UFC 166 takes place Saturday night from Houston, Texas. The 12 fight card is headlined by a legacy defining UFC heavyweight title bout pitting champion Cain Velasquez against challenger Junior Dos Santos. Velasquez-Dos Santos is the rubber match in a trilogy of fights between the two dominant heavyweights of this era. Dos Santos won the first fight via first round knockout, with Velasquez taking the rematch via dominant unanimous decision. Dos Santos is 11-1 in the UFC and Velasquez is 10-1 in the UFC, with their only losses coming to the other man.
UFC heavyweight title: Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos
There's a good chance this will be the defining moment of each fighter's career. It highlights a burgeoning rivalry between entrenched Mexican and Mexican-American fight fans and the rapidly growing Brazilian MMA fan contingent.
Round 1. Dos Santos connects with a heavy hook early and appears to stun Velasquez a little. Velasquez drops down and goes for a takedown. Dos Santos blocks it and hammers Velasquez with another big punch. Velasquez clinches again. Velasquez lands a knee to the body. Dos Santos separates and goes for a head kick. Velasquez clinches again so as to not allow Dos Santos to strike at distance. Velasquez gets the takedown halfway through the round. He is in half guard and drops a few elbows from the top. Dos Santos turns over and Velasquez looks to take his back. He can't, and Dos Santos stands back up. They clinch by the cage and trade knees as the round ends. 10-9 Velasquez.
Round 2. Velasquez grabs a single leg and executes a takedown. However, Dos Santos gets right back up in a hurry. Velasquez clinches but then backs off. He throws a long series of punches, with Dos Santos mostly just bobbing his head to aoid as many as he can. Velasquez lands a couple straight punches and clinches again. He lands punches here and there and continues to smother Dos Santos against the cage. Dos Santos tries to throw Velasquez down. They both get up and Velasquez lands a few punches before clinching again. They break and Dos Santos lands a couple of punches before Velasquez returns to the clinch. They exchange punches as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Velasquez.
Round 3. Velasquez grabs Dos Santos and pushes him against the cage. He lands a couple of punches as Dos Santos looks to create a little distance. Dos Santos lands an elbow from close distance and they separate. Velasquez goes for a takedown but Dos Santos blocks it. Velasquez drops Dos Santos with a right punch right by the ear, reminiscent of their first fight only the other way. Velasquez keeps landing punches on the ground and referee Herb Dean is extremely close to stopping it. Finally Dos Santos gets up and is able to continue. Velasquez looks for a choke but can't get it. Velasquez lands a couple hard straight punches. He continues to punish Dos Santos against the cage as the round mercifully ends. 10-8 Velasquez.
Round 4. Velasquez goes right back to work, opening up with heavy punches up against the cage. Referee Herb Dean again appears to be considering a stop to the contest. Velasquez lands a number of punches on Dos Santos and avoids Dos Santos' counters. Velasquez continues to clinch and then will occasionally separate and land punches. Dos Santos is able to land a nice counter in one exchange but Velasquez is getting the better of it by a wide margin. 10-9 Velasquez.
Round 5. Velasquez lands a left hook early and takes Dos Santos down. Dos Santos gets up but Velasquez clinches again and lands punches up against the cage. Dos Santos drops down, hits his head against the mat, eats a couple punches, and referee Herb Dean stops the bout. That was a savage beatdown.
Winner: Cain Velasquez, TKO, round 5.
In preliminary action, Kyoji Horiguchi withstood some early pressure and earned a win in his first UFC fight via second round TKO over Dustin Pague. Andre Fili showed himself to be a young fighter to watch, overwhelming Jeremy Larsen with strikes in the second round after taking the fight on short notice. Tony Ferguson picked up an emotion win, rocking Mike Rio with a punch and then submitting him with a D’Arce choke in the first round. And Adlan Amagov scored a devastating first round knockout over the game T.J. Waldburger.
K.J. Noons vs. George Sotiropoulos
This is a do or die fight for a pair of fighters who have achieved some fame in the sport. Noons is a former EliteXC lightweight champion, best known for his rivalry with Nick Diaz. Sotiropoulos was at one point a top UFC lightweight contender and coached on the UK vs. Australia season of the Ultimate Fighter. Each man is coming off three straight losses and the loser is unlikely to continue in the UFC. Noons' specialty is his boxing while Sotiropoulos' forte is his jiu jitsu.
Round 1. The bout begins with a slow feeling out process. Sotiropoulos circles around the outside of the cage while Noons takes the center and throws the occasional jab to the body. Sotiropoulos finally begins to open up with punches about halfway through the round while Noons continues to go after the body. Noons lands a nice uppercut and avoids a front kick. Noons opens up with punches at the end of the round and appears to have Sotiropoulos a little dazed. He moves in aggressively and attacks the head but time runs out on the round. 10-9 Noons.
Round 2. The action begins at a quicker pace. Sotiropoulos thus far perhaps surprisingly hasn't gone for any takedowns and has engaged in the standup with Noons. Noons is landing a little bit more but it isn't a wide margin. Noons is good at avoiding most of Sotiropoulos' punches. Two minutes in, Sotiropoulos goes for a takedown but has it stuffed by Noons. Sotiropoulos goes for another takedown a minute later and this time he gets it. He has Noons up against the cage but Noons stands back up and circles out of trouble. Back on the feet, Noons lands a nice hook. He goes for another two moments later after the success of the first. 10-9 Noons.
Round 3. Noons lands a couple punches and blocks a takedown attempt. Sotiropoulos answers with a clean straight punch. Sotiropoulos connects with a pair of hooks and a hard straight right punch right up the middle. Sotiropoulos recovers well but is bleeding from a couple points on the face. Sotiropoulos goes for another takedown and it is again defended successfully. Sotiropoulos lands a few leg kicks and Noons doesn't really check them. Noons has always been much more of a pure boxer than a kickboxer. He blocks another Sotiropoulos takedown. Sotiropoulos hits a head kick. He goes for another that misses and Noons lands a couple hooks in retaliation. Noons throws a spinning backfist that misses. 10-9 Noons, 30-27 Noons.
Winner: K.J. Noons, unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28).
Sarah Kaufman vs. Jessica Eye
Sarah Kaufman is one of the best 135 pound female fighters in the world. With a 16-2 record and excellent striking, she presents problems for any fighter. Eye has built up a solid fan following on the smaller circuit and was 3-0 in Bellator prior to signing with the UFC. This is easily the biggest fight of her career.
Round 1. Eye comes out aggressively with jabs. She's a noticeably smaller fighter than Kaufman. Eye clinches and presses Kaufman against the cage. Kaufman throws a series of knees to the body and they break. Eye throws a few more nice jabs that connect when Kaufman comes in. They clinch against the cage again. Kaufman lands a few nice shots and separates. They clinch and Eye lands a nice elbow from short range before separating. Kaufman lands a solid power right punch up the middle. Very close round. 10-9 Eye.
Round 2. Kaufman continues to walk down Eye and in the early part of the round she is much more effective in getting through Eye's jab and landing hard punches on the inside. Kaufman lands her best shot of the fight, a big overhand right to the chin. They clinch and Eye uses some foot stomps before separating. Kaufman's face is getting pretty bruised up. Kaufman has taken the lead in punches landed according to the UFC's stats. Eye continues to work her jab, trying to prevent Kaufman from getting in range. Another close round. 10-9 Kaufman.
Round 3. Eye connects with a quality straight right and Kaufman answers back with one of her own. Eye lands a few leg kicks and mixes in a body kick. Eye follows with a few jabs. Kaufman moves in quickly to secure a clinch. She lands a nice elbow on the inside and then breaks. Kaufman staggers Eye with a right punch and moves in looking to close the fight. She lands another hard shot but Eye is able to regain her senses and clinch. Kaufman moves in and lands a few more punches to close the round. 10-9 Kaufman, 29-28 Kaufman.
Winner: Jessica Eye, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Nate Marquardt vs. Hector Lombard
This is a big fight for an FS1 prelim. Marquardt is a former UFC middleweight title challenger and Strikeforce welterweight champion. He has been a world class fighter for a great many years. Lombard was the Bellator middleweight champion and signed to a very lucrative UFC deal with the thought that he could be a title contender. However, he has struggled thus far in the UFC against higher level opposition. This is a very important fight between two excellent competitors.
Round 1. Marquardt is the taller and longer fighter but Lombard is so compact and powerful. Lombard stuns Marquardt with a really hard right hook. He lands another as Marquardt tries to defend. Marquardt attempts to flee from danger but gets caught with a left and drops. Lombard follows with nasty shots on the ground and that's all she wrote. Lombard is a scary dude when he smells blood.
Winner: Hector Lombard, KO, round 1.
Tim Boetsch vs. C.B. Dollaway
Tim Boetsch was briefly a middleweight contender following a come from behind win over Yushin Okami and a listless decision win over Hector Lombard, but he came back to Earth with losses to Costa Philippou and Mark Munoz. He's looking to avoid a third loss in a row here. Dollaway has won two in a row and five of seven. Both men come from wrestling backgrounds.
Round 1. Dollaway lands a pair of looping punches and goes for a head kick, but Boetsch catches it and knocks Dollaway down. Boetsch connects with a right punch right by the ear. Boetsch grabs a leg and goes for a takedown halfway through the round, but Dollaway recovers quickly and gets right back up. Boetsch backs up Dollaway against the cage, but Dollaway comes back out firing. He grabs a Thai plum and lands a series of knees to the head. He follows with a left hook and taunts Boetsch a little. Boetsch hits a good uppercut from close range. 10-9 Dollaway.
Round 2. Boetsch throws a few leg kicks early. They swing wildly from close range and Dollaway ducks down for a takedown. He gets it and is inside Boetsch's guard. Dollaway looks to pass guard but can't do so. Boetsch stands up and lands a knee. Dollaway goes for another takedown. Boetsch attempts a standing guillotine choke but Dollaway takes him down and gets out. Boetsch lands some punches on the ground. Dollaway gets up and then slams Boetsch down. Boetsch looks for a kimura from the bottom but Dollaway has side control which limits the danger Boetsch can present. Dollaway hits Boetsch with some elbows to the body as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Dollaway.
Round 3. Boetsch takes a bad poke to the eye and is bleeding from the eye. He continues on gamely. Boetsch takes another eye poke moments later and is angry about it. The referee responds by deducting a point from Dollaway. Boetsch charges in swinging wildly. Dollaway gets a takedown. He lands some punches from the top until Boetsch is able to stand back up. They clinch and grapple for position. Dollaway gets a takedown and a big scramble ensues with Boetsch looking for a choke. That was a very exciting conclusion to the fight. 10-9 Dollaway, 29-27 Dollaway.
Winner: Tim Boetsch, split decision (30-26, 27-29, 30-26).
John Dodson vs. Darrell Montague
Dodson is a former UFC flyweight title contender, with great speed and accurate striking. Montague is one of the top flyweights who had not yet signed to the UFC, accumulating a 13-2 record against some of the world's best 125 pound fighters. This is his UFC debut.
Round 1. They exchange leg kicks early. Dodson connects with a big left punch right on the chin. Montague answers with a hard leg kick. Dodson responds with a nice hook. Both men look crisp with their striking early. They continue to trade leg kicks. Dodson drops Montague with a left punch and swarms on Montague looking to finish. Montague is forced to go for a desperation takedown. He is able to survive but Dodson keeps pouring it on and is connecting right on the chin repeatedly. Montague was very, very close to being finished and if the referee had stepped in no one would have complained. Dodson connects with a straight left and Montague falls down face first with a delayed reaction like Ric Flair. The referee stops the contest.
Winner: John Dodson, TKO, round 1.
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shawn Jordan
Gonzaga once challenged Randy Couture for the UFC heavyweight title and is most famous for knocking out Mirko Cro Cop with a head kick. Jordan is a former LSU football player coming off the most high profile win of his career over Pat Barry.
Round 1. Both fighters look to establish their jab early. Gonzaga drops Jordan with a counter right hook and follows with punches on the ground until the referee calls it off.
Winner: Gabriel Gonzaga, TKO, round 1.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez
Melendez and Sanchez at one point trained together. Sanchez is a well known fighter from his time on the first season of the Ultimate Fighter and once challenged B.J. Penn for the UFC lightweight title. Melendez is the former Strikeforce lightweight champion and one of the top lightweights in the worlds today. He is the heavy favorite in this contest between noted action fighters.
Round 1. Sanchez charges across the Octagon into range. Melendez goes for a kick and Sanchez uses the opportunity to take him down. As Melendez stands up, Sanchez takes his back and looks for a standing rear naked choke. Melendez gets out and lands a body punch. Sanchez goes for a takedown but has it stuffed and eats a few shots. Melendez continues to work the body. Sanchez charges in and gets countered with a big punch. Melendez follows with a hard right hook. He is punishing Sanchez. Sanchez lands a body kick and moves in wildly. He gets dropped with a big punch by Melendez. Melendez follows with a few more big punches right to the chin. Not quite a 10-8 round. 10-9 Melendez.
Round 2. Melendez is having a lot of success with hard counterhooks and he lands another right hook to the chin of Sanchez early. Sanchez answers with a hook of his own. As Sanchez charges in he gets caught with a knee. Melendez backs Sanchez against the cage and punishes him with another hard hook to the jaw. Sanchez slips and Melendez gives him a few punches on the way up. Sanchez is bleeding badly from the face. He eats a straight punch as he charges in. Sanchez gets a takedown but Melendez stands right back up immediately. Sanchez gets stunned with another right hook as he charges in. 10-9 Melendez.
Round 3. The pattern of the fight continues with Melendez charging in wildly and getting countered with crisp Melendez punches. He keeps moving in and swinging at air while Melendez lands punches that land right on his chin. His face is a total mess. The crowd is going wild. The crowd is chanting "Diego" in appreciation of his spirit. Sanchez continues to move in throwing but he is coming out the worst of just about every exchange. Sanchez finally connects with a big uppercut and drops Melendez. He looks for a rear naked choke submission and then a guillotine choke submission. Melendez avoids both and lands a knee as Sanchez gets up. They swing wildly at the end with Sanchez mostly missing and Melendez mostly connecting. 10-9 Melendez, 30-27 Melendez.
Winner: Gilbert Melendez, unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28).
Daniel Cormier vs. Roy Nelson
Daniel Cormier is one of the world's best heavyweight fighters, but he trains with Cain Velasquez and thus is blocked from the title picture if Velasquez continues to reign as heavyweight champion. As such, there has been discussion of him moving down to light heavyweight to challenge Jon Jones if he wins this fight. He is an undefeated fighter, an Olympic wrestler who has picked up striking well. Roy Nelson is a colorful and popular figure known for his hefty physique, knockout power and excellent jiu jitsu. He is coming off a setback to Stipe Miocic.
Round 1. Nelson throws a few jabs. Cormier ducks down and takes Nelson to the mat. Nelson looks to stand back up while Cormier holds on. Nelson gets to his feet but eats a knee to the head. Nelson looks for a kimura but Cormier avoids danger. Cormier takes Nelson momentarily but Nelson gets back up immediately. Cormier lands a punch to the body and a knee to the body from the clinch. After a break for a low blow, they return to striking at distance. Nelson lands his big overhand right but not fully. Cormier answers back with a pair of hard punches to the chin of Nelson. He then lands another. Nelson swings with a big power shot but Cormier ducks under. Nelson looks tired. 10-9 Cormier.
Round 2. Nelson lands an uppercut early but not all the way. Cormier teases a takedown and uses the fake to set up a punch up high. Cormier is very careful in the striking, clearly having a lot of respect for Nelson's power. Cormier presses in with a series of punches that connect to the head and he then ducks down and looks for a takedown. Cormier clinches and lands a knee to the body. He then appears to stun Nelson with a punch to the head. He takes Nelson down but Nelson gets back up. They break and Cormier connects with a solid 1-2 combination that sends Nelson back. Cormier looks for a head kick but it doesn't really connect. Cormier is pulling away. Not a close round. 10-9 Cormier.
Round 3. Cormier connects with a hard right hook early. He lands a left punch and then a couple leg kicks after. Cormier teases a takedown and then lands another hook. He goes for a front kick right up the middle. Cormier is really opening up with different types of strikes from different angles. Cormier throws a series of jabs while Nelson looks to load up power punches but doesn't come close. Cormier lands a shot and gets a takedown but Nelson immediately pops right back up. 10-9 Cormier, 30-27 Cormier.
Winner: Daniel Cormier, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
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