighters continued trading kicks. Just shy of 2:00 in, Dodson landed a left hook that took Dillashaw to the ground.
To the surprise of many, referee Herb Dean stepped in and stopped the fight at 1:54 of the first round, declaring Dodson, a product of Greg Jackson MMA in Albuquerque, NM, the winner via technical knockout. It was Dillashaw’s first career loss.
“Dodson saw the right hand coming,” said Dillashaw. “I probably loaded it a little too much, which I saw in the replay, and he just caught me right behind the ear with a little slap.”
Though the hit “shook him a little bit,” Dillashaw was working for a single leg when the fight was called.
“I just wish I’d had the chance to actually show what I can do and [the ref] had let the fight go on,” Dillashaw said of the quick stoppage. “I should have had the chance to fight through it. I’m in good shape, and I can push through those things. They stopped the fight early in my opinion, but stuff happens.”
The fans clearly agreed with Dillashaw and his Team Alpha Male corner as the crowd roared its disapproval.
Frustrated that he was not allowed to display the full-range of his talent, Dillashaw was gracious in defeat.
“Congratulations to Dodson,” he said. “He’s a fast kid. I knew he was going to come out and bring it.”
Dillashaw’s dream does not die with the loss. The 25-year-old has trained in MMA for less than two years and has a bright future in the sport.
“We had four great fighters in the finals,” said UFC president Dana White. “I was impressed with everybody.”
After taking some time off, Dillashaw will head back to his routine of training, eating, sleeping and thinking like a champion as he waits for his next challenge.
“I need to move forward and focus on getting another fight as soon possible,” said Dillashaw.
In other action, 145-pounders Diego Brandao and Dennis Bermudez challenged for the featherweight title, with Brandao grabbing the submission victory at 4:51 of Round 1. In the final fight of the night, coaches Jason “Mayhem” Miller and Michael Bisping clashed.
Clearly the crowd favorite, Miller could not keep pace with Bisping and lost via TKO at 3:34 in the third round.