It’s time to step into the Octagon once again as we take a look at the third encounter between Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos at UFC 166, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on BT Sport here in Britain.
The broadcast began with the preliminaries and the lightweight encounter between George Sotiropoulos and K.J. Noons.
This one took quite a while to get going. As Noons took up a position in the centre of the cage Sotiropoulos spent most of his time circling him, and although Noons went for a few jabs it was well over two minutes before the Aussie went on the offensive.
Things only really took off after an Sotiropoulos accidentally poked Noons in the eye. This seemed to light a fire under them as they spent the remainder of the first round swinging for the fences.
The action got a lot better from the second round onwards. Sotiropoulos managed to take the fight to the ground for a brief moment, and Noons began to up his game a little with some nice striking, rocking the Aussie with a big right and opening up a couple of nasty cuts above both eyes. However, even though Noons had his man in some trouble he failed to go in for the kill, letting the Aussie off the hook a little.
Sotiropoulos recovered well enough to get in some more takedown attempts and some more good blows, but despite this it looked like Noons had done just enough to take the decision.
The judges saw it that way too as they gave Noons their unanimous decision.
Women’s bantamweight action followed as Sarah Kaufman went up against Jessica Eye.
This proved to be one of those intriguing three round affairs. These two began trading right from the start, and it was obvious early on that Eye had the speed advantage, while Kaufman had the power.
As the fight went on Eye began to use her advantage more and more, and a succession of left jabs swelled Kaufman’s eye. It wasn’t all one-way traffic though. Kaufman got in her fair share of good blows as well, particularly with her powerful right hand.
It was that big right hand that gave Eye quite a bit of trouble in the third round. The action had looked pretty even up until then, but when Kaufman rocked Eye it looked like we were on the verge of a stoppage. Eye managed to survive that particular onslaught though, and once again they traded blows as the fight came to an end.
Which meant more work for the judges, and this time they couldn’t agree as Eye took the split decision.
Then it was on to the welterweight division as Nate Marquardt faced Hector Lombard.
The first fight of the broadcast not to make it out of the first round saw both men getting in some good shots early on. A sort of feeling out period followed as they began to test the waters a little, but when Lombard connected with an overhand right it was the beginning of the end for Marquardt.
Another big right from the Cuban followed a few seconds later, and as Marquardt tried to create some distance Lombard went in for the kill, and after a few blows on the ground the referee stepped in to give Lombard the knockout win.
The final prelim featured middleweight action as Tim Boetsch went up against C.B. Dollaway.
Now this one definitely ticked all the right boxes. Dollaway put on a great striking display early on, and as he rolled off blow after blow it made Boetsch looked kind of ordinary. It even seemed to frustrate Dollaway a little as he held his hands in the air trying to call his man into action. It certainly did the trick late on in the round after a couple of blows opened up a cut above Dollaway’s right eye.
Both men had their fair share of good moments as the fight progressed, but as the second became the third Dollaway accidentally poked Boetsch in the eye. It was so bad that he cried out in pain, and while he was taking a rest blood began to seep out of his right eye.
But just when he thought it was safe to go back into the way Dollaway did it again, and this second eye poke earned him a point deduction. This seemed to inspire him a little as he took control on the ground, although Boetsch was more than able to hold his own, ending the fight with an arm triangle attempt.
Which mean more work for the judges, and they continued with their disagreeing ways as Boetsch took the split decision.
The main show began in the flyweight division as John Dodson faced Darrell Montague.
This one began with the proverbial testing of the waters as both men tried to get their range finders working, with Montague scoring with some nice leg kicks, and Dodson getting in a couple of good blows of his own.
The action soon settled down and began to tick along nicely until Dodson scored with a big left that rocked his man. As Dodson went in for the kill Montague held on to the single leg as if he were clinging on to life, and it gave him time to recover as Dodson realised that he couldn’t end the fight there and then.
But as the round entered it’s final minute Dodson connected with another powerful left. Montague fell to the mat liked a felled oak, and the referee quickly stepped in to give Dodson the knockout win.
The big boys of the heavyweight division came out to play next as Gabriel Gonzaga took on Shawn Jordan.
Gonzaga began his night’s work with a couple of nice looking kicks to Jordan’s legs, and as both men tried to get into gear the Brazilian suddenly connected with a big right hook that sent Jordan crashing. Gonzaga then followed him down for a brief spot of ground and pound before the referee stepped in to give him the TKO win after just 93 seconds.
It was back to lightweight for the next fight as Gilbert Melendez took on Diego Sanchez.
Now this was a fight. For three rounds these two put on one of the best encounters I’ve seen this year, a veritable war of attrition that you just couldn’t take your eyes off.
Sanchez began the action by rushing across the cage to confront his foe, and a few seconds later he jumped upon Melendez’s back, looking for a rear naked choke. The former Strikeforce king managed to survive this little scare though, and it wasn’t long before both men were swinging for the fences. It was from that moment on that we knew this was going to be good.
A few moments later Melendez connected with a right elbow that opened up a deep and nasty cut above Sanchez’s left eye, and from there Melendez began to take control. Sanchez’s striking was good, but Melendez’s was just that bit better.
The tremendous pace these two had set continued throughout the fight. Sanchez had a couple of scares when the referee stopped the action so the doctors could check out his cuts, but apart from that he showed guts as he kept calling his man into battle. Melendez responded to these calls with some more great striking.
Sanchez’s best chance of victory came in the third when he dropped Melendez and went for a guillotine, but that attempt only lasted a few seconds before they returned to the striking exchanges, and even though they’d both gone full tilt they were both still swinging when the fight came to an end.
All of this meant yet more work for the judges as Melendez took the unanimous decision.
Filler material followed in the form of the welterweight clash between T.J. Waldburger and Adlan Amagov.
This one had quite an extensive feeling out period, with Amagov connecting with a couple of spinning back kicks, before Waldburger instigated a clinch against the cage as he looked for a takedown. Amagov did a great job of defending, and as they moved away from the fence with Waldburger still holding a leg Amagov connected with a few hard blows.
Eventually these blows had their desired effect as Waldburger slumped to the canvas. Amagov followed him down for a few more well-placed blows before the referee stepped in to give the Russian the knockout win.
The co-main event returned to the heavyweight division as Daniel Cormier went up against Roy Nelson.
For me this was a great example of how far Cormier has come since he turned up as a replacement in the Strikeforce GP a while back. His performance was almost flawless throughout, and at times he made Big Country look kind of ordinary.
In the first round Cormier was all over Nelson like the proverbial cheap suit. He took him down to the ground early and completely out-wrestled him. This, allied with some nice shots, set the tone for the rest of the fight, with the only blot on his copybook coming when a knee in the clinch went a little too south for Nelson’s liking.
Nelson began to show signs of fatigue from the end of the first, but despite this he continued to look game, always looking for that big right had that has served him so well since his Ultimate Fighter win. The only problem was that Cormier’s speed meant that there was no target to hit, and this was particularly evident in the third round when Nelson knew he needed a knockout to get the win.
That knockout never came, and when the judges rendered their decision it came as no surprise that they gave everything to Cormier.
The main event saw Junior Dos Santos challenging Cain Velasquez for the Heavyweight title.
Now this is what the heavyweight division should be all about. For years it was treated with a small amount of disdain, but this fight showed that it’s now up there with the rest of them.
To say that Velasquez put in a great performance here would not be understating things. Despite getting tagged with a big left early on he dominated the proceedings. His tactics were actually quite simple, grind JDS down against the cage and mix in a few choice blows.
JDS had his moments, but they were few and very far between, mainly because the champion was that good, and it was a joy to watch as he proved he’s the best in the division right now.
Despite the champion’s dominance JDS kept soldiering on, looking for that one big blow that would put Velasquez away. But as his left eye swelled shut and the blood poured down over his right eye it was becoming more and more apparent that this just wasn’t his night, and this became more evident when Velasquez put him on the canvas and almost secured the win.
By the time the final round started it was obvious who was going to win, and as Velasquez continued his dominance JDS was looking more and more like a beaten man, and when his standing guillotine attempt failed and his slumped to the canvas everyone could see that was it. He covered his head as Velasquez connected with a couple of blows, and that was enough for the referee as he stepped in to give Velasquez the title retaining TKO win.
In conclusion – so how best to describe this particular show? Let’s think about that for a moment or two.
Well, for me it was one of the UFC’s best shows of the year. From the beginning of the prelims right up to the main event it delivered big time, and then some. It was a show packed full of great fights, great performances, and a whole lot of heart. In fact I would be surprised if this didn’t get a few votes for MMA show of the year in the numerous online polls come January time.
As for my fight of the night, those in the know gave their nod to Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez. I would probably have agreed with them, had Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos not given us such a tremendous main event, which means that the no-prize goes to the two best heavyweights in the world right now.
So with all of that out of the way there’s just one more thing left to do, and that’s to give UFC 166 the big thumbs up.
By day I’m an unemployed retail worker, and at weekends I volunteer at a local museum, but by night I’m the author of The Two Sheds Review, Britain’s longest running professional wrestling and mixed martial arts blog. Visit my site at www.twoshedsreview.vze.com. It’s been online in one form or another since June 2000!