There have been a great many times in Ultimate Fighter history when a contestant will step into the reality show competing out of their chosen weight class.
In many ways it actually gives the smaller fighters a great chance to win because over the course of six weeks, they aren’t cutting much weight as some of the larger competitors are forced to do two or three times before reaching the finals.
Dhiego Lima fits directly into that category as a natural born welterweight who will try to win the TUF 19 title in the middleweight division. He’s well aware that his opponent Eddie Gordon cuts a lot of weight to make 185-pounds, and he was one of the most powerful fighters on the entire season of the show.
In many ways, however, Lima sees Gordon’s power as a crutch he relies on to win fights so much that if things don’t go his way he may not have much of a backup plan.
After this fight I’ll be a welterweight. 170 is where I’ll be and that 170 division is wide open, I’m looking forward to getting in the mix
— Dhiego Lima
"He’s more of a standup fighter, he’s a big guy but he relies on that a lot," Lima told FOX Sports. "That’s what I’m trying to do is to get him out of that game. He’s really flat-footed, he doesn’t move a lot so I think me being the lighter guy, the faster guy, it’s really going to make a difference. I’m going to move a lot and keep him guessing the whole fight. He plays that game flat-footed with me, it’s not going to work with me."
Lima knows that when this fight is over his middleweight career will likely follow suit, but that doesn’t mean he’s discounting this fight with Gordon at all. His future at welterweight actually gives him some advantages in this matchup and he feels that will ultimately be the difference come fight night.
As a smaller fighter in the long run, Lima knows he can compete with any welterweight in the UFC and make it a great bout so that’s where he’ll be headed after Sunday is over.
"After this fight I’ll be a welterweight, but in the future I don’t know," Lima said. "I don’t have any trouble making 170, and once I start having trouble, that’s when I’ll think about it. But if I’m healthy and I’m performing my fullest at 170, I’ll stay there. 170 is where I’ll be and that 170 division is wide open, I’m looking forward to getting in the mix."
The American Top Team fighter is also well aware of the criticism his season of the show faced from UFC president Dana White and the fans for an overall lack of urgency and excitement displayed from almost everyone competing on the show. Lima was certainly one of the bright spots finishing both of his bouts by submission, but he was the only one to never see the judges’ scorecards during the year.
If there was one regret Lima has about the show, it’s not the fights as much as the reality portions that didn’t make it to air by the time the series appeared on TV. There were several hilarious moments as well as some heated encounters that didn’t make the final cut, but either way the onus was on the fighters to deliver in the Octagon and most of them just didn’t get the job done.
Lima promises that won’t be the case when he faces Gordon and closes the book on The Ultimate Fighter season 19 because this is something he’s been dreaming about since high school and now years later no one can steal that from him.
Least of all Eddie Gordon.
"Everyone’s a little bummed out about it. What can we do, it is what it is," Lima said about the criticism of his season. "It’s a long time coming this fight, I’m ready. I feel like my whole career this is what I’ve been working for and it’s finally here."