UFC Rio Rancho: Nathaniel Wood eyeing BW division’s elite with big win over John Dodson | UFC | Sport

UFC Rio Rancho

Nathaniel Wood returns to the Octagon early on Sunday morning (Image: GETTY)

Nathaniel Wood’s climb up the men’s bantamweight rankings continues this weekend, with his pursuit of a spot in the top-15 taking him to Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The Cage Warriors graduate’s latest assignment will see him take on perennial 125lb and 135lb contender John Dodson in the prelims of UFC Fight Night 167.

The match-up with Dodson will be the fourth of Wood’s stint in the UFC and is undoubtedly the biggest of his burgeoning career.

Ultimate Fighter season 14 winner Dodson is a two-time flyweight title challenger and is still an ever-present in the shark-infested waters that is the top-15 of the bantamweight division.

Wood is hoping to soon see his name reside in the rankings and believes a win over ‘The Magician’ will get him there.

“100 per cent this will be the fight gets me into the top-15,” Wood told Express Sport. “And especially if I can finish him. I’ll be the only man to finish him. With him fighting the likes of Demetrious Johnson twice, TJ Dillashaw, Petr Yan and Jimmie Rivera, if I can be the guy that finishes him, where does that put me? I believe that I can fight anyone in the top.”

UFC Rio Rancho Nathaniel

Nathaniel Wood has set his sights on cracking the top 15 this year (Image: GETTY)

I feel like he’s just coming in to get paid and go home without getting any injuries. I don’t think he wants to be in the fights anymore.

Nathaniel Wood on his clash with John Dodson

Wood and Dodson enter their match-up at completely different junctures of their careers, with the former having won his last three in a row and the latter riding a two-fight losing streak.

Dodson’s last two outings have seen him fall at the hands of Jimmie Rivera and Petr Yan, the latter of whom is in contention for a shot at the bantamweight title.

Judging from his last five fights, one could make the assumption that 35-year-old Dodson is now in the final stretch of his career and that his best days are behind him.

That notion rings true for Wood, who said: “I feel like he’s just coming in to get paid and go home without getting any injuries. I don’t think he wants to be in the fights anymore.

“The last couple of fights I’ve seen, I don’t think he’s hungry for it anymore. Which I don’t blame him for.

“He’s been in with some of the best in the world, he’s fought for the title twice. He’s now 35, I believe. I have nothing against, but I just think he’s turning up to get the paycheque and go.”

Despite believing Dodson is no longer the force he once was, Wood is refusing to underestimate with TUF alumni.

That refusal to overlook to the crafty veteran is a testament to the respect Wood holds for the JacksonWink MMA product, who will be facing the Londoner on home soil.

UFC Rio Rancho Dodson

Two-time 125lb title challenger John Dodson will be Nathaniel Wood’s first assignment of the year (Image: GETTY)

“This is his hometown,” Wood said. “So I feel like he’s going to be very confident. He’s going to have the crowd on his side. For this one, he may come forward a bit more than usual.

“But for me, that’s perfect. I want him to come and at me and I want him to come fight. But I’m confident I’m going to get the win regardless of what Dodson decides to do on fight night.”

Much to the disappointment of many UK MMA fans, Wood only made one solitary appearance in the Octagon in 2019 due to a broken arm.

‘The Prospect’ hopes to make up for lost time this year, which he plans to kick off with a statement-making victory on enemy territory.

“For me, it’s about going in there and putting on a good performance,” he said. “I don’t want to go in there and chase him for 15 minutes and get a split-decision win or something like.

“I want to go in there and impress. I want Dana White and Sean Shelby to walk away thinking, ‘This kid is the real deal.’”

And if all goes to plan, Wood is hoping to bag a late spot on the UFC Fight Night 171 card, which takes place at the O2 Arena on March 21.

“London is only five weeks after the fight,” he said. “And if I come out with no injuries, there’s no reason why I can’t get back to training and get on that.”

Watch UFC FIGHT NIGHT®: ANDERSON vs. BLACHOWICZ this Saturday live on UFC FIGHT PASS from 10:00pm GMT and continuing on BT SPORT 2 from 11:00pm GMT.

UFC Rio Rancho Wood

Victory over Dodson will see Nathaniel Wood pick up his fourth win inside the Octagon (Image: GETTY)

John Dodson vs Nathaniel Wood Odds (Courtesy of Ohmbet UK)

John Dodson 5/4 – Nathaniel Wood: 5/8

Who wins by finish?

John Dodson: 6/5 – Nathaniel Wood: 13/20

John Dodson to win by finish

Yes: 13/2 – No: 1/12

Nathaniel Wood to win by finish

Yes: 9/2 – No: 1/7

Winning method

John Dodson by decision: 9/4

John Dodson by submission: 18-1

John Dodson by KO, TKO or DQ” 8-1

Nathaniel Wood by decision: 11/4

Nathaniel Wood by submission: 7/1

Nathaniel Wood via KO, TKO or DQ: 9/1

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