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UFC 166 Parting Shots

By on October 22, 2013

cain velasquezUFC 167 is being talked about as a stacked card, and rightfully so, but UFC 166 was an excellent card in its own right. Consider the following names, all of whom appeared on the main card: Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, Daniel Cormier, Roy Nelson, Gilbert Melendez, Diego Sanchez, John Dodson, Darrell Montague.

Every single one of those guys is either a top ten fighter or a well-known fan favorite. Hell, the card was so stacked that Hector Lombard-Nate Marquardt, Tim Boetsch-CB Dollaway, KJ Noons-Georges Sotiropoulos, and Sarah Kaufman-Jessica Eye all took place on the prelims. That’s quite a card.

And for the most part, it delivered. The main card in particular was excellent, with two ferocious finishes, one fight of the year candidate, and two fights that weren’t all-time greats, but were solid contests.

In the latter category were the two final heavyweight fights of the evening, which had a lot more in common than one might initially suspect. In both fights, the outcome was pretty clear after the first round was over, and the losing fighter stopped posing much of a threat after the first few minutes. Also, each fight paired one fighter who was clearly superior (Cain Velasquez in the title fight, Daniel Cormier in the co-main event) facing someone who was overmatched but still has the one-punch knockout power to instantly make the fight interesting, if given the opportunity.

I said many, many times before Velasquez-dos Santos III that I wasn’t all that interested in seeing them go a third time, so thorough was Velasquez’s domination of dos Santos in their second bout. Velasquez proved me right, although the margin between the two had narrowed considerably in the time between this bout and their last.

Dos Santos has shored up his takedown defense admirably, and Velasquez had little success taking him down. What dos Santos wasn’t prepared to do, however, was get his back off of the cage during the lengthy clinching portions of the bout. Controlling a fight in the clinch still wins favor with the judges, even if it’s not quite as much as taking your opponent down and controlling him on the mat. Furthermore, Velasquez acknowledged after the fight that the way he would clinch for several moments, back off to throw a punching combination, then clinch again was by design, as he wanted to keep dos Santos guessing.

It worked, and even if there were times earlier in the bout where it looked as if Velasquez could have earned the TKO finish if he had kept on the gas pedal instead of clinching with the former heavyweight champion, he ended up getting the TKO in the fifth, anyway. It was as close to a virtuoso performance as we’ve seen in the heavyweight division, which has long lacked the kind of genius we’ve seen in other divisional champions, such as Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, Jose Aldo, and even BJ Penn (when he was fighting at 155 pounds).

I wanted to see Velasquez take on Fabricio Werdum instead of this fight, but it all worked out in the end, anyway. Velasquez put a stamp on his trilogy with dos Santos, and now we’ll get to see him fight Werdum, as well. In the meantime, the heavyweight division seems to have the consistent champion it has lacked for quite some time now.

The Disappearing Heavyweights

I don’t know that I’ve seen a fight like Roy Nelson-Daniel Cormier before. I don’t mean that anything that happened in the cage between them was particularly ground-breaking, mind you. What’s strange is that both men are in the midst of a prolonged cut from heavyweight to light heavyweight, after years of hearing from experts (and “experts”) that they could each easily make 205 pounds, if properly motivated.

Unfortunately, neither one stockpiled a whole lot of anticipation for such a move in their bout. I didn’t find the fight boring, as Nelson was much more game than in his short-notice loss to Stipe Miocic at UFC 161. The thing is, Cormier is still learning the sport, and though he has improved greatly since his time in Strikeforce, Nelson is a hard opponent to look overly impressive against, and Cormier is still very much a work in progress.

Who knows: maybe we’ll see a rematch between the two at 205 pounds one day. Of course, many other more interesting fights would be waiting for both men at light heavyweight, anyway. In any case, with Cormier being 34 years old and Nelson sitting at 37, they’d better get on with it if they are serious about being players at 205.

Quick Shots

–John Dodson may not be the best pure athlete in the UFC, but he’s at least in the conversation. His power at 125 pounds is downright impressive.

–Gabriel Gonzaga has always been an extremely dangerous heavyweight, but that’s nothing new. What would be something new is if he could sustain this run for more than a couple of fights and keep delivering the way that his skills should allow him to.

–Nate Marquardt may be the latest high level fighter to be cut despite being not far outside of the top ten after losing his third fight in a row, this time against Hector Lombard. Marquardt has lost two straight fights by KO, and has now lost five of his last eight fights under the Zuffa banner, dating back to February of 2010. Meanwhile, Hector Lombard likely avoided a pink slip by evening out his UFC record at 2-2 with his KO win.

Movin’ On Up Award

Four fighters took big leaps in their respective divisions with wins on Saturday night: John Dodson, Hector Lombard, Jessica Eye, and KJ Noons. Dodson was already in the title picture, but will likely wait at least a little while longer since he just recently had a shot at Demetrious Johnson. Lombard, on the other hand, went from the chopping block to a couple nice wins from title contention, so he takes this.

Beautiful Loser Award

Plenty of fighters on the card fought hard despite taking a loss, including Sarah Kaufman, Roy Nelson, Junior dos Santos, and CB Dollaway, who was fighting well whenever he managed to keep his fingers out of Tim Boetsch’s eyeballs. However, nobody did more in a losing effort than Diego Sanchez, who is an absolute madman in there.

Holy $#!% Award

Sorry, John Dodson. There were multiple “Holy Shit!” moments in Melendez-Sanchez, so that whole fight takes this one. Great fight, although calling it the best fight of all-time may be getting carried away.

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