Kyoji Horiguchi’s 11-1 record or five-fight winning streak are good reasons to view him as the favorite in comparison to Pague’s trio of consecutive stumbles but don’t count the TUF 14 alumnus out. He’s shown great heart and toughness in past tilts and is a pure finisher with stoppages in all eleven of his victories. Factor in the travel time involved for the Japanese Horiguchi, as well as it being his UFC debut and fighters from the Land of the Rising Sun not faring too well in the Octagon, and Pague’s success is almost a foregone conclusion. Dollaway is the middleweight division’s Rodney Dangerfield in that he can’t get any respect. He’s coming off back-to-back wins over Daniel Sarafian and Jason Miller, while opponent Tim Boetsch will be looking to avoid a three-fight skid come showtime. While those numbers aren’t definitive of how their actual effort will go, there’s no reason to believe Dollaway can’t out-grapple Boetsch as other past opponents have and pull out an ugly victory. If Gonzaga can avoid Shawn Jordan’s power in their pairing he’s a lock to win. “Napao” has more weapons to work with, finding past success on the mat and while standing. He’s finished all fifteen of the foes he’s felled including many who were at least on Jordan’s level. His chin has been suspect in the past, hence the aforementioned need to stay out of the pocket, but other than that it should be smooth sailing for the Brazilian. Nelson hasn’t faced any wrestlers like Daniel Cormier in his career because, frankly, there aren’t any like him at heavyweight. The former Olympian is unbeaten and for good reason. However, he’s still mortal, and chances are he and Nelson will exchange strikes on more than one occasion in the match-up. “Big Country” has the power to put Cormier to sleep, plus his grappling game might give Cormier problems on the ground. He’ll definitely have a weight advantage as well, possibly playing a factor into how the soon-to-be-205er fares against him. For starters, Dos Santos has already shown he can beat champion Cain Velasquez by knocking him out in 64 seconds a couple of years ago. While “Cigano” lost a one-sided decision to Velasquez in the rematch, he has the same power he did in their initial meeting with a few other factors at play including his experience against Velasquez in the second scrap and the increased motivation of having lost. He also knows Velasquez couldn’t put him away while beating him senseless, so there’s some confidence to be found in that fact as well. Their fight on Saturday night is a coin-flip and, as such, those who like 50/50 odds are in good shape.
The beauty of MMA is in part the difficult in consistently predicting outcomes. All it takes to win a fight is a split second lapse in judgment or a perfectly-timed strike. If you need evidence in the “anything can happen” nature of the sport, look no further than this weekend’s lineup for
where there are definitely a few underdogs who could end up exiting their efforts with a hand raised including one who might boast UFC 166 UFC gold when the smoke clears. (Photos by USA Today Sports Images)