Cageside recap of UFC 166
Staff writer: Tim McNamara
Cain Velasquez vs Junior Dos Santos
"Sometimes your best just isn't good enough."
What was billed as the greatest heavyweight trilogy (the only?) in UFC history had a number of angles and storylines coming into the event. Each fighter had won a fight in dominating fashion over the other. Cigano had quickly KO'd Cain coming off a near year out of the sport due to injury.
Velasquez had battered Cigano for 5 rounds in the rematch.
Which version of each fighter would show up?
The 1st round started much like the 2nd fight, with Cain pressing forward, landing punches on his way in, scoring a takedown, and pressuring Cigano against the cage. In close, Cain could take away the space Cigano would need to get the KO as in the first fight.
The 2nd round started much the same way as the first with Cain punching on his way in, and as Cigano missed on a big swing, Cain would close the gap then pressure him against the cage, dirty boxing, then work for the takedown and grind on Cigano.
Midway through the 2nd round you could see the fatigue of the pressure and cage work begin to set in on Cigano's face. The fatigue would lead to Cain landing heavier punches on the way in as he would force more clinch work and cage work.
The 3rd round would be more of the same with Cain pressuring forward and as Cigano's hands dropped lower, he would take heavier punches before getting mired in Cain's pressure against the cage and dirty boxing. A long right hand caught Cigano behind the left ear and he stumbled back and Herb Dean nearly stepped in to wave it off but Cigano somehow struggled back to his feet and survived until the end of the round. If Cain had backed off and made some space, he could have probably finished the fight then.
The final round began with both fighters looking the worse for wear and red tinged fight shorts.
Cain shot for an early single leg and put Cigano on the back foot, scoring an early takedown into Cigano's guard. Cigano somehow struggled to his feet one last time. Cigano was slung to the mat as Cain looked to escape what may have been a guillotine, and as he sat on his knees, Cain hit him a few last times and Cigano simply covered up, forcing Herb Dean to wave off the fight.
The fight ended much like the 2nd one with Cigano's face a bloody mess. The end result, a stoppage, but stylistically another dominant 5 round performance by Cain. It's hard to imagine any other heavyweight bringing the pace and pressure that Cain does. Up next for Cain, he faces a different question in Fabricio Werdum.
Diego Sanchez vs Gilbert Melendez
As entertaining as Diego Sanchez is in losing, I cannot imagine this style is good for his long term health, brain function, nor longevity as a fighter.
The first 45 seconds of this fight had Diego locking in a rear naked choke on Melendez back from standing and coming probably closer to finishing Melendez than Ben Henderson did in 5 rounds.
Other than fighting from opposite stances, it's amazing how similar Diego and Gilbert look when fighting one another, like mirror images. Rangey for their weight class, torid pace, and always willing to scramble and use all the tools in the toolbox.
Diego would become one of the few guys I've seen knock down Gilbert Melendez but it would not be enough to get the nod as Melendez stayed a bit more accurate with his punches, knocking down and wobbling Diego more frequently throughout the fight to win a decision.
With the win, Dana White says Melendez is back in the title mix picture, whatever that means. Since Henderson no longer has the belt, Melendez may or may not win another fight then face whoever has the belt after Josh Thompson faces Anthony Pettis which would no doubt be an interesting match-up. I donít know that anyone cares to see a fourth meeting between Thompson and Melendez which is not new to MMA fans but would be to the casual UFC viewer. I think Thompson is a toss up softball fighter for Pettis to get a title defense under his belt and look impressive doing so before having Pettis fight a 5 round grinder against the likes of Melendez.
Gabriel Gonzaga vs Shawn Jordan
Gabriel Gonzaga continued his mystifying ability to look like a world beater some nights with thunderous fists and Jiu-Jitsu or get dismantled inside of a few rounds while he appears to wish he was elsewhere. Tonight, he looked impressive with a first round stoppage of another imposing looking heavyweight whoís jumped right into the deep end of the professional MMA fight game.
I donít know where this leaves Gonzaga but with the lack of depth in the heavyweight game, he could be a fight or two from a title shot after Werdum faces Cain.
Daniel Cormier vs Roy Nelson
Daniel Cormier who has looked uninspired at times in his fights looked nothing short of explosive and dominating in his fight against Roy Jones. Perhaps his process of looking to light heavyweight has him looking to be a faster, lighter on his feet fighter, but he was all over Roy Nelson, mixing up punching combinations, takedowns, and footwork. Nelson who also has the penchant to finish fights or look plodding and under the weather stayed in the fight but had no answer for all the questions Cormier posed to him throughout the co-main event.
Cormier picked up a dominant decision and will now look to drop to light heavyweight.
John Dodson vs Darrell Montague
John Dodson is in the no manís land of having lost to the champ in pretty clear fashion but being much better than the other guys that remain in his weight class. No one is clamoring for another title shot on his behalf but heís fought or will finish most of the newcomers to the division that can be dug up.
Enter Darrell Montague who from nearly the opening exchange got caught and appeared overmatched as Dodson swarmed him off an early punch and never let him get back into the fight.
I canít imagine Dodson is more than a fight or two from another title shot given the lack of depth in his division and his ability to finish anyone thatís not wearing the title belt.
Hector Lombard vs Nate Marquardt
How times change? Marquardt not long ago dropped to 170 and looked amazing against Tyron Woodley. Fast forward and he lost to a UFC-unknown Tarec Saffiedene who also came over from Strikeforce. Last night did not change Marquardtís luck as he dropped a first round KO to Hector Lombard who is also looking at the chopping block after his penchant for finishes and wins disappearing as he joined the UFC.
In other news, KJ Noons picked up a lackluster decision over George Sotiropolous who has never quite regained form from when he was a title contender just under a couple years ago