Grant “KGD” Dawson is a 28-year-old fighter who seems to have found his home in the 155-pound division after bouncing back and forth between 145 and 155. Dawson, following a tbird-round submission victory, remains undefeated in the UFC. He has a UFC record of 6-0-1, with four of his six wins coming inside the distance.
Mark O. “The Olympian” Madsen is a full decade older than Dawson and is also undefeated in the UFC. Since joining the UFC after an illustrious Olympic wrestling career, Madsen is 4-0, with three of his four wins coming by decision.
Dawson opened around a 2:1 favorite and has grown a bit since the opening line.
Dawson’s career is a tale of trial and error that has eventually resulted in success and reliability. Early in his career, Dawson fought at featherweight. The weight cut was tough, and his cardio was negatively impacted, often gassing out in the final round. But, the lower weight class allowed Dawson to be the bigger man in the cage and more easily implement his wrestling approach. Still, though, the cardio was a concern. The move up to 155 has been a benefit for his cardio, even finishing two fights in the final minutes of round 3. But, he no longer has the size advantage he was once used to. Now that 155 seems to be his permanent home, handicapping Dawson is a bit simpler.
He is a high-level wrestler and grappler who intelligently shoots takedowns and is able to hold top position while still transitioning on the mat. His takedowns aren’t as successful in the higher weight class because he can’t rely on brute strength, but his wrestling strategy has still proven successful because he has the cardio to continue to push the pressure given an easier weight cut. On the feet, Dawson is a poor striker. He tends to throw naked leg kicks and a telegraphed overhand right that most UFC-caliber strikers evade with ease. When he faces a competent striker, Dawson is a liability as long as the fight stays standing. But, as soon as the fight hits the mat, he’s able to often ride out the rounds, finish a fight with ground and pound, or seamlessly transition to the back for a rear-naked choke.
Madsen’s gameplan, despite being ten years older and coming from a Greco-Roman wrestling background, is very similar to Dawson’s. Madsen is a basic striker on the feet, with slow hands and a hittable chin, but at least he is able to string a few strikes together for a combination. Just like Dawson, though, Madsen’s focus in the octagon is to wrestle. He was a silver medalist in the 2016 games for Greco-Roman wrestling. Greco-Roman wrestling, unlike freestyle wrestling, forbids holds below the waist. This restriction places a higher emphasis on throws, much like in Judo. Madsen’s background makes for a unique wrestling style in the octagon. Most freestyle wrestlers time their takedown attempts when their opponent is in space and can’t use the cage as a backstop to remain standing.
Madsen, however, wants to pressure his opponent to the cage where they can clinch. From here, just like Rousey’s famous Judo throws, Madsen looks to wrap his hands behind his opponent’s back, shift his weight, and throw his opponent to the mat. The other noticeable MMA difference between Madsen and a freestyle wrestler is once he gets an opponent down, he does not hold top pressure well, and opponents are often able to stand up. Instead of holding position, Madsen will sloppily look for ground and pound. Then, if an opponent gets back up, Madsen looks to recreate the clinch and look for another throw. Interestingly, and likely due to his age, Madsen has gassed out in recent fights. So, instead of landing throw takedowns at the end of round 2 and all of round 3, Madsen resorts to clinch striking, which makes rounds much closer in the judges’ eyes.
Madsen won a silver medal at the highest level of Greco-Roman wrestling, then came into the UFC and continued his winning ways. So, him finding a way to win is within the realm of possibility. However, Dawson’s own relentless wrestling will likely cause Madsen issues and not allow Madsen to create that advantageous clinch as easily. Even if Madsen lands a takedown, his inability to hold position and Dawson’s impressive grappling combine to create a dangerous environment for “The Olympian.”
If the fight stays standing, something we all hope doesn’t happen, both men have basic striking, and the exchanges will likely be even. I like Dawson’s edge in youth, strength, ability to scramble and grapple, and more MMA-style wrestling to give him the nod here. A decision is the most likely outcome, but Madsen hasn’t had to defend from his back against a skilled grappler before, so a finish wouldn’t surprise me. I prefer Dawson in parlays, but as a straight play, I’ll side with a grinding decision win.
Pick: Dawson to win by decision (bet now at MyBookie)