Smartest Guy at the Bar: UFC 166 Edition
Velasquez and Junior dos Santos will meet for the third time in two
years. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Quick, name the best
Ultimate Fighting Championship trilogy of all-time. You might
or maybe even Georges St.
Pierre-Matt Hughes. The
point: no trilogy sits unquestionably atop the throne.
Velasquez and Junior dos
Santos are two-thirds of the way to joining those ranks and
staking their claim as the greatest three-fight series to date,
which brings us to their latest rematch in the
UFC 166 main event on Saturday at the Toyota Center in
How We Got Here: Act one of this three-act play
went down on the UFC’s biggest stage. Dos Santos’ right hand ended
Velasquez’s first title reign just 64 seconds into their UFC on Fox
1 headliner, marking the promotion’s historic debut on network
television. Their second fight was just as one-sided but on the
opposite side of the spectrum. At UFC 155, the Mexican-American
punched, kicked, slammed, took down and battered dos Santos for 25
minutes, reclaiming his title. Now the stage is set for some
finality in this heavyweight rivalry ... Speaking of heavyweights,
the undefeated Daniel
Cormier will not be one much longer, as he has decided to drop
to 205 pounds to avoid fighting a friend and training partner in
Velasquez. He will face Roy Nelson, who
will try to rebound from a lopsided decision loss to Stipe Miocic
... Former Strikeforce
Melendez and “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner Diego Sanchez
round out the top three fights in a potentially exhilarating
Cormier plans to move to 205.
To Trilogy and Beyond: With thousands and
thousands of MMA fighters in the world, it seems like a waste of
fresh ideas to have the same two fighters battle each other more
than three times. However, in the case of Velasquez-JDS, it may be
the best option. The heavyweights are unquestionably the top two
fighters at UFC 166, but who stands out as a credible challenger
for the winner? Cormier plans to drop to light heavyweight, win or
lose against “Big Country.” Fabricio
Werdum will likely be next in line, but he will undoubtedly
open as a massive betting underdog. Josh Barnett,
Browne and Stipe Miocic
can all find themselves in title contention soon, as well. What if
the guy who walks out of the cage after UFC 166 as the No. 1
contender never relinquishes his spot as the No. 1 contender? It is
entirely possible that Velasquez and dos Santos are that much
better than everyone else in the division. A fourth showdown
between these two relatively young and still-improving heavyweights
seems like a distinct possibility. Would anyone really mind?
Useless Fact: If you are a 250-pound athlete with
a mean streak, you are probably playing linebacker in the NFL.
There is plenty of demand for large men with athletic ability,
which probably explains why the UFC heavyweight division is one of
its shallowest from a talent standpoint. Think about this: there
are 76 active lightweights on the UFC roster, compared to only 32
heavyweights. This makes our useless fact all the more remarkable.
Though Velasquez and dos Santos have both spent roughly five years
with the company and fought 11 times apiece, they share no common
The Loser-Leaves-Town Fight: Go ahead and click on
the Fight Finder pages for Georges Sotiropoulos and K.J. Noons. The
opening bout of the Fox Sports 1-televised portion of the undercard
features two popular lightweights who were viewed as potential
title contenders just three years ago. Sotiropoulos was riding a
seven-fight winning streak, while Noons was challenging Nick Diaz for the
Strikeforce welterweight crown on the strength of a six-fight
winning streak of his own. Since 2011, they are a combined 1-7.
Now, they find themselves in a win-or-lose-your-job matchup. Talk
about hitting a wall.
Noons has lost three straight.
Say What: Rather than focusing on pre-fight
banter, Velasquez prefers to spend his time dishing out knuckle
sandwiches to top-10 fighters. No problem. Javier Mendez, his
trainer at the
American Kickboxing Academy, fills the gap just fine. He told
Sirius XM Fight Club that he was tired of hearing dos Santos’
excuses about why he lost his second matchup with Velasquez:
“Enough’s enough. You lost already. Give it a break. You go out and
do whatever you can to win, but quit talking about why you lost.
That’s all he seems to be doing. It’s like, ‘Oh, he hits like a
girl.’ Come on. You’re a great fighter. Cain’s a great fighter.
Respect Cain. Cain respects you. Just say, ‘I’m fighting a great
champion. This is what I’m going to do.’ You don’t see Cain talking
about why he got knocked out and this and that. He doesn’t talk
about it. You guys bring it up. He doesn’t.”
Awards Watch: Sanchez has cranked out five “Fight
of the Night” bonuses in his last eight appearances. If UFC
President Dana White could clone fighters to perform the way he
wants, he might focus on the high-action, forward-moving, swarming
style of the 31-year-old lightweight. Sanchez’s 155-pound showcase
with Melendez certainly has the potential for crowd-pleasing
fireworks ... Turn to Adlan Amagov
for “Knockout of the Night.” The Russian can brawl with the best of
them, sans Robbie
Lawler, and the sambo stylist is more than a competent enough
grappler to keep T.J.
Waldburger’s submissions at bay ... There are not a lot of
submission possibilities brewing at UFC 166, so with no obvious
contender for “Submission of the Night,” let us go with the Hail
Mary option. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Velasquez earned
from Leandro Vieira is still fresh from its packaging and ready for
use in the cage. While the All-American wrestler does not yet have
a submission win to his credit, hear me out. Velasquez had dos
Santos dead to rights for two to three rounds at UFC 155,
dominating the wrestling and winning the positional battles. He
nearly landed a high-level rolling armbar off the cage. Dos Santos’
bottom escape plan consisted of moving to all fours and crawling up
to his feet; he was ripe for a rear-naked choke on multiple
occasions. Velasquez saw the Brazilian’s toughness and learned how
difficult it will be to finish him with punches alone. Do not think
that knowledge will be wasted on a team as smart as the American
Kickboxing Academy. Velasquez stamps the expiration date on his
rivalry with JDS with a fight-ending submission.
Excitement follows Sanchez.