The biggest heavyweight showdown since David vs. Goliath will take place this Saturday at UFC 166 in Houston, Texas as the reigning champ, Cain Velasquez, defends his belt against the only man to hold a victory over him, Junior dos Santos. Heavyweight bouts will come as a trio in this main card as the rising force Daniel Cormier battles the iron-chinned Roy Nelson in the co-main event, and Gabriel Gonzaga also makes an appearance. A total of 5 bouts will ensue on Pay-per-View, so let’s take a look at them.
John Dodson vs. Darrell Montague
It’s not often a UFC newcomer finds himself in the main card, but the prospect out of Chino, California will have his chance to make a big mark on the UFC’s flyweight division. He’s facing a former title competitor in John Dodson, who is no easy first assignment. Expect a competitive bout in this one as both possess effective skill sets and both are very dangerous.
On the feet, John Dodson is a hard man to beat. His boxing saw him drop and stun the champion Demetrious Johnson on several occasions, as he did to many other who have shared the Octagon with him. Dodson’s speed and precision with his hands is nearly unmatched, so Darrell should not attempt to out-strike him in this aspect of the fight game. Montague will hold a 3 inch height advantage, so a stiff jab and constant barrage of leg strikes should be Darrell’s path to victory, but that’s not only where he shines. Montague is a proven finisher when it comes to the submission game and is sneaky about locking up tight chokes using his lanky frame. If Montage can halt Dodson’s pressure on the feet and force some grappling exchanges, Montague could very well snag ahold of something that could finish the fight.
The biggest factor in this bout will be Dodson’s explosiveness. We know he possesses some extreme cases of speed and very explosive power, so he’ll need to use that when Montague enforces the clinch or tries to take him down. A steady flow of combinations on the feet should keep Montague at bay from getting much done. The reach may be a bit of a troublesome element, but Dodson is good about changing angles and moving in when least expected; this will open up opportunities for Dodson to land some big shots. Expect an admirable performance from Montague, but Dodson is too quick and too explosive for Darrell to impose his will on. Dodson’s boxing will batter Montague for three rounds while he avoids any ground attempts.
John Dodson via Unanimous Decision
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shawn Jordan
These two heavyweights are fighting for entry into the top echelon of the division, and with both coming in with knockout wins relevant on their resume, this could be the fight to do it. Gonzaga showcased his sheer power and accuracy by dispatching Dave Herman in a mere 17 seconds last July, while Shawn Jordan upset Pat Barry with a 59-second TKO. Both of these men hold tremendous power in their punches, and could end the fight in an instant.
The thing that sets these two apart is what happens when they lock up. Jordan is a big, athletic, strong fighting but lacks the technique and finishing capability on the ground. Jordan is more inclined to pin you against the cage and beat a hole in your head rather than take you down and submit you like Gonzaga is. On the feet, it’s hard not to side with Gonzaga as he has the more versatile arsenal. Strong leg kicks and more complete combinations should push Shawn Jordan into wanting to dirty the fight up a bit. As he does this, it’ll be Gonzaga’s world-class grappling that will click, and Gonzaga should be the one in control. Look for Gonzaga to secure top control and dominate Jordan who provides little offense or defense off of his back. It’ll be a quick submission for the BJJ black belt.
Gabriel Gonzaga via 1st Rd Submission
Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez
In the lightweight division, top ranked 155’er Gilbert Melendez will take on the experienced talent in Diego Sanchez. Both men have experience fighting for titles, so this should be a showdown between two of the very best in the lightweight division.
Sanchez, while he hasn’t been extremely impressive as of late, is still a tough fight for anybody. His non-stop aggression and ability to not stop turns fights into brawls, and bloody ones at that; Sanchez’s heart is never underestimated. That being said, it’s your skills in combat that wins you fights, not necessarily your heart and toughness (although that’s not always the case, see Martin Kampmann vs. Diego Sanchez).
Gilbert Melendez may have Diego Sanchez beat in raw skill, but anything can happen in this fight. Melendez is a ferocious force just as Diego is, but seeing as how they both have the power and tenacity to put a finishing stamp on each other, it’ll really come down to who can get it done quicker, or who can avoid the others’ onslaught. Melendez is definitely the smoother of the two; his transitions are less rigid, he moves around a bit more unpredictably, and ultimately is the cleaner fighter in technique. While Sanchez is very well-rounded, he needs to be predictable and often charge in absent cause. Melendez’s boxing is extremely sharp, and should be able to beat Sanchez to the punch.
Sanchez’s offensive wrestling is really what makes him who he is. He’s mostly known for his relentless attack and pursuit of takedowns. Unfortunately, Melendez is a very skilled wrestler and arguably more athletic. Melendez should be able to avoid the takedown, and make Sanchez pay for nearly every attempt.
I don’t think we’ll see Melendez finish Sanchez unless he really commits and catches him with something big. We’ll most likely see Melendez out-strike, out-move, and out-point Sanchez in a fast-paced fight of the night award winning performance. These two men are ferociously aggressive, but it’ll be Melendez who is the better package.
Gilbert Melendez via Unanimous Decision
Daniel Cormier vs. Roy Nelson
Arriving at the co-main event, a heavyweight grudge match between Daniel Cormier and Roy Nelson will be set for the history books. Both Cormier and Nelson have discussed their dislike towards each other via social media, but most of it doesn’t seem too harsh; just mostly personal distaste. However, they have business to conduct and that will come in the form of fists, or in the form of sweaty belly rubbing – this fight really can go either way.
Cormier is an extremely athletic and explosive wrestler who exercises his dominance on his opponents with dirty-boxing against the cage, non-stop takedowns, and loads and loads of punches to the head. While Cormier may not have the most power in his hands, even though he did manage to knock-out Bigfoot Silva in a shocking display of punching strength, he has the speed and explosiveness to really do some damage. Nelson on the hand is quite the opposite; he has a godly amount of knockout power in his punches, but he lacks the discipline and cardio to remain a constant threat the whole fight.
The way this fight ends is really going to be based on whether or not Cormier respects Nelson. Roy can end this fight in one single stroke, while Cormier is less likely. However, Cormier is the one that has a much easier path and much task; all he has to do is simply beat Nelson to the punch, tie him up, rough him up, take him down, rinse, wash, and repeat. Nelson is a dangerous foe, but Cormier’s clinch control and dirty boxing will be too much for him as he wins round after round. It’ll be another frustrating performance for Roy Nelson to follow up his loss to Stipe Miocic, but Nelson’s dangerous right hand can’t be his only weapon of choice.
Daniel Cormier via Unanimous Decision
Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos
These two impressive heavyweights will finally meet to settle the score in this highly anticipated and monumental rubber match. Both fighters are entering this bout with one impressive knockout since their last encounter which saw Velasquez completely control and dominate dos Santos for five rounds; previous to that bout, Junior initially stole the belt with an overhand right KO just a minute into the bout. Cain’s chop-down performance of Bigfoot Silva showed the power and speed in Cain’s strikes, something he showed in the first round of the five-round display against dos Santos. Junior on the other hand showed his patience and vast arsenal as he knocked out the iron-chinned kickboxer Mark Hunt with a spinning wheel kick. Both fighters are extremely impressive and have put their mark on the heavyweight division, but this fight is about how Velasquez matches up against dos Santos.
There are really only two ways this fight goes down; either Junior manages to land another knockout blow to Velasquez, or Cain is able to complete takedown after takedown like he did in the second fight and win a dominant fight. Cain’s cardio has yet to be tested, so he’ll be ready to go 5 rounds, but the question is if Junior dos Santos will be able to do the same. Junior’s cardio has fluctuated a bit in the past; his muscly frame is not quite ideal for 25 minutes of non-stop wrestling, which is what Velasquez will have in mind. If Junior wants any chance of winning this fight, he needs to do it quickly.
The big thing that Junior has in his favor is anticipation. Dos Santos knows the gameplan, and he knows the skills of Velasquez that he may have underestimated in their second bout. Dos Santos needs to keep his feet moving him, circling away, keeping his back off the cage, and he must avoid Velasquez’s big right hand that he rocked him with previously. Playing a stronger defensive game on the feet this time around will buy Junior time to line-up his money shot. If he fails, it is a matter of time before Velasquez hunts him down and glues him to the mat.
Putting the fight into this type of late, you can really see that the odds are against dos Santos. Velasquez just has too much of a chance to complete his takedowns, or at the very least hang with dos Santos standing. Dos Santos has a punchers chance, a big one at that, but Velasquez has real strong odds for an identical performance to the last one, and that is what I’m expecting.
Cain Velasquez via Unanimous Decision