The Highs and Lows of UFC 166

By Roy Billington

Last night the UFC hit the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas for UFC 166, which was headlined by the long-anticipated rubber match between UFC heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez and former champion Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos. Both fighters were intent on coming out ahead in this trilogy, and both men put in a great performance. Here are the Highs and Lows of UFC 166:

The Highs

On the Facebook Preliminary portion of the card, former TUF contestant Dustin Pague faced Octagon newcomer Kyoji Horiguchi. In the opening round, the ever-improving Pague looked sharp. He slickly took Horiguchi’s back and briefly locked up an early rear naked choke, but Horiguchi, a stateside debutant, showed composure beyond his years, as he stayed calm and defended all of Pague’s submission attempts.

In the second round Horiguchi looked like the more energetic fighter, and looked reminiscent of his mentor Kid Yamamoto on the feet. Horiguchi landed a furious punch early in the second and from that point onward Pague was defenseless, Horiguchi uncorked a vicious onslaught of precision ground and pound which forced Herb Dean to stop the fight.

I was highly impressed with Horiguchi’s performance, and I’m very intrigued to see how he fares in the flyweight division.

In the next fight, Andre Fili stepped in on 10 days notice to face the ever-durable Jeremy Larsen, and the 23-year-old looked amazing. From the opening bell, Fili looked the far more confident fighter, and on the feet he looked like he was a step ahead of Larsen throughout the bout.

In the first round, Fili clipped Larsen on a number of occasions and opened a brutal cut on his face with a knee, which he later credited his mentor Duane Ludwig for teaching him. By the end of the first, it was easy to see the gap in talent between the two, and going into the second round, it was almost inevitable that Fili would stop Larsen, and that he did. With one swift shot to Larsen’s temple, he ended the night.

In the final early prelim, AMA/Jackson’s MMA product Adlan Amagov faced submission specialist TJ Waldburger. Early in the fight, Amagov landed a beautiful spinning back kick to Waldburger’s torso which took his wind. Amagov then initiated the clinch and landed a brutal left hook from the single collar tie before landing vicious follow-up shots on the canvas which caused Waldburger to lose consciousness.

Amagov, along with teammates Khabib Nurmagomdov and Shahbulat Shamhalaev, are really paving the way for the multitudes of gifted Chechen fighters, and I predict that in the years to come, the dominance of Chechen fighters will continue.

Next for Amagov should to be a bout with Gunnar Nelson, who is on the verge of returning from his knee injury.

Former Bellator champion Hector Lombard faced former Strikeforce champion Nate Marquardt in a bout in the welterweight division. Lombard, who is known for his aggressive style, decided to move to 170 pounds after a stagnant stint in the middleweight division, and his rejuvenation was clear for all to see.

Coming out in the first, Lombard had a vicious KO in his sights, and wouldn’t stop moving forward until he scored it. I was really impressed with how fast Lombard was. His hand speed was blistering and Marquardt truly had no answer to it.

Next for Lombard should be a fight with Jake Shields.

In the first heavyweight bout of the card, ATT’s Shawn Jordan faced former title contender Gabriel Gonzaga, and after only 1:33 in the first round, the resurgent Brazilian Gonzaga showed just how much his striking has improved as he knocked Jordan out cold with a counter punch.

Gonzaga has long been one of the most well-rounded UFC fighters, and as of late he has really come into his own. I think the UFC needs to give him a step up in competition, and I for one would love to see him fight the gifted Stipe Miocic.

When Diego Sanchez vs. Gilbert Melendez was announced, I knew immediately that this fight was going to be special. Sanchez is the most exciting fighter I’ve ever watched, and Melendez always brings it. This fight delivered so much on my anticipation. From the first round onward there was nothing but excitement, as in the first, Diego landed well with kicks, but Melendez looked far sharper with the hands.

In the second, Gil was again more successful on the feet, but Diego was beginning to channel his YES power, and even though he lost this round as well, the momentum was beginning to build for Diego.

I have watched thousands of fights over the years, and people will mention Bonnar vs. Griffin, Henderson vs. Rua, or Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez as the greatest fight of all time, but in my opinion this fight far surpassed all others. With Diego two rounds down entering the third, he went for it full blast. Both he and Melendez gritted their teeth and threw hard leather. Diego dropped Melendez and even came close to a finish before ultimately losing a 29-28 decision.

In the main event, Junior Dos Santos faced Cain Velasquez for the third time. In the first bout Dos Santos made light work of Velasquez, in the second fight it was all Velasquez, and going into the third it was all square.

From the minute the fight started, Velasquez implemented the same relentless style he utilized in the second fight to much success. He sailed through the first two rounds before nearly finishing the fight in the third.

In the 4th round it was more of the same for the champ, as he opened a big cut up over the eye of Dos Santos. Going into the fifth Velasquez was four rounds ahead, and after dominating again in the fifth, a fatigued Dos Santos was unable to stand up, which caused Herb Dean to call a halt to the bout.

Cain Velasquez cemented his status as the best heavyweight of all time last night.

The Lows

In the first fight of the televised prelims, George Sotiropoulos faced KJ Noons. This fight had a number of lows. First, Sotiropoulos’ lack of aggression in the first round, which really led to a tedious first stanza, and then Sotiropoulos blatantly eye-poked Noons. What really perplexed me about the eye-poke incident though was Herb Dean’s reaction to the incident. Dean immediately asked Noons “Are you okay?” to which Noons responded, “Yeah, I can see a little bit of black though.” I’m no doctor, but if someone can see a black spot, something isn’t right.

In the later stages of the fight the bout improved slightly, with both “GSots” and Noons having their moments. The judges gave the decision to Noons, who got his first win inside the UFC’s famed Octagon.

Once more the now well-known eye-poke problem in the UFC resurfaced, as CB Dollaway poked Tim Boetsch, not once, but twice in the third round of their bout, causing Boetsch’s eye to bleed. Many were eager to blame Dollaway for unsportsmanlike conduct, but I believe that it wasn’t intentional, and just yet another example of the problem with the UFC gloves.

Then, after the fight finished, for some bewildering reason two judges scored the fight 30-26 in favor of Boetsch. In all my years of writing, I struggle to remember judging so bizarre. Dollaway won both rounds one and two, and arguably Round 3 was a draw when you take into account the point deduction.

The athletic commissions really need to appoint better judges.


UFC 166: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos III took place on October 19, 2013 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

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