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The end of 2013 is providing MMA fans with the best stretch of fight cards in recent memory. Even after viewing Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson go to war in what many say is the greatest fight of all time, it hard to shake the feeling that the best fight of the year is yet to come. Most people would claim the best odds to win that distinction would be the highly anticipated rematch on December 28th between Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva. Others may be looking forward to the GSP-Johnny Hendricks card the most.
While it is hard to argue against these or any of the other fight cards in the coming months, it is my belief UFC 166 has all of the ingredients of giving us multiple fight of the year candidates. The undercard resembles most main cards the UFC assembles and the main card is loaded with fighters who are only one or two fights away from fighting for UFC gold.
The facebook prelims even boast a fighter with 5 post fight bonuses in 9 UFC fights (Charles Oliveira). All of this is topped by the rubber match between two of the scariest individuals on the planet vying for the heavyweight title. All of this adds up to potentially one of the most exciting night of fights we have seen in some time.
The first fight on the main card pits former number one contender John Dodson against longtime prospect and UFC newcomer Darrell Montague. Montague is a relative unknown too many UFC fans, but dangerous nonetheless. He has beaten seasoned veterans such as Ulysses Gomez and Mamoru Yamaguchi and lost to UFC mainstay Ian McCall. There will be no warm up fights for Montague who is fighting one of the most dangerous flyweights on the planet. Dodson has legitimate knockout power in his hands and is always a threat to end the fight at anytime. Montague will have his work cut out for him in his big league debut.
Dodson by Decision
The next bout features two hard hitting heavyweights that have only seen their fights go to decision a combined 4 times in 41 contests. Gabriel Gonzaga and Shawn Jordan should provide fight fans with a finish that can really set the tone for the rest of the night. Look for Gonzaga to try to take down the hard hitting Jordan and use his black belt skills to put on a BJJ clinic against the Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter.
Gonzaga by Submission
Next we will see Gilbert Melendez attempt to get back on track after his razor close decision loss at the hands of Benson Henderson. This will be no easy task as he faces one of the best conditioned athletes MMA has to offer in seasoned veteran Diego Sanchez. This is the perfect fight for Melendez who is still trying to showcase his skills to the UFC fans after being stuck in Strikeforce for years. Sanchez has never gotten back to his old ways since he was destroyed by B.J. Penn at UFC 107 and I expect a similar outcome in his fight against Melendez. This will give Gilbert a big bounce back win against a well known fan favorite that should help propel him right back to the top of the lightweight division.
Melendez by decision
The next fight showcases two heavyweight contenders who may be fighting in their last heavyweight fights. We all know that Daniel Cormier has been planning the weight cut and expects his next fight to be at 205 out of respect for his good friend and training partner Cain Velasquez, but it is now being reported that Roy Nelson may be eyeing a change of scenery as well. It has yet to be seen that Nelson who is not the smallest man in the world could make that cut, but it sure makes for a fun story line heading into their 166 clash. Daniel Cormier and Roy Nelson are also building up quite the rivalry as they prepare for their fight. DC has even said he is going to file a grievance for Big Country to shave off his trademark beard. In my humble opinion that is a little over the line, but that just shows how both fighters are trying to get under each other’s skin however they can.
Both men are extremely talented grapplers and more then capable strikers which should make for a great fight. DC will be looking to follow the same game plan he employed against Frank Mir and should be able to control Nelson for the duration of the bout. Nelson on the other hand has to use everything in his arsenal to keep the fight standing and keep his back off the fence. He of course has a punchers chance and could always clip Cormier with a huge strike, but I can’t see Cormier losing his last heavyweight fight before the move to 205. Look for Cormier to compete for the light heavy weight title sometime in 2014.
Cormier by Decision
And finally we have our main event of the evening between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos. The reasons to be excited for this fight are endless. JDS first took Cain’s belt back in 2011 with a huge right hook to the ear of the current champ around 1 minute into the fight. Cain would have his revenge a little more than a year later, when he absolutely destroyed Cigano’s face for a full 25 minutes of dominating wrestling and striking. So the question on everyone’s mind coming into this fight is can Junior find a way to employ his boxing before Cain can use his wrestling to control the fight. In order to properly preview this huge fight, let’s break it down by the individual skills of the fighters.
Boxing – Cain has solid boxing and showed in his last fight against JDS that he can string together slick combinations that can really hurt his opponent. On the other hand it is widely considered that Dos Santos’s boxing is the best in the entire heavyweight division. He is great at using his footwork and landing big combinations that not only hurt his opponents, but knocks them out cold. – Advantage JDS
Wrestling – Junior Dos Santos has good counter wrestling and is able to defend the takedown around 74% of the time. This allows him to stay on his feet and use his boxing to win fights. Cain Velasquez is a completely different animal when we are talking about wrestling. He was a All-American wrestler at Arizona State and his wrestling style has transitioned seamlessly into MMA. He is great in the clinch and can usually take his opponents down at will. Once on the ground he uses his wrestling to control position and can ground n’ pound his opponents until the ref pulls him off. – Advantage Cain
Submissions – Neither man has a submission win in his UFC career (JDS technically won his fight against Cro Cop by submission, but it was due to an eye injury Cro Cop suffered) and it is a safe bet to say this one will not be the first. Both men have black belts in BJJ, but neither use them to finish fights and would rather let their fists do the talking and only utilize their ju-jitsu to gain dominant positions or get back to their feet. – Advantage Draw
X-Factors – For Cain Velasquez his X-factor has to be his amazing cardio. He looks just as fresh in the 5th round as he does in the 4th and uses that to keep a pace that is unmatched in the UFC outside of Demetrious Johnson. JDS’s X-factor is his ability to finish the fight at anytime. His one punch knockout power is the best in the division and he proved it in the first installment against Cain.
All in all I think Cain will walk out of this fight the winner. His wrestling is so outstanding and allows him to dictate where the fight takes place. Look for Cain to utilize the clinch and drag JDS to the ground where he will finish him with a barrage of his signature ground and pound late in the fight.
Velasquez by TKO
UFC 166 Scheduled Bouts
Online Prelims @ 6:15PM ET
Dustin “The Disciple” Pague (11-8) vs. Kyoji Horiguchi (11-1)
Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira (16-4-1) vs. Jeremy Larsen (8-4)
Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (14-3) vs. Mike “The Wolverine” Rio (9-2)
T.J. Waldburger (16-7) vs. Adlan “Borz” Amagov (12-2-1)
Fox Sports 1 Prelims @ 8:00PM ET
George Sotiropoulos (14-5) vs. K.J. Noons (10-6)
#2 Sarah Kaufman (16-2) vs. Jessica “Evil” Eye (10-1)
Nate “The Great” Marquardt (35-12-2) vs. Hector “Lightning” Lombard (32-4-1)
Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch (16-6) vs. C.B. “The Doberman” Dollaway (14-5)
Pay-Per-View Main Card @ 10:00PM ET
#2 John “The Magician” Dodson (15-6) vs. Darrell “The Mongoose” Montague (13-2)
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga (15-7) vs. Shawn “The Savage” Jordan (15-4)
#2 Gilbert “El Niño” Melendez (21-3) vs. Diego “The Dream” Sanchez (26-5)
#2 Daniel “D.C.” Cormier (12-0) vs. #9 Roy “Big Country” Nelson (20-8)
Champion Cain Velasquez (12-1) vs. #1 Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos (16-2)
*fight card subject to change*
Profightingfans.com Staff Writer