UFC 166 Predictions
Cain Velasquez vs Junior dos Santos
It’s not very often where I get excited for a third meeting between two fighters, but when they are the clear-cut #1 and #2 fighters in their division, you can’t help but get a little jacked up. It also helps that their first two meetings were the polar opposites of each other, with JDS dominating the first fight and Velasquez owning the rematch. Stylistically, nothing really has changed from their first two meetings. Dos Santos will once again have the obvious power advantage, and the ability to end the fight at any given moment against Velasquez’s sometime shaky chin. He is also a black belt under the Nogueira brothers, but we have yet to see what his ground game looks like other than the ability to get back to his feet in an instant after a takedown. Other than that, Velasquez is better pretty much everywhere else. The wrestling, clinch game, smothering top game with vicious ground and pound all favor the champ. In their second fight, Velasquez mixed up his wrestling and striking to near perfection, in his five-round beatdown of the former champ, and I expect more of the same this time around. I see Velasquez using the clinch while looking to get the fight to the mat early and often wearing Dos Santos down, which will open up his striking game en route to late round TKO finish.
Pick: Velasquez by TKO.
Daniel Cormier vs Roy Nelson
Another heavyweight match-up puts former Olympian and blue chip prospect, Daniel Cormier against the fan favorite and ultra-tough Roy Nelson. Since the UFC’s heavyweight title is currently being held by friend and training partner, Cormier says this will be his last fight in the division before dropping to the 205-pound weight class. Cormier will look to use his superior wrestling skills to nullify the outstanding power of Nelson’s overhand right. While Nelson’s ground game is vastly underrated, his success comes from his top game and he’ll likely have serious problems off his back if Cormier gets him down. Nelson needs to land a big shot early, but I don’t see Cormier allowing much opportunity for that.
Pick: Cormier via Decision
Gilbert Melendez vs Diego Sanchez
Two former lightweight title contenders meet in a key match-up that looks to change the landscape of the 155-pound rankings. Gilbert Melendez is at his best when he’s able to work at his pace, mixing his striking with late takedowns to seal rounds in his favor. He has struggled against aggressive fighters in the past (Josh Thomson, Ben Henderson), and Diego Sanchez always comes in with a heavy offensive output. That being said, I’m not sure Sanchez has the skills to keep Melendez backing up and taking him off his game plan. There may be a couple close rounds, but I like Melendez to get the better of Sanchez throughout.
Pick: Melendez by Decision
Gabriel Gonzaga vs Shawn Jordan
Since returning to the UFC, Gabriel Gonzaga has gone back to his jiu-jitsu roots which I feel has always been his best chance for victory in a division full of strikers. But after a 17-second knockout of Dave Herman, I’m afraid we might see the striking-heavy Gonzaga again at UFC 166. Even if he does try to get the fight to the mat, it won’t be an easy task against Shawn Jordan, who is one of the most gifted athletes in the division. Jordan is big, strong, has brain-mashing power, and continues to improve in all facets of the mixed martial arts game each time out. The longer this fight stays on the feet, the more it favors Jordan.
Pick: Jordan by KO
John Dodson vs Darrell Montague
Darrell Montague is finally where he belongs, in the UFC with the chance to face the division’s elite. That’s exactly what he’s getting when he makes his debut against John Dodson at UFC 166. Montague is incredibly well-rounded in all aspects of MMA, with strong boxing skills and a knack to find submission finishes on the ground. Dodson is also strong in all areas of the sport, but will likely have the advantage in speed, power, and pure athleticism. I’m expecting a close fight for a round or two, then Dodson landing a big shot and getting the finish shortly after.
Pick: Dodson via TKO
Tim Boetsch vs CB Dollaway
Since dropping to 185, Tim Boetsch has had a strength advantage over nearly all of his opponents, and that shouldn’t be any different heading into UFC 166 against CB Dollaway. Boetsch starts incredibly strong with explosive takedowns, suffocating top game, and an array of ground and pound strikes filled with knees to the body and hammerfists. As fights wear on though, his pace slows dramatically and at times nearly comes to an abrupt stop. That could be dangerous against a grappler like Dollaway, who has a great guillotine choke and could capitalize on a tired takedown attempt. Fortunately for Boetsch, I don’t see him needing to extend himself in the early rounds and can use his wrestling to secure a clear-cut decision victory.
Pick: Boetsch by Decision
Prelim Quick Picks
Nate Marquardt vs Hector Lombard – Lombard by Decision
Sarah Kaufman vs Jessica Eye – Kaufman by Decision
George Sotiropoulos vs KJ Noons – Sotiropoulos by Submission
TJ Waldburger vs Adlan Amagov – Amagov by KO
Tony Ferguson vs Mike Rio – Ferguson by KO
Jeremy Larsen vs Andre Fili – Fili by Decision
Dustin Pague vs Kyoji Horiguchi – Horiguchi by KO