UFC 166: Preview & Predictions
Allen: We have finally reached the point, where the stacked UFC pay-per-view cards have arrived. This is the UFC 166 preview, which is an excellent card from top to bottom. The preliminary portion of the card is filled with popular fighters that can finish fights in one punch. The fact that Hector Lombard, Sarah Kaufman, and Tim Boetsch are on the prelims shows how good this card is.
Unfortunately we are only previewing the main card. Scott Newman joins me as usual to break down each main card fight. Scott is coming off a 3-2 performance from UFC 165, while I’m coming off a 4-1 performance. We both picked Costa Philippou wrong, while he picked Pat Healy as another incorrect pick. We are both tied at 6-4 in picking fights, since we started writing together. I’ll keep track through each pay-per-view.
Flyweight: John Dodson vs. Darrell Montague
Allen: It doesn’t get much more difficult than fighting John Dodson, when you are making your UFC debut in the flyweight division. Montague needs to avoid wild striking exchanges at all costs. Everyone knows that Dodson is one of the few flyweights with serious knockout power. His speed has proven to be a difference maker as well in past fights. It makes his striking better and helps him avoid being taken down.
Montague is a decent wrestler, who has shown how dangerous he is on the ground with five submission victories to his name. If he can ground Dodson and control him, we could see a possible upset. The issue is that Dodson’s speed is going to give him fits, regardless of where the fight goes. He’ll overwhelm Montague on the feet and his takedown defense should improve from his defeat to Demetrious Johnson. We’ll see a finish as well, which fans have been begging to see more in the flyweight division.
Winner: John Dodson via third round TKO
Scott: This is a fantastic fight of two top ten flyweight and (particularly if Benavidez wins the belt next month...) the winner could definitely be in line for a crack at the title soon. Montague isn't as well known of course as this is his UFC debut, but he's as legit as they come with his only loss at 125 pounds to Ian McCall. He's a really talented guy in all areas; very well-rounded fighter.
Dodson is a tricky fight for anyone at that weight though due to his speed and punching power. While he's shown he does slow down a little in the later rounds, over three rounds he's hell on wheels. Basically it comes down to whether Montague can control the pace and wear Dodson down without eating a big shot from the Magician because if that happens it's probably over. I'm going for Dodson because of his big show experience. I expect Montague to make some noise in the division once he's settled.
Winner: John Dodson via unanimous decision
Heavyweight: Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shawn Jordan
Allen: Every time Gonzaga fights, I’ll always have major interest in it because it’ll end in a devastating fashion. It’s rare to see a Gonzaga fight go to a dull decision. You can expect this fight to end in the first round. Jordan is another good prospect in the heavyweight division, who has heavy hands and constantly pushes the pace. Don’t let the chubby stature fool you; he is very athletic for his size.
Gonzaga has started to come out slow in recent fights. The knockout win over Dave Herman was simply a counter hook, where Herman left himself too open. Other than that, he doesn’t seem like the energetic beast he was from a few years ago. Unless he can get Jordan to the ground, this fight won’t last long. Jordan is too explosive and will overwhelm him, if the fight remains standing. The older Gonzaga has become, the more head movement he’s used. You can't do that against heavy handed fighters. That will cost him here.
Winner: Shawn Jordan via first round KO
Scott: I'd normally bemoan the fact that this fight is on the main card, but I guess they need new blood at HW moving up the card and Jordan did look excellent in his last two fights. Gonzaga's a nice gatekeeper for the division and even if he's way past his prime now, it'll still take a very good performance to beat him.
Jordan is still young, appears to be improving, and has the power and athleticism to stop Napao so I'm taking him via TKO after muscling Gonzaga about a bit. To see him exposed once more and put away wouldn't shock me at all because I don't see him having elite-level potential like say Travis Browne or Stipe Miocic.
Winner: Shawn Jordan via second round TKO
Lightweight: Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez
Allen: This is going to sound repetitive, but this matchup has fight of the year potential. Whenever you have two explosive fighters, who have excellent cardio and are well-rounded as fighters. It proves to be a recipe for a memorable fight. The difference maker in this fight will be that Melendez is better than Sanchez in almost every aspect of this fight. Other than wrestling, which Melendez is no slouch at by improving his takedown defense after every fight. Sanchez has an advantage in wrestling, but that’s about it.
You can’t count Sanchez out though. He throws dangerous and reckless hooks, while possessing an array of submissions from on the ground. The issue for him is that Melendez is more of a precision striker that has power and has excellent submission defense. There aren’t many fighters that are more well rounded than Melendez. He has fought at a high level for so long and has never been beaten in one-sided fashion. He will keep the fight standing and out-strike Sanchez definitively. It won’t be completely one-sided, but Melendez will prove to be the superior fighter.
Winner: Gilbert Melendez via unanimous decision
Scott: Outside of the main event, Melendez/Sanchez is the fight I'm most looking forward to because I'm a big fan of both fighters. Based on the styles and especially the way Diego fought last time around against Gomi, you'd have to favor Gil. I won't pick against Diego and I don't really want to break it down because I know everything favors Melendez. Sorry guys.
Winner: Diego Sanchez via unanimous decision
Heavyweight: Daniel Cormier vs. Roy Nelson
Allen: Before the picture of Roy Nelson looking slim surfaced across the internet, this fight had one-sided beating written all over it. The fight may still play out like that, although there should be some optimism now that Nelson has gotten himself into better shape. We may be able to see Nelson stuff some takedowns and keep the fight standing more than people imagined. That’s easier said and done against an Olympic wrestler, who is the fastest heavyweight in the world. Even though he’s moving down to light heavyweight, Cormier is just as good at heavyweight.
His striking doesn’t get enough credit, despite the lack of knockouts. Obviously he’ll always have a speed advantage against heavyweights. The most impressive thing about Cormier is that he always looks to attack the body and remains relentless, when having his opponent against the cage. I’m sure Nelson will suffer the same fate, whether his big belly is still there or not.
I’m expecting another convincing victory for Cormier. He’ll use his speed to keep Nelson flustered and mix in a few takedowns. This fight will be a testament to Nelson’s future. If he can stay competitive and not be dominated for three rounds against an elite fighter, he may actually have a chance at potentially challenging for the heavyweight title someday.
Winner: Daniel Cormier via unanimous decision
Scott: Don't see Cormier having any issues with Nelson. I think Stipe Miocic stumbled on the blueprint to beat him with a lot of movement, chaining combos together and avoiding the right hand. Once Roy's gassed, he doesn't have a lot outside of that particularly if he's against a superior wrestler which he obviously is here.
I think Cormier's as good if not better at chaining combos than Miocic and obviously he's a better wrestler even if he isn't as big physically. So Nelson isn't going to be muscling him around in a million years. A stoppage would send an incredible message, but I don't see that so I'll take Cormier in a lopsided decision.
Winner: Daniel Cormier via unanimous decision
Heavyweight title: Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos
Allen: I’m not sure if the trilogy ends here, but it this is the end it will end competitively. The trend for picking this fight has been favoring Velasquez’s wrestling to Dos Santos’ boxing to now Velasquez having more tools for victory. I’m always trying to avoid trends, but I’ve been a culprit of the flip-flopping trend in picking this trilogy.
I’ve always felt that Velasquez’s boxing was under appreciated. His knockout of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira still amazes me to this day, whenever I think of the most impressive Velasquez performance. His speed was incredible and his punches were looking crisp. Also, he started utilizing more kicks, which he should be using since he’s so athletic. The talk about him hitting like a girl is beyond laughable. Isn’t Nogueira known to be Dos Santos’ mentor? I’m pretty sure Noguiera would strongly disagree with that assessment.
This fight will come down to cardio and positioning. Dos Santos has always had a strong takedown defense percentage. His only weakness would probably be cardio. In his fights with Mark Hunt and Shane Carwin, he was taking deep breaths in the third round. I’ll give him a pass for his last fight with Velasquez, because there were valid reports to him over training. If he can keep the fight standing and utilize his jab effectively, he should be able to retain the fight. He sets up the jab to either go for his devastating uppercut or lighting quick right cross.
His jab is so valuable because it can throw off Velasquez’s timing to go for a takedown. In the end, Velasquez will be too quick and once again prove how good his striking is as a whole. Other than not finishing the fight, the only problem from his last fight with Dos Santos was how he was unable to ground him. He wasn’t able to control him, which is why Dos Santos started to look better as the fight went on. I’m expecting more ground control from Velasquez to win this fight. The better cardio and being the quicker fighter will be two major advantages that will lead him to victory.
Winner: Cain Velasquez via unanimous decision
Scott: This is undoubtedly in my eyes the best heavyweight fight of all time edging out the third meeting between Fedor and Nogueira at this point as well as Fedor vs. Cro Cop. Both fighters have shown themselves to be better than any other heavyweight walking on the planet and it wouldn't outright surprise me if we end up seeing a fourth meeting at some point, particularly if Dos Santos wins here. I don't think he will though.
Sure Dos Santos actually stopped Velasquez in their first meeting, but after seeing what Cain was able to do to the guy last time around for the full 25 minutes in their second fight. I don't see how you can look past the champion. Could Dos Santos catch him with something nasty again? For sure, he's got the ability to do that to any fighter in the world.
I don't see it happening though because Cain just chains everything together too well when he's healthy. Even if he's worked his cardio, I don't think Dos Santos can keep up with the pace that Cain pushes without wilting. The x factor is whether both men come in healthy but as I've heard no rumors or anything doing the rounds I'll assume they are. So if all things are equal I'm taking Cain. I think he'll have fixed any holes he left open in the last meeting too and stop JDS in the fourth round this time.
Winner: Cain Velasquez via fourth round TKO
Allen: Despite predicting three fights going to decisions, this should be a memorable event. I’m still in awe of how good the prelims are as a whole. The only question will be how successful Cormier is with his wrestling and that he stays busy. Just like most people, I haven’t forgotten his last fight with Frank Mir and how painful it was to watch. Hopefully he’ll show off how he is ready to compete for a title shot. He knows that Nelson isn’t on the same level, as Mir is on the ground. Other than that, be sure to watch this event. You don’t want to miss it.
You can follow me on twitter at @Allen_Strk and Scott at email@example.com.