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UFC 166 Preview

By on October 18, 2013

cain velasquezExcuse me if I’m not super hyped for Velasquez-JDS 3.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re both very good heavyweights and there’s a decent chance that there will be some very entertaining fireworks at some point in the fight. Where I’m not looking forward to the fight is that other area that usually gets your blood pumping as a fan- the part where you can’t wait to see what’s going to happen. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I have four other main card bouts to preview before I even think anymore about that bout, after all.

John Dodson vs. Darrell Montague

This is one of those interesting bouts where a darling of the hardcore fans debuts to face someone who the more casual crowd is readily familiar with. But if you’re the most knowledgeable fan out of your pay-per-view group, be careful about thinking you’ll take your “noob” friends’ money with this one. Montague is a very good fighter, sure, but Dodson is the real deal.

With two wins by KO/TKO in his last four fights, Dodson not only has superior speed (even for a flyweight), but has unnatural power at such a small size. The guy simply hits hard, and on top of that, he’s a better technical striker than Montague, who would probably be extremely happy to get this fight to the mat and wear down “The Magician”.

That’s easier said than done, as is corralling Dodson against the cage or making him miss. What’s left is a fight where Dodson is likely to land some nasty shots that at some point, will put an end to Montague’s night- and prematurely stall his hype train, too.

Prediction: Dodson by KO/TKO

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shawn Jordan

Gonzaga has long been one of the most talented heavyweights in the business. He has an outstanding ground game, very good power in his strikes, and a solid understanding of the standup game, too. He’s also an underrated athlete and usually shows up in good shape. So why hasn’t he put it all together? Well, he has…just not for a very sustained period of time.

His return to the UFC has been more of the same, as he won two fights in a row before being stopped by Travis Browne just over a minute into their bout at the TUF 17 Finale. He has since knocked out the undersized Dave Herman, but Jordan is a different animal, even if he’s almost as maddeningly hot and cold as Gonzaga is.

The difference I see here is refinement. Jordan at times still appears to be a good athlete who is learning to fight, which is pretty much what he is. While he may have Gonzaga beat in pure athleticism, Gonzaga has him in skill, where it counts. If Gonzaga can keep this as a technical battle, he wins. Then again, he can also just land a devastating shot at any time to end it, too. I think he takes this one.

Prediction: Gonzaga by decision

Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez

I understand this fight from an entertainment standpoint, and even a marketing standpoint, as both fighters are of Mexican-American heritage. But in terms of standings or rankings? This makes no sense. You’ve got a guy in Sanchez who has split his last six fights while fighting increasingly sparingly, managing just three fights in two years, facing someone who was just narrowly defeated for the lightweight title (Melendez). What gives?

We won’t ever really know, so let’s just state the obvious: this is Melendez’s fight to lose. He’s simply better in every area. He’s a better wrestler than Sanchez. He may even be in better shape. Although his striking, like Sanchez’s, is rudimentary, it’s also better. About the only area where Sanchez can compete is that famous fighting intangible known as “balls”. Sanchez has balls of solid rock, but if he can’t land punches and can’t keep Melendez off of him, what good does it do? Balls can win you fans, but they won’t win you scorecards.

I respect Sanchez enough to think this goes the distance, particularly with Melendez not being the most dangerous striker out there. There may be some takedowns, too, particularly if Melendez decides to mix things up during the fight and really commit to them. Ultimately, Sanchez will be a game opponent but just can’t measure up to Melendez’s talent.

Prediction: Melendez by decision

Daniel Cormier vs. Roy Nelson

These two are interesting in that neither one should probably be fighting at heavyweight. Cormier appears to be in the midst of cutting down to light heavyweight, while Nelson is likely too stubborn (and too old) to do so. Anyway, both have power that can match up with legitimate heavyweights, and Nelson has a chin to match, so there may be some fireworks in this one.

Then again, Cormier’s UFC career so far, however short, has been typified by the growing pains of a wrestler-turned-fighter. While Cormier flashed power in Strikeforce, he has since reverted to using his wrestling almost exclusively while avoiding standup exchanges and other situations that may expose the areas of his game that are still developing.

Hopefully, that’s not a precursor to what could be a boring fight on Saturday. However, while I know Nelson is tough to take down, he probably won’t be able to keep Cormier from clinching him at great length. And hey, that’s a smart place for Cormier to be- close enough so that Nelson can’t hurt him with punches, and winning rounds to boot. I hope we get a more exciting fight, but I honestly see no reason for Cormier to take chances here.

Prediction: Cormier by decision

UFC Heavyweight Championship
Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos

And now, we arrive back to the main event. As I was saying, everything that I saw in the last matchup between these two showed that Velasquez is just plain better. He’s always in far better shape, he’s able to control dos Santos, and he’s got the patience to wear dos Santos down so that he can start to freewheel a little bit while controlling the bout with relative ease.

Last time around, Velasquez looked like he downright disrespected dos Santos’ power after the first couple of rounds. He was gleefully walking through the limp strikes of his tired opponent while controlling him effortlessly. Put it this way- it was enough that I no longer really want to see them fight again. And I think this installment will be more of the same.

Dos Santos will be dangerous early on, of course- he’s still the best boxer in the division, and he’s got power to spare. However, Velasquez will navigate through choppy waters early on to tire dos Santos, then break his will. Let’s hope this is the last time we see this matchup.

Prediction: Velasquez by decision

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