Due to a dearth of credible challengers in the UFC heavyweight division and a marketing opportunity too good to miss, UFC 166 will play host to Velasquez-Dos Santos III as Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos will slug it out for the third time in under two years. This time it will be Velasquez looking to defend his UFC Heavyweight title belt in Houston, Texas having failed to do so the first time these two met back in November 2011. Acting as co-main for the evening we have somewhat of a grudge match as Daniel Cormier and Roy Nelson go head-to-head in the heavyweight division. Lightweights Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez also appear on the card in what promises to be an exhilarating affair and many people’s pick for Fight of the Night honours; and rounding out the UFC 166 main card are heavyweights Gabriel Gonzaga and Shawn Jordan, as well as flyweights John Dodson and Darrell Montague lock horns.
Now, as always I am here to brief you on what you should be looking out for on the undercard. So let’s get started…
Tim ‘The Barbarian’ Boetsch (16-6-0) vs. CB ‘The Doberman’ Dolloway (13-4-0) –
Headlining the prelims is a middleweight bout between Tim Boetsch and CB Dolloway.
Tim Boetsch was the surprise package of 2011/12. A defeat to Phil Davis at UFC 123 prompted a drop in weight class from 205lbs to 185lbs and this was to bring with it a drastic change in fortunes. Boetsch would tear through the middleweight division, dispatching with Kendall Grove, Nick Ring, Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard as part of a four-fight win streak. Sadly for Boetsch the hype train was to end its journey there as back-to-back losses to Costa Philippou and Mark Munoz have now left Boetsch in a sticky situation heading in to this Saturday’s contest.
CB Dolloway on the other hand is riding the crest of a wave having been victorious in his previous two outings over Jason Miller and Daniel Sarafian. Prior to this run of form, Dolloway, who replaced an injured Luke Rockhold on a month’s notice, had hit somewhat of a rough spot losing out to Mark Munoz and Jared Hamman in 2011 but now seems to have his career firmly back on track heading in to a bout that should see him matched up with a top 10 opponent if victorious.
Boetsch will be the bigger man in the Octagon and will be looking to close the distance so that he can overpower Dolloway and land some heavy shots. Dolloway will likely rely on his superior wrestling to take this one, as while Boetsch has solid grappling ability he has shown himself to be susceptible to the takedown when executed properly. For me, Boetsch should prove too physical for Dolloway in the exchanges and when he connects, Boetsch has the power to put any middleweight in the division to sleep.
Prediction – Boetsch via KO/TKO in the 2nd round.
Nate ‘The Great’ Marquardt (32-12-2) vs. Hector Lombard (32-4-1-1 NC) –
Next up is a welterweight showdown between Nate Marquardt and Hector Lombard.
Nate Marquardt made his return to the UFC last time out against Jake Ellenberger at UFC 158, although unfortunately for Nate this was not a happy homecoming as Ellenberger would go on to KO Marquardt within the first round. That was Marquardt’s second loss in a row, albeit the first loss came at the hands of Tarec Saffiedine in Strikeforce, so ‘The Great’ can ill afford another slip up here as he hardly has an abundance of goodwill with the UFC behind him thanks to previous misdemeanours.
It’s safe to say that Hector Lombard has been a bit of a letdown since transitioning from Bellator to the UFC. Whilst fighting under Bellator Lombard was a certified beast, tearing through the middleweight division and remaining undefeated from 2007 up until 2012, right when he made his UFC debut. A KO win over everyone’s favourite submission artist, Rousimar Palhares, was sandwiched between losses at the hands of Tim Boetsch and Yushin Okami, and Lombard will be looking to revitalise his career with the drop in weight to 170lbs.
Marquardt has had difficulty in dealing with fast, aggressive punchers as of late and that is exactly what Lombard is. This one could well be quite close and we may well see Marquardt outwork an opponent not used to his new weight class, but I am going to stick my neck on the line in this one and go for the Lombard KO/TKO to settle this contest.
Prediction – Lombard via KO/TKO in the 1st round.
Sarah Kaufman (16-2-0) vs. Jessica ‘Evil’ Eye (10-1-0) –
In the only female fight on the cards, bantamweights Sarah Kaufman and Jessica Eye will both be making their UFC debut when they do battle in the Octagon this Saturday.
Anyone familiar with women’s MMA will know who Sarah Kaufman is. Kaufman is a high-level competitor who has been in with and beaten with some of the best that the sport has to offer with victories over Miesha Tate, Liz Carmouche and Alexis Davis. Kaufman most recently competed under the Invicta FC banner, but is best known for her performances in Strikeforce where she would capture the women’s bantamweight championship and go on to challenge Ronda Rousey for the title after she had lost it to Marloes Coenen.
Jessica Eye is perhaps less well known than Kaufman, but does have a sizeable pedigree having captured and challenged for titles on the regional scene as well as competing in Bellator where Eye would go on to have her finest hour in defeating Zoila Gurgel back in December 2012. Eye has fought the majority of her career at 125lbs but as well as making her promotional debut; Eye will also be making her bantamweight bow.
Both women will want to keep this fight standing. Eye will look to use her speed and agility to get off shots against Kaufman, whereas Kaufman will look to rough Eye up a little with powerful combos. Ultimately I have to go with Kaufman on this one. Kaufman has the size and experience advantage over Eye and will be a real threat in the division once she has had time to settle.
Prediction – Kaufman via KO/TKO in the 1st round.
George Sotiropoulos (14-5-0) vs. KJ ‘King’ Noons (11-7-0) –
The last fight that I feel you should keep a close eye on when taking in the prelims is a lightweight contest featuring George Sotiropoulos and KJ Noons.
George Sotiropoulos is in a very bad way, riding a three-fight losing streak with his most recent defeat coming at the hands of Ross Pearson, where Sotiropoulos was beaten from pillar to post before being TKO’d in the third round. G-Sot is in desperate need of a win here.
Noons is not exactly in the prime of his career here either, coming in to this one on the back of three straight defeats and only one win in his last six contests. The former Elite XC Lightweight champ made his UFC debut last time out against Donald Cerrone having migrated over as a part of the Strikeforce purchase.
In recent fights Sotiropoulos has shown a glaring lack of striking defence and that his chin is not quite up to scratch. Noons is a solid, aggressive, durable boxer who has the required wrestling defence needed to stop a Sotiropoulos takedown attempt. Sadly for Sotiropoulos here, 2 + 2 really does equal 4.
Prediction – Noons via KO/TKO in the 2nd round.
Tags: Cain Velasquez, George Sotiropoulos, Hector Lombard, Jessica Eye, Junior dos Santos, KJ Noons, Mixed Martial Arts, MMA, Sarah Kaufman, Tim Boetsch, UFC