5 reasons to watch UFC 166
Usually in this rapid-fire rundown of all things awesome on the next UFC fight card, there is at least one bout that elicits the Sesame Street reaction: one of these things is not like the others; one of these things just doesn’t belong.
Not that every fight on the main card of an event has to look like a 5-Star Classic on paper, but with most everyone already sold on the main event – especially on pay-per-view shows, given how many of them have been killer title fights of late – that one fight becomes a point of contention with fight fans that need to find something to complain about at all times.
Well good luck trying to do that here.
UFC 166 is stacked from top to bottom, and every fight on the main card has its own hook that should have you counting down the hours until Bruce Buffer bellows, “We. Are. LIVE!” at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
Not convinced? Keep reading up on the five outstanding main card matches set to hit the Octagon that combine to illustrate why there is no doubt that you should be watching this event on Saturday night.
The Rubber Match
Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos are far and away the two top heavyweights in the sport today. They’re both 10-1 in the UFC, and their first two meetings represent the single ticks in their respective loss columns.
Saturday night they meet for a third time, with the UFC heavyweight title once again hanging in the balance, and an abundance of questions waiting to be answered as these dominant forces collide once again.
Can Velasquez duplicate the 25-minute mauling from UFC 155? Will “Cigano” connect with another fight-changing bomb that shuts things down early? Will we see the heavyweight version of the back-and-forth epic we were just treated to by Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson?
The possibilities are endless, and if you don’t have goose bumps just thinking about it, there might be something wrong with you.
The Grudge Match
While the main event combatants enter the cage with nothing but the utmost respect for one another, you get the feeling that the two heavyweights that make up the penultimate fight of the evening aren’t quite there.
Not even close, actually.
Sure, Daniel Cormier and Roy Nelson have the standard professional admiration that every fighter has for another man (or woman) willing to step into the cage to test themselves, but there is also a healthy dose of animosity between the two, and they’re about to resolve their differences with their fists.
This isn’t a bitter rivalry in the “Chael Sonnen vs. Brazil” sense, but the two heavyweight contenders have been jawing at each other for months, and despite being on seemingly different career trajectories, “DC” and “Big Country” are both eager to prove their superiority and silence the noise coming from the other side of the cage.
The Title Eliminator Match
Though it hasn’t been specifically designated as such, you get the feeling that the lightweight pairing between Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez that serves as the midway point of the pay-per-view could very well produce the next title challenger in the 155-pound weight class.
Melendez is returning for the first time since painfully close split decision loss to Benson Henderson in April, and remains one of the truly elite competitors in the lightweight division. Sanchez, meanwhile, sought out the pairing with “El Nino” in hopes of proving he is once again a championship player, and seems focused headed into his second fight in his second run in the lightweight ranks.
Given the shifting landscape of the division – a new champion, a somewhat unexpected title challenger, no clear “next in line” contender – it wouldn’t be a stretch to see the winner of this one elevated to the position opposite the titleholder next time around.
That possibility alone makes this an intriguing fight, and when you add in the fact that both Melendez and Sanchez are almost incapable of being in an uneventful fight, the “I can’t wait to see it” factor for this one just continues to climb.
The Someone is Going Night-Night Match
Before you say that Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shawn Jordan is the “Sesame Street Fight” on the main card, take a look at the UFC heavyweight division.
While the main event participants man the top two positions, the rest of the division is in a state of flux. Some of the perennial contenders are slipping, a couple of new cats are climbing the divisional ladder, and – believe it or not – the winner of this one probably lands in the final position in the Top 10.
(Note: this is especially true if/when Daniel Cormier heads to 205)
Now, when you combine that with the fact that these two big boys are focused on putting one another to sleep in the center of the Octagon, you’ve got a fight that (1) deserves to be on the main card of a PPV, and (2) is going to be all kinds of fun to watch.
Additionally, Jordan might actually be the best of the “former football players turned heavyweight fighters” on the UFC roster right now, even though he doesn’t get nearly as much shine as Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione.
The Criminally Underrated Match
Just save your “Ugh… small guys” lamentations for another day.
Not only does the UFC deserve a big ol’ High 5 for kicking off a marquee pay-per-view event with a flyweight contest, but John Dodson and Darrell Montague are likely to set the Fight of the Night bar fairly high right out of the gate.
Dodson pushed flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson early in their championship fight back in January, while Montague has been one of the best 125-pounders in the sport since before the UFC brought the division on board. He’s 10-1 over the last four years and change, with his lone loss coming against “Uncle Creepy,” Ian McCall.
These two are going to bounce around the cage in a tornado of kicks and punches and takedowns and elbows and combinations, and when the dust settles and the fight is over, you’re going to have absolutely loved it.