Sometimes, CB Dollaway feels like he's stuck in Groundhog Day. Guys he's wrestled in the past keep turning up across from him in the Octagon.
It happened in his first fight after his appearance on the seventh season of "The Ultimate Fighter," when he faced junior college opponent (and TUF 7 castmate) Jesse Taylor.
It happened again when he learned of his opponent for his pay per view debut at UFC 92. Mike Massenzio was an opponent at the Junior College Nationals.
Dollaway was already resigned to face another wrestler.
"First time I saw he was in the UFC I knew I'd be fighting him," Dollaway said in a recent appearance on MMAWeekly radio. "They keep throwing guys from the past at me."
During their match, The Ultimate Fighter alum caught Massenzio in a torso-twisting wrestling hold called the spladle, pinning him for the win. Massenzio says he wants revenge for the slight.
Dollaway, 25, says he's moved on. It doesn't hurt to have a win over the UFC newcomer, but spladles will only take him so far in a mixed martial arts match.
"It's not really a personal issue for me; it may be for him," Dollaway said. "Emotions, you want to keep them separate. That can wear you out, or make you do something that you shouldn't."
So far, wrestling has defined Dollaway's transition to mixed martial arts, much as it has for many of his teammates at Arizona Combat Sports. It's the part of his game that stays sharp naturally, working with nearly a half dozen All American wrestlers in the Tempe, Ariz. gym. Preparing to face a wrestling-based fighter like Massenzio is old hat by now.
"If I was just working out with guys who had never wrestled, you can get away with being sloppy," he said. "But with those guys, you have to do everything right."
Dollaway ended up on his back against Massenzio in their first meeting, and expects the same might happen on Saturday. So far, that hasn't been a bad thing. At Ultimate Fight Night 14, he caught Taylor with his signature move of sorts, the Peruvian neck tie, as Taylor tried to outwrestle him on the canvas.
"A lot of people say if you're a wrestler, stay a wrestler, but I think developing an all around game is going to take you farther," says Dollaway.
Indeed, a stand-up brawl is where he wants the fight.
"Obviously, I'm comfortable on the ground wrestling and grappling, but I think I'm going to have a stand-up advantage," he explained. "I think I'll be able to hold off those shots and keep it on our feet for a little bit and test him out there."
Dollaway's teammate/roommate, Ryan Bader, shrugged off his image as a one-dimensional wrestler when he knocked out Vinny Magalhaes to become the season eight winner of The Ultimate Fighter.
"It was actually something that I needed," he said. "You start getting in the last week of your training camp, starting to get run down, and kind of hard to keep training. You just kind of want to fight, but seeing him go out there and destroy Vinny like that, got me pumped up and ready to fight. It lit a fire under my ass to put in the last two weeks of hard work."
Dollaway hopes to follow in his teammate's footsteps this Saturday. He plans on putting Massenzio in a Groundhog Day of his own.
"It's the Super Bowl for me," he said. "Being on the biggest fight card of the year, it doesn't get any better than that."