The Fight Horizon – Nine Thoughts on UFC 166

Now that UFC 166 is in the rear mirror, I think it’s time to take a full look back at the PPV that was.

1. Cain Velasquez might be the dominant heavyweight champion of our generation. He showed the first loss to JDS was a fluke and has two successful defenses now. It may be too early for talk like this considering he’s only defended the belt twice, but on the flip side, look at what he did in those victories. Who else can do what Cain did to JDS and Bigfoot Silva?

JDS is an elite heavyweight. A world-class fighter who would probably be UFC champion if Cain Velasquez wasn’t an MMA fighter. Cain wasn’t perfect and got tagged a few times throughout the fight, but for the most part, he absolutely dominated Dos Santos. When is the last time anyone has ever dominated Dos Santos so thoroughly? Oh yeah, the last time Cain fought him. The fight looked like it should have been stopped by both the referee and Dos Santos’ corner multiple times.

What else is there to say? We have a definitive ending to the saga between Cain and Dos Santos. Had this been a closer fight, or some kind of controversial decision, we could be looking at Part IV. But this one looked an awful lot like Part II, which was fairly one-sided for Cain.

It’s time for both of these guys to move forward in their careers and away from each other. Bring on Fabricio Werdum and another big test for Velasquez.

2. Cormier is ready for a title shot.  He might not win against Jon Jones, and he won’t fight good friend Cain Velasquez, but he is ready to try. He made Roy Nelson look terrible, and Roy Nelson has beaten some very good fighters. Cormier showed he’s simply the better fighter. He did things with consistent effectiveness that Nelson didn’t even attempt. A great mix of leg kicks, front kicks, high kicks, knees, sweeping punches, jabs, leaping, side-stepping, wrestling, take downs and grappling. He showed great diversity in his repertoire, while Nelson could only stalk him and look for a big bomb. Nelson looked like a one trick pony. Go for broke on that big right hand. No take down attempts, no kicks, basically nothing else. Their fight looked like a wolf fighting a wounded bear. The bear is still dangerous and can finish the wolf, but if the wolf is smart, he’s going to get an easy kill.

He might not be good enough to beat Jon Jones, but he’s at the top of the list of contenders.

3. Melendez vs. Sanchez has got to be a strong favorite for fight of the year. Only Jones vs. Gustaffson might be better, and that one went 5 rounds. You’d have to think if you gave 5 rounds to Melendez and Sanchez that it probably would have been stopped because of the way they were throwing down.

This was one of those fights where both guys just brought it, and neither backed down, neither played it safe and both thought they could literally just beat the other guy. Unfortunately, there had to be a loser, but in the eyes of many, both of these guys won. Gil said that Diego Sanchez is a warrior. He is, and so is Gil Melendez. Diego fighting the fight he did, after getting cut and tagged like that, and Gil not letting off and staying in the pocket. What an awe-inspiring fight, just a jaw-dropping, show-stopping, get out of your seat and hold your breath, ARE YOU WATCHING THIS fight.

Good thing the UFC has bonuses post fight because these guys deserve to be rewarded big time. Fights like that do more for the sport than entire cards at times.

4. It pays to be the counterpuncher…just ask Gabriel Gonzaga.

Give credit to Gonzaga for that amazing punch, such great instincts and timing to pull that off. Jordan however, had no business going after Gonzaga like that, with punches that missed and his head up, hands down. I bet if anyone on the card wanted to redo the first two minutes of a fight, it would be Jordan. It was a stunning ending caused by Gonzaga’s actions, but it easily could have gone the other way. Now Gonzaga gets a bigger name, and Jordan goes back to the drawing board.

5. Speaking of guys ready for a title shot…

John Dodson might have earned a shot at the winner of Johnson vs. Benavidez II with that shellacking of Darrell Montague. First off, Montague looks like a FW. The guy looked huge compared to Dodson. He might be in the wrong weight class, and that’s based on the two guys just standing next to each other. Second, Dodson is a dangerous, dangerous flyweight. He’s a brilliant striker and he set up and caught Montague perfectly. He showed that famed punching power early and nearly finished the fight, but also showed a lot of patience in waiting it out. Then he caught Montague again…and again…and again and put him out cold. Not a lot of guys in the flyweight division with that combination of speed, power, accuracy and level-headed calm.

6. Memo to C.B. Dolloway: watch the Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman fight

Apparently, he hasn’t seen it. The one thing every fighter should have taken from that fight is don’t showboat and don’t ever be overconfident. Jon Jones and GSP, two of the most dominant champions ever, both had a big wake up call when they saw Silva go down. Dolloway is not a champion, and he’s not even dominant. That showboating sure went away quick after the first round, and then it turned into a FIGHT. This fight probably had the most controversy of the night. The eyepokes took away from a lot of the momentum and Joe Rogan once again pointed out the potential issue with the gloves and open, separable fingers. It’s a very common problem that comes up in every card. I’ve been poked in the eye hard while playing basketball three times and every single time the pain was excruciating and I feared for my eyes and overall vision. Fighting involves a lot more action in that area, and as a fighter, it would be on my mind if I’m getting poked or scratched in that area. Aside from that issue, the other issue was the scoring. How the hell do you get a 30-26 for one guy and a 29-27 going the other way? Big head-scratcher in this one.

7. Lombard looks fantastic at welterweight…for now.

Lombard struck like lightning. He looked like a caged animal, no pun intended, just waiting to be unleashed and he eventually found Marquardt’s chin. Marquardt just didn’t look on the same level, and that’s saying something. Getting caught up against the cage against Lombard is just not where you want to be. It looked a lot like what happened to him against Ellenberger. Some guys just have wrecking ball power in their strikes and Lombard is one of them. But..

Who knows what would have happened had the fight gone on? That’s something future opponents might want to pursue, because trying to stand and trade with Lombard is a very dangerous game to play. Marquardt might have been better served shooting for a takedown, he had a significant height and reach advantage and it didn’t factor into the fight. But Lombard put a lot of people on notice, and there won’t be many guys higher than him that will be eager for a fight.

8. Broken record here, but the women’s fights keep on rolling.

What a scrappy crowd-pleaser. The women’s fights are consistently delivering on the action. It’s like they sit the fighters down before the fight and tell them their entire career depends on the fifteen minutes they spend in the cage (which might be true). A very game fight from Eye, who didn’t back down from the challenge at all. Every knee thrown by Kaufman against the cage was answered by Eye with one in return. Eye looked much more spry and nimble, and landed that crisp, head-snapping jab frequently. Kaufman landed the power shots and looked for the finish. Both of these fighters have very bright futures. Eye has to work on staying out of danger and building strength to not get bullied around by the bigger women. Kaufman has to either learn to use her size to better control opponents or work on improving her speed and head movement. The crowd booed the decision, but it could have gone either way. Not a controversial win by any means and more importantly, but women won some more fans for themselves and for women’s MMA.

9. Eat three punches to land one?  That’s pretty much what K.J. Noons did to beat George Sotiropoulos. Early on, it was a classic case of points vs. pain. George looked like he scored more points, but Noons looked like he caused more damage. Noons didn’t look to be hurt at all except for the eye poke. But a good question is: why didn’t Noons pursue after stunning George? Probably because he was tired, or wanted to be patient or thought he was winning the fight, or maybe all three. But I wasn’t so sure Noons was ahead on the cards and when an opportunity like that presents itself, it could have benefited Noons in the long run. Noons had a chance to end the fight and get the crowd roaring and out of their seats, it felt kind of like a letdown when he didn’t go for the kill. George had plenty of chances and did connect with Noons a couple of times, but there wasn’t a sense of danger there. Noons won the fight, but he might have had more attention had he finished it.

Sotiropoulos on the other hand, could be looking at his walking papers. Four losses in a row now, against very good opponents, but fights he could have won.  Not many guys stay on the roster after a streak like that.

10. Yet another successful card, pretty much from top to bottom. Aside from an occasional slip or two from Goldie, the UFC executes cards to near perfection. From the small things like camera panning and advertisements to the other more UFC-specific things like announcers, ring card girls, cut men and of course, fighters, everything was on point. We saw a lot of great fights in this card, so whatever they did to create this kind of flow and chemistry, they should look to recreate that formula.

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