UFC 166 Preliminary Card Predictions
If you are looking for an amazing weekend of fights, UFC 166 promises to be one of the best cards of the year. Between a title fight and top talent, the card will be exciting and important to most of the weight classes in the UFC.
The card is headlined by a rubber match between UFC champion Cain Velasquez and former champ Junior dos Santos. It is a series that has seen both men take the title away from one another in devastating fashion (knockout by dos Santos, one-sided butt kicking by Velasquez).
Before we get to that, let's take a look at the preliminary card and make some predictions.
Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Dustin Pague
Leading off the entire card will be a bantamweight bout, as Dustin Pague will look to save his employment against debuting Japanese buzzsaw Kyoji Horiguchi.
Pague is a kickboxer with a solid submission game but has his back against the wall. Right now, he is 1-4 in the UFC with three-straight losses at the hands of Ken Stone, Chico Camus and Yves Jabouin. Though his fights have been competitive, he has been unable to notch a win, which is imperative to keeping your job.
Horiguchi comes into the promotion with a great amount of momentum and hype. Many Japanese fighters fail to pan out in the UFC, but Horiguchi could become a staple of the company.
The Japanese striker owns seven wins via knockout. He is currently riding a five-fight win streak, including a win over Japanese prospect Shintaro Ishiwatari and UFC vet Ian Loveland.
Pague can stand and bang, as well as hold his own on the ground. However, Horiguchi is a top prospect with dynamite in his hands and could get a stoppage here.
Prediction: Horiguchi def. Pague via TKO
Andre Fili vs. Jeremy Larsen
Another man will debut in the next bout, as newcomer Andre Fili takes on TUF 15 veteran Jeremy Larsen in the featherweight division.
Larsen's original opponent was Matt Grice before a serious car accident took him out of the fight. He then was slated to take on Charles Oliveira, who also bowed out form an injury.
Larsen will likely be fighting for his job here, as he is 0-2 with the company. He was knocked out in his debut against Joe Proctor before taking another knockout in a Fight of the Night performance against Lucas Martins.
As for Fili, he comes into the UFC with a great amount of hype. He is a Team Alpha Male member with a great all-around game. He has great physical gifts, too, as he is long and lanky.
If this is a striking bout, one has to think Fili has the advantage. That being said, he probably also has the ground advantage, so he should be able to notch a win here.
Prediction: Fili def. Larsen via TKO
Tony Ferguson vs. Mike Rio
Next up, TUF 13 winner Tony Ferguson makes his long-awaited return to the Octagon when he takes on TUF 15 vet Mike Rio.
Rio is a wrestler with a stifling top game and rugged disposition. He has seen mixed results with the UFC, tapping out John Cofer with an armbar before taking a submission loss against Francisco Trinaldo.
His striking will need to be on point against a boxing wrestler like Tony Ferguson.
Ferguson has not been seen since a May of 2012 loss to Michael Johnson, where he was outworked by the Blackzilian member. Previous to that, "El Cucuy" was able to score a knockout of Ramsey Nijem, a broken jaw stoppage of Aaron Riley and a close decision to Yves Edwards.
On his feet, Ferguson has a huge advantage with his power boxing and movement. He is good at defending the shot, so Rio may have a hard time planting him on the mat.
The judges will likely reward the Californian.
Prediction: Ferguson def. Rio via decision
Adlan Amagov vs. TJ Waldburger
Rounding off the Facebook portion of the card will be a welterweight matchup that pins TJ Waldburger against Adlan Amagov.
Waldburger is a submission ace who possesses good wrestling that allows him to get his opponents where he wants them. At 4-2 in the UFC, he has notched wins over David Mitchell, Mike Stumpf, Jake Hecht and Nick Catone.
His biggest struggle has been against strikers with good takedown defense. This has been seen in UFC losses to Brian Ebersole and Johny Hendricks.
Amagov is a knockout artist who has shown great promise during his time with the UFC and Strikeforce. Other than a blemish to Robbie Lawler, the Russian has crushed men like Anthony Smith, Ronald Stallings, Keith Berry and Chris Spang.
This has the potential to be one of two things. Either Amagov will sprawl-and-brawl while carving up Waldburger's face, or the Texan will use relentless aggression to plant his foe on his back.
Mark me down for the first thing.
Prediction: Amagov def. Waldburger via decision
KJ Noons vs. George Sotiropoulos
Kicking off the Fox Sports portion of the prelims will be a lightweight bout, pitting Australian grappling ace George Sotiropoulos and Elite XC champion KJ Noons. This will likely be a loser leaves town bout.
Noons is 1-5 in his last six, showing his recent struggles with both the UFC and Strikeforce. In that time, he has fallen to Nick Diaz, Jorge Masvidal, Josh Thomson, Ryan Couture (controversially) and Donald Cerrone (UFC debut).
He is a great boxer that can knock folks out, as seen in his drubbing of Jorge Gurgel. He will need to show a better strive to stay off his back than he did in his latest bout with Cerrone.
As for Sotiropoulos, he is 0-3 in his last three, where he has been brutally knocked out in his latest two. He has shown that if he is unable to plant his foe on the mat, he is in big trouble.
Sotiropoulos does not have the take down chops that other Noons opponents have, so I don't think he will get him down. Expect a third-straight knockout loss.
Prediction: Noons def. Sotiropoulos via TKO
Sarah Kaufman vs. Jessica Eye
The ladies will go to battle in the next bout, as Canadian striker Sarah Kaufman meets Zuffa newcomer and Bellator vet Jessica Eye.
Kaufman has beat a who's-who of women in the sport of MMA, from Alexis Davis to Liz Carmouche to Miesha Tate. She has used a technical boxing strategy, while using a solid takedown defense to stay upright.
Her biggest flaw is on the ground when she does get there, as both of her career losses are by tapout (Ronda Rousey and Marloes Coenen). Luckily, she is the larger fighter in this bout.
As for Eye, she enters the company as a top-three flyweight in the world. She will be moving up a weight class here, and even though she is smaller, she is likely quicker and just as athletic, if not more.
Eye is a striker herself who does have a better ground game. I don't think she will be able to get Kaufman down, though.
Expect a technical striking battle that Kaufman takes via narrow decision.
Prediction: Kaufman def. Eye via decision
Hector Lombard vs. Nate Marquardt
Next up at welterweight will be a couple of big names, as former Bellator champion Hector Lombard looks to salvage his UFC career in a new weight class against former Strikeforce champion Nate Marquardt.
Lombard is an Olympic judoka that is just 1-2 in the UFC since signing the dotted line. Though he brutally savaged Rousimar Palhares with his powerful punches, he dropped ugly fights against grinders Tim Boetsch and Yushin Okami.
Marquardt's career is in danger should he take another loss with the UFC. He got his employment back when Strikeforce migrated over, but we have to remember he was cut for various reasons, including a late dropout of a main event not long ago.
Both men have similar styles that usually see them use their hands first. Lombard has better takedowns, where he is able to use his great submission ability.
This one will be a close one, but I think Lombard will be too much for Marquardt, especially at this weight class.
Prediction: Lombard def. Marquardt via decision
Tim Boetsch vs. CB Dollaway
The main feature on the preliminary card will take place at middleweight, as Tim Boetsch meets late replacement CB Dollaway.
Boetsch is an absolute brute, especially since his drop to 185. Though he is on a two-fight skid against top middleweights Mark Munoz and Costa Philippou, he notched impressive wins over the likes of Yushin Okami, Hector Lombard, Nick Ring and Kendall Grove.
He has good wrestling and powerful striking. Both of these are necessary when taking on a one-minded wrestler like Dollaway.
Dollaway's plan is simple: close the distance, snag a leg and plant his foe on the ground. After a two-fight skid not long ago, Dollaway has come back to win two straight over a hobbled Jason Miller and a gassed out Daniel Sarafian.
When Boetsch isn't gassed, he is as dangerous as anybody at 185. Dollaway's chin has been exposed before, and I expect "The Barbarian" to test it early and often.
Notch one up for Timmy.
Prediction: Boetsch def. Dollaway via TKO