SPORTS

Canadian Gagnon, Dollaway undeterred by underdog status at UFC Brazil show

12/19/2014 12:16 EST | Updated 02/18/2015 05:59 EST
Canadian bantamweight Mitch Gagnon looks to prove people wrong Saturday night in Brazil. So does American middleweight C.B. (The Doberman) Dollaway.

Both are heavy underdogs in the marquee bouts of the UFC Fight Night card in Barueri.

The UFC lists former light-heavyweight champion Lyoto (The Dragon) Machida, currently ranked No. 4 among 185-pound contenders, as more than a 6-1 favourite to beat No. 10 Dollaway in the main event at the Jose Correa Arena.

"I've been the underdog in my last five fights," said an unconcerned Dollaway, who won four of those with the fifth a controversial split decision loss to Tim Boetsch.

Renan Barao, the No. 1 contender and former champion at 135 pounds, is more than a 7-1 favourite to defeat No. 14 Gagnon, in the co-main event. Some bookies have Barao a 10-1 favourite.

Gagnon, a prickly fighter in the cage, is unfazed by the odds.

"You've got to treat every fight the same," said Gagnon (12-2). "I'm not trying to put more stress on me than there's always been. You're still in a fight."

The 30-year-old from Sudbury, Ont., can expect a motivated opponent in Barao (34-2 with one no contest). The 27-year-old Brazilian lost his title to T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 173 in May. And he was forced out of their August rematch at UFC 177 last August due to health issues during weight cutting.

Gagnon sees the plus side of fighting a former champion. There's plenty of video of him.

The five-foot-five Canadian arrives on a roll, having won his last four bouts since dropping his UFC debut to Bryan Caraway in a bout that earned both men US$65,000 fight of the night bonuses. Three of his recent wins came via first-round submissions.

"I'm on the up-and-up, I'm riding a four-fight win streak and I'm healthy," said Gagnon.

Given Barao's recent problems, "it's perfect timing to fight him," he added. "I wouldn't want it any other way."

Gagnon has covered a lot of territory in preparing for the fight. He trains in the Toronto area, commuting between gyms in Oshawa, Toronto and Oakville.

He stays with a coach in Toronto during training camp, with his fiancee coming down to visit every second weekend.

The Arizona-based Dollaway (16-6) is no stranger to travel himself. He has won twice in Brazil and once in Germany since January 2013.

"It's nothing new for me," he said of fighting in hostile territory. "I know what I'm walking into. It is what it is. I'm going to feed off the crowd. It'll be a great night.

"It's awesome to be able to go out and do what I do, and be able to make that kind of emotion for so many people and so many fans."

Being part of the main event in Brazil kept him from taking part in the UFC's debut card in Phoenix last weekend. The 31-year-old Dollaway watched from the stands, before arriving in Brazil 10 pounds lighter than he normally does for fight week.

"I knew I had to get a little leaner," he said. "The fight was going to be a much longer fight — five rounds, two extra rounds than I'm normally used to going. I can't be having a bad weight cut and I just need to feel good."

The 31-year-old former Arizona State star wrestler has come a long way since losing to Amir Sadollah in the final of Season 7 of "The Ultimate Fighter" in 2008. He has survived hip and ankle surgery and founded his own gym — Power MMA and Fitness in Gilbert, Ariz. — with fellow fighters Ryan Bader and Aaron Simpson.

Bader lost to Machida (21-5) in 2012 so he has plenty of insight into the elusive Brazilian.

The injuries behind him and the right people around him, Dollaway (9-5 in the UFC) has made major advances. His submission arsenal includes everything from guillotine chokes to the rare Peruvian Necktie and his striking is more dangerous each time out.

And his elite wrestling skills have resulted in 29 takedowns, third most in UFC middleweight history.

"I've been able to be consistent for a while, getting the right coaches, the right trainers, the right atmosphere, the right sponsors and managers," he said.

Running his own gym gives him another reason to be there.

"Like people say if you stay ready, you don't have to get ready," he said.

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Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter.

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