Team Alpha Male has been blazing quite a trail in 2013. Between Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes, Joseph Benavidez, Danny Castillo and T.J. Dillashaw, the California crew, who train out of Sacramento, are undefeated this year.

It’s really no coincidence that this is the same year that the team finally decided to bring on a head coach in the form of UFC and Muay Thai veteran Duane “Bang” Ludwig. Ludwig’s coaching has proven very effective, finally giving the guys some direction in their training. Dillashaw, who was a finalist on The Ultimate Fighter 14 nearly two years ago, has definitely reaped the benefits of Ludwig’s approach.

“I love it, man,” said Dillashaw in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I think it’s the best thing that’s happened to our team. Of all the names that came up, Duane was the perfect fit. We couldn’t have done any better. He’s meant to be a coach. He’s definitely got a great system, and he’s meant for this, for sure.”

At only 25 years old, Dillashaw came off his TUF season with a loss in the finale to John Dodson. Although this was the first pro defeat in his short career, the young man from Sonora, Calif., bounced back in the next two years with four wins in a row, two of which came under the tutelage of Ludwig.

Dillashaw (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

Dillashaw’s last bout, way back in April, was against Hugo Viana, a former contestant of TUF Brazil. It was a friendly crowd in San Jose, Calif., and Dillashaw put on quite a show. With less than a minute left in the first round, he handed Viana his first pro loss with a punch-driven TKO. Dillashaw knew that he went in there and just did his thing.

“I just had to believe in my skill set,” said Dillashaw. “I like seeing improvements in my game.”

Those improvements led to a quick victory, so the former NCAA Division I wrestler was chomping at the bit when he finally got the call in July about his next opponent, fifth-ranked bantamweight and native Brazilian Raphael Assuncao.

“I found out about it seven weeks out from Sept. 4,” explained Dillashaw. “I was supposed to fight him then, on the same card Joseph [Benavidez] was on in Brazil. He had to pull out because he had an injury, and they moved the date back until now.”

So, finally, on Wednesday night, live from Ginasio Jose Correa in Barueri, Brazil, Dillashaw and Assuncao square off at UFC Fight Night: Maia vs. Shields, in what is sure to be a fight to the finish.

Both Dillashaw and Assuncao finish the majority of their battles. The 31-year-old Assuncao is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with 24 pro fights under his belt. He has competed in the WEC and UFC for four years with a 7-3 record under the Zuffa banner. The Brazilian is currently riding a four-fight winning streak and is looking at a title shot, should he be able to stop Dillashaw. The American has an entirely different plan.

“I think it’s a great fight for me,” Dillashaw said. “I’ve been asking for a top-10 guy. Of course, now they have me ranked ninth, so I want to make that run for the title, and I need someone tough to do it. Raphael is a great opponent. He’s well-rounded, he’s an excellent grappler. I think I’m a better fighter. All of his strengths, I feel that I am better at.

“I’ve got to be ready for anything. Obviously, I see me finishing off him as quickly as possible and staying healthy, so I can fight in December back here in Sacramento. But, obviously, I have to be ready for anything. Expect the worst, so it goes better than that, you know?”

Dillashaw (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

The December card Dillashaw speaks of is the UFC on Fox 9 event that takes place on Dec. 14. That card features Team Alpha Male fighters Faber, Mendes and Castillo on their home turf, so it’s no wonder that Dillashaw wants to join in on the fun. The TUF finalist is young and has been pretty good about avoiding any serious damage, so this is not too lofty a goal.

For now, though, Dillashaw is focused on the task at hand. Assuncao is a veteran of the sport, but if there’s one thing that Dillashaw took away from his TUF stint, it’s a belief in himself.

“It gave me a lot of confidence,” admitted Dillashaw “Being with the other guys in the house, who were some of the top guys, let me know that I belong where I’m at. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. The things I knew, with such a short time being in MMA, it was like I was doing it forever compared to some of the guys who were on the show.”

Dillashaw’s performance on TUF was pretty amazing, and he did look like a vet against some of his fellow castmates. The same has been true in his fights since, and the same will hold true tomorrow night, as he comes to the Octagon to continue the Team Alpha Male 2013 success story.

Dillashaw is an amazing young fighter with a big career ahead of him. He is one of the headline stories coming out of a fresh new class of fighters that includes guys like Chris Weidman and Jon Jones, young men with relatively few fights under their belts who are seemingly unstoppable. And when it comes down to business, Dillashaw always brings his A-game.

“People should watch this, because I’m a very aggressive and competitive fighter. I’m always in your face. This is not going to be a three-round fight, that’s for sure. It’s going to be very entertaining.”

Dillashaw would like to thank his team, Team Alpha Male, and coach Duane Ludwig, as well as his sponsors: TapouT, Mobile Money, Livia Global and Onnit Supplements. Follow T.J. on Twitter: @TJDillashaw

Top Photo: T. J. Dillashaw (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)