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T.J. Dillashaw thinks Conor McGregor imitators, like Dominick Cruz, are ‘getting old’

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T.J. Dillashaw is not only the current UFC bantamweight champion; he’s one of the best mixed martial artists in the world.

In just five and a half years, Dillashaw has climbed to the top of the mountain in the 135 lb weight class thanks to his impressive wrestling ability (he qualified for the NCAA D1 tournament three times during his time at Fullerton State) and the guidance of his striking coach Duane Ludwig.

Currently there are only three fighters who are ranked higher than Dillashaw in the promotion’s pound-for-pound rankings: Jon Jones, Demetrious Johnson, and Conor McGregor.

So yeah the 29-year old from the small town of Sonora, California has earned the right to run his mouth about the amount of success he’s had.

But don’t expect him to.

You see Dillashaw doesn’t live in the universe that McGregor resides in. While McGregor will use press conferences to talk about custom-made suits, watches, and the panties his opponents’ wife may wear in order to drum up interest about his next fight, Dillashaw has been forced to listen to his opponents complain about his lack of desire to trade insults.

Dominick Cruz, who is set to challenge Dillashaw for his bantamweight championship on Sunday, actually asked T.J. why he doesn’t feel the need to talk about his opponents or how great he is during a face-to-face sit down.

The champ’s answer: “‘Cause I don’t want to”

Dillashaw has no desire to change the person that he is because he doesn’t want a fake persona to define his run at the top.

“I want you to remember me for my fights, not because of what I’m talking about and the drama I’m creating.” Dillashaw told NBC Sports. “I want you to remember me because of my great performances. I want to be able to look back at my career and see that, instead of being a reality TV star.”

With the rapid amount of attention McGregor has received over the last 12 months, it makes sense for more fighters to try and follow his path to success, but it’s a dangerous game to play because not everyone is cut out to have a persona that hilariously degrades his or her opponent on the microphone.

Cruz has certainly upped the amount of verbal jabs he’s thrown at Dillashaw before they square off at the TD Garden in Boston, but the champ thinks this it is an act of desperation by his opponent.

“It looks out of character,” Dillashaw said, “like you’re trying too hard, so you end up saying some ridiculously outlandish stuff and I feel like that’s what happening to him. I’m not going to play the game or let him get under my skin. He’s just trying to do that to draw some attention towards himself.”

“He’s trying to stay relevant because he hasn’t fought that much in the last four years,” Dillashaw added. “He’s trying to pump himself up with a bunch of outlandish talking and he’s kind of being a hypocrite as well. He’s not making much sense with what he’s doing. It’s kind of out of character for him.”

But it doesn’t seem like the trend of elevated belittlement is going to go away any time soon in the UFC, especially with the amount of money McGregor is generating. McGregor’s victory over Chad Mendes at UFC 189 had over one million PPV buys and his 13-second KO of Jose Aldo at UFC 194 could wind up as the second highest grossing PPV in company history when the numbers are finally released.

There is a direct correlation between McGregor running his mouth and over a million people forking over $50-$60 to watch him fight. He’s become the sport’s biggest male star by becoming an entertainer on the microphone and in the cage, so it’s easy to see why fighters would want to try and copy his blueprint, even if it means changing their personality outside of the octagon.

“I think only so many people can do what McGregor does. McGregor is really good at what he does and it works for him,” Dillashaw told me, “but for people to change who they are to kind of be that type of person, it doesn’t really work.”

Whether it works or not, it seems like the UFC is about to enter a world where there are carbon copies of McGregor’s road to success and excess and it’s something that Dillashaw is very worried about.

“With more people trying to talk that way, it’s going to make it too fake, too WWE. Eventually it’s going to get old. I think it’s already starting to get old.”

It’s a trend that Dillashaw will have to deal with going forward, but he has the ability to thrive in this world because he doesn’t feel the pressure to verbally assault his opponent, so he’s more likely to stand out in the landfill of trash talk.

“By being respectful and acting true to my colors, my personality will seem unique in the long run if guys continue to act like this.”

There is a sense of pride that you can hear in Dillashaw’s voice when he talks about the legacy that he wants to leave. He wants to make sure that every time he steps into the octagon, he’s putting on the best performance he possibly can for the fans, which means he doesn’t have time to worry about stringing together a series of insults.

“Hopefully people will want to watch me fight because I’m no bullshit,” Dillashaw said. “I just step in there and fight.”

On Sunday Dillashaw has the chance to add another victory to his impressive resume and you can bet he’ll let his fists do the talking.

Twitter: @ScottDargis

Miocic the betting favorite against dos Santos on the UFC 211 odds

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Stipe Miocic lost his previous fight against Junior dos Santos, which gives him a point to prove in the co-main event at UFC 211 on Saturday.

Miocic is listed as the -140 favorite against dos Santos, the +110 underdog, in their UFC heavyweight betting matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The title fight will cap off the card at American Airlines Center in Dallas.

The two went the distance in December 2014, but bettors should keep in mind that dos Santos needed nearly-perfect takedown defense to get the win by decision. Miocic will be conceding some quickness, but his well-honed grappling and ground-and-pound technique give him an excellent chance of avenging that defeat.

Miocic, being the champion instead of the challenger, might also have the psychological edge as the champion; he can pick his spots and avoid the inherent risk of a slugfest with an excellent technical fighter.

In the co-main event, reigning women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk is a -185 favorite on the UFC 211 betting lines against Jessica Andrade (+150). There’s a distinct possibility of this being a mostly stand-up fight, which would work in favor of Jedrzejczyk, who is taller and has the reach advantage against Andrade.

Jedrzejczyk’s penchant for pace and volume also means she’ll get tougher as a fight progresses. If Andrade is to win, it will likely have to be through a quick submission.

Jorge Masdival (-130) is a slight favorite against Demian Maia (even money) in a welterweight bout. Masdival is a superb striker and his recent TKO victories against Donald Cerrone and Jake Ellenberger put those skills on full display. However, Maia, with his aptitude for Brazilian jiu-jitsu, can take that away from an opponent, as he’s won six matches in a row. The ageless Brazilian has enough in the tank to go five rounds.

Frankie Edgar (-140) is favored against Yair Rodriguez (+110) in a featherweight match. The lines might reflect the boundless respect that Edgar commands among fight aficionados, but both the height (five inches to Rodriguez) and age (Rodriguez is 11 years younger) differences might be daunting for Edgar. Rodriguez’s reach advantage might negate the edge Edgar has in boxing and wrestling. Rodriguez is on an eight-match win streak, with four of his last six wins having come by decision.

Krzystof Jotko (-160) is the favorite against David Branch (+130) in a middleweight tilt that was bumped up due to a withdrawal. Jotko is 6-1 in the UFC. While his only loss was by submission, his most recent win against Thale Leites saw him display excellent sufficient defense, which might be a good omen in a matchup against a grappler such as Branch.

Underdogs have won in 40 of 84 fights, or 49 per cent, so far this year in the UFC.

 

UFC 2010 odds: Cormier slight underdog vs. Johnson on betting lines

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The notion that a knockout artist is generally more appealing than a wrestler in the UFC might play into the shifting odds for the co-main event for UFC 210.

Although he lost in their first light heavyweight title bout, Anthony (Rumble) Johnson has shifted to being the -125 favorite against -105 slight underdog Daniel Cormier, the reigning champion, at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Their rematch will cap off the card  at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York on Saturday.

Cormier opened as a -120 favorite with Johnson at -110, but the latter, as one of the hardest hitters in the Octagon, constitutes the classic irresistible force. Johnson only needs one great shot to decide a fight and the law of averages would dictate that the more he sees of Cormier, the better his chance to land it.

That said, Cormier can get the fight to the mat and to the cage and force Johnson to expend a great amount of his energy getting free.

The co-main event is a veritable toss-up, with Gegard Mousasi listed at -120 on the UFC 210 betting lines against ex-middleweight champ Chris Weidman, who has a price of -110. The lines might be a bit reputation-based, but Mousasi has won four consecutive fights whereas Weidman has lost his last two. Mousasi also has a methodical approach that should serve to keep him out of trouble against Weidman, who in both of his losses fatigued when he wasn’t able to dominate early.

Welterweight Patrick Côté is a -160 favorite against +130 underdog Thiago Alves, who’s something of an enigma due to a 17-month layoff. Both prefer the standup game, but the match might turn on who uses his wrestling effectively, and that’s more likely to be the bigger Côté. Alves, at age 33, still has the speed to deliver devastating kicks.

Coming off a loss in his last bout, lightweight Will Brooks is a -240 favorite against +190 underdog Charles Oliveira. While Oliveira’s failures to make weight as a featherweight are well documented, Brooks has had the strength to go up a weight class to welterweight. The favorite should have a wrestling and strength advantage that will serve to negate the aggression of Oliviera, who is a good striker.

Women’s strawweight grappler Cynthia Calvillo is a -270 favorite against +210 underdog Pearl Gonzalez, who is making her UFC debut. Calvillo, who also won at UFC 209, is a rising prospect who has finished three of her four opponents by submission since turning pro. The 30-year-old Gonzalez’s best qualities are her wrestling and submission game. With Calvillo’s relative inexperience, this bout has upset potential.

Through the first three months of the year, there were 27 underdog victories in 87 UFC bouts, or 31 percent, according to OddsShark.com. Underdogs won at a 36.8 percent rate in 2016 and 38.5 percent in 2017, so one should expect the current rate to rise over the course of the year.