UFC 166 takes place this weekend and features a stacked card, maybe more so than any previous card this year. One bout of note that I didn’t cover is the welterweight debut of Hector Lombard. He was built like a tank at 185lbs, it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the weight cut to 170lbs. His opponent, Nate Marquardt, is no joke either. Both men desperately need a win. The rest of the undercard features two former title contenders in John Dodson and Gilbert Melendez. Both men are coming off decision losses to the champions and a win here could possibly propel them into title contention again. A juicy heavyweight tilt features the biggest rising prospect, Daniel Cormier, in his last fight before leaving the division. He’ll be facing the always tough Roy Nelson with his amazing beard. If that’s not enough, the main event features the third fight of an already epic series between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, the two baddest men on the planet. Lots to love on this card.
Flyweight: Darrell Montague (13-2) vs. John Dodson (14-6)
Darrell Montague is making his UFC debut and unfortunately for him it’s not an easy one. Dodson is coming off a five round title loss to champion Demetrious Johnson, a fight in which he had his moments but could string it all together. This should be a bounce back fight for Dodson, and trainer Greg Jackson will have a game plan in place to neutralize the newcomer. A win here could vault Dodson back into the title picture rather quickly.
The Pick: Dodson
Lightweight: Diego Sanchez (24-5) vs. Gilbert Melendez (21-3)
This should be a good one. Diego Sanchez has been in the UFC since 2005 and has lost only five times in that period. Long a force, he’s had a title shot at lightweight and fought at welterweight too. You can call him a gatekeeper, but the guy is game for anything. Enter Melendez. Much like Dodson, he’s coming off a title shot in which he lost (a much closer decision). Unlike Dodson, Melendez doesn’t have the luxury of fighting a newcomer, the lightweight division is much too crowded for that. Melendez has knockout power (11 TKOs/KOs), but I see the fight going the distance.
The Pick: Melendez
Heavyweight: Roy Nelson (19-8) vs. Daniel Cormier (12-0)
Crazy stat, of Nelson’s 19 wins, 17 have come by knockout or submission. Basically, if he goes the distance he loses. But, he’s only been knocked out once, back in 2008, he’s got a chin of granite. Cormier is a former Olympic wrestler, he’s got some power, but you can expect him to grind Nelson down. There should be fireworks standing up though, heavyweights aren’t known for their stamina. This is Cormier’s last fight at heavyweight before dropping to 205lbs to chase Jon Jones (or whoever).
The Pick: Cormier
UFC Heavyweight Title: Junior Dos Santos (16-2) vs. Cain Velasquez (12-1)
There’s good talent in the heavyweight division, but these two are leagues above the rest. Both are 4-1 in their last five fights, having lost only to each other. Both have power, Velasquez with 10 knockouts and Dos Santos with 12. Velasquez pushes a relentless pace, unbelievable for a man his size. Dos Santos probably has the best hands the division has ever seen. Both used their strengths to beat the other. How does it pan out? I’m not sure. This is really a coin toss, I’ll give a (very) slight edge to Velasquez, but Dos Santos is nothing to slouch at.
The Pick: Velasquez
2013 Record: 18-5
UFC 166 takes place Saturday, October 19, on pay-per-view.