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UFC 166 Results: 10 Burning Questions Heading into Fight Night 30

Steven RondinaFeatured Columnist IVDecember 10, 2016

UFC 166 Results: 10 Burning Questions Heading into Fight Night 30

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    Lyoto Machida is making his middleweight debut at UFC 166 after a strong career at light heavyweight.
    Lyoto Machida is making his middleweight debut at UFC 166 after a strong career at light heavyweight.Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    UFC 166 is over and done with. The results are as follows:

    Cain Velasquez def. Junior dos Santos, TKO (Round 5, 3:09)
    Daniel Cormier def. Roy Nelson, Unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
    Gilbert Melendez def. Diego Sanchez, Unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
    Gabriel Gonzaga def. Shawn Jordan, Knockout (Round 1, 1:33)
    John Dodson def. Darrell Montague, Knockout (Round 1, 4:13)
    Tim Boetsch def. CB Dollaway, Split-decision (30-26, 27-29, 30-26)
    Hector Lombard def. Nate Marquardt, TKO (Round 1, 1:48)
    Jessica Eye def. Sarah Kaufman, Split-decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
    KJ Noons def. George Sotiropoulos, Unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
    Adlan Amagov def. TJ Waldburger, Knockout (Round 1, 3:00)
    Tony Ferguson def. Mike Rio, Submission (Round 1, 1:52)
    Andre Fili def. Jeremy Larsen, TKO (Round 2, 0:53)
    Kyoji Horiguchi def. Dustin Pague, TKO (Round 2, 3:51)

    Next up? UFC Fight Night 30.

    Headlined by Lyoto Machida's middleweight debut, the former 205-pound champ will fight former WEC contender Mark Munoz. Past that, British fighters like Ross Pearson, Rosi Sexton, Jimi Manuwa all face opponents from around the world.

    So, what questions are on fire right now? Find out right here!

Ratings!?

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    The UFC's ratings on Fox Sports 1 have been anything but good since its debut.
    The UFC's ratings on Fox Sports 1 have been anything but good since its debut.Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    This will continue to be one of the first slides when it comes to Fight Night cards.

    It's no secret that the UFC is the backbone of Fox Sports 1's programming lineup. It's also no secret that the UFC Fight Night events, the core of their presence on the network, have been a ratings dud over recent months.

    Per MMA Payout, Shields vs. Maia's Fight Night 29 (which averaged 638,000) was a modest improvement over Teixeira vs. Bader's Fight Night 28 (539,000). That is still a far cry from the UFC on FX cards of 2012, only moderately better than some of the UFC on Fuel TV cards and nowhere near the UFC Fight Nights that were on Spike. It puts them (gasp) about on-par with Bellator in terms of the ratings.

    The bright spot is that, while the UFC has had lousy ratings on Fox Sports 1, they're still blowing away everything else on the channel. Because of that, it's worth keeping a close eye on the TV numbers for the indefinite future. 

    All that said, it will be difficult to gauge this card against the others simply because of how many moving parts there are. Machida vs. Munoz is a solid main event and, likely, has more drawing power than most of the Fight Night events thus far, but the supporting cast is exceptionally weak. On top of everything else, the show starts on Saturday afternoon rather than the standard Wednesday night or Saturday night.

    It's impossible to predict what the ratings will be like, taking all that into account. We'll just have to see how this card, and others in the future, pan out.

Which Female Fighter Is Getting Cut?

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    Rosi Sexton and Jessica Andrade are both looking to avoid the same fate as Sheila Gaff.
    Rosi Sexton and Jessica Andrade are both looking to avoid the same fate as Sheila Gaff.Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

    Sheila Gaff had the dubious honor of being the first woman released from the UFC back in August. The loser of the fight between Rosi Sexton and Jessica Andrade will likely be the second.

    Rosi Sexton tore up the amateur circuit in Europe but also found chances to fight some big names in women's MMA such as Gina Carano and Carina Damm. However, her UFC debut saw her gas hard against BJJ standout Alexis Davis, leading to her dropping a sloppy unanimous-decision loss. 

    Jessica Andrade is in a similar boat, racking up a 9-3 record in Brazil (all of her wins being finishes) before being simply outclassed by a not-all-that-formidable Liz Carmouche. Carmouche outworked Andrade before finishing her with ground-and-pound in the second round. 

    Unless this is the sort of wild, "Just Bleed" fight that Dana White and the UFC brass love, the loser is almost certainly going to be haggling with smaller promotions. 

Will John Lineker Force a Title Shot?

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    Look out, Demetrious Johnson. John Lineker's mohawk is coming for you.
    Look out, Demetrious Johnson. John Lineker's mohawk is coming for you.Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    There are precisely three men who are currently on a three-fight winning streak in the UFC's 125-pound division. Two of them are fighting over the title in November, being current-champ Demetrious Johnson and challenger Joseph Benavidez. The other is John Lineker.

    Lineker owns a 3-1 record in the UFC. Two of those victories came in impressive fashion over UFC newcomers Azamat Gashimov and, most recently, Jose Maria. The other victory comes over Japanese washout Yasuhiro Urushitani. The lone loss on his UFC record came at the hands of Louis Gaudinot, the green-haired former TUF14 competitor who was recently mauled by Tim Elliott. 

    In any other division, beating two freshmen and a guy who was cut with a 0-2 record isn't going to earn you a title shot. This isn't any other division, though. 

    With a solid win, Lineker finds himself (at most) one fight away from a shot at the belt. Phil Harris owns a 1-1 record (beating Ulysses Gomez and losing to Darren Uyenoyama), so this isn't an especially steep challenge for Lineker (not that any given fight against a UFC-caliber opponent is easy, mind you).

    All that, of course, assumes he doesn't miss weight for the third time in five fights...

Is the UFC Building Up British TUF Winner Norman Parke?

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    Norman Parke is being given some soft competition since winning The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes.
    Norman Parke is being given some soft competition since winning The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes.Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    The UFC loves England, and England loves the UFC. England also loves English fighters, but there aren't too many of those around these days.

    Dan Hardy is out indefinitely due to the fact that his heart doesn't work. Michael Bisping's days as a professional fighter, unfortunately, could very well be numbered due to repeated eye surgeries (more on him later). Paul Daley, after seeing a glimmer of hope for a UFC return, had the door firmly shut in his face after getting likened to recently released scumbag Rousimar Palhares by Dana White.

    Because of this, the best-known British fighter in the UFC who is actually fighting right now is probably Ross Pearson. Though he is a solid fighter, Pearson still remains a mystery to most fans. Other British fighters, like Brad Pickett (who has lost to every noteworthy bantamweight he has faced) and John Hathaway (who is lost in the shuffle of solid welterweights), are also anonymous cogs in the middle of their divisions.

    Enter Norman Parke.

    The top dog of TUF: The Smashes is in the enviable position of having strongly represented the Union Jack opposite those "bloody convicts down under," and also being a native-born Irishman. This puts him on the short list of fighters the UFC would like to plug near the top of 2014's upcoming card on the Emerald Isle and also guarantees him main card bookings in England for the foreseeable future.

    That assumes he keeps winning, naturally, and the UFC seems to appreciate this. 

    The UFC has made it a habit to throw their TUF winners into the deep end of late. Fellow TUF winners Colton Smith, Robert Whittaker, Court McGee and Kelvin Gastelum have been beating the hell out of each other over the last couple months. Tony Ferguson, in his third UFC fight, fought 14-year veteran Yves Edwards. Michael Chiesa, in his third UFC fight, fought fringe top-10 lightweight Jorge Masvidal. 

    Not Parke, though. Parke is fighting Jon Tuck.

    Who? Damn right, who.

    Tuck is probably best known for being "that guy who lost to Al Iaquinta in his fight to get into the house," and only the biggest of TUF fans with the greatest of memories would remember that. He also holds the distinction of being one of the many people to slap around token Chinese fighter Zhang Tiequan.

    Compared to other TUF winners, it looks like UFC might just be giving Parke a can to open. 

    Granted, Parke and Tuck were scheduled to fight a while back. This isn't out of nowhere. It is, however, quite the coincidence that Parke finds himself getting much lighter competition than every other recent TUF winner.

Will Jimi Manuwa vs. Ryan Jimmo Produce a Relevant Light Heavyweight?

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    Ryan Jimmo's place in the light heavyweight division is unknown at this point.
    Ryan Jimmo's place in the light heavyweight division is unknown at this point.Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

    From 2008 through 2011, Ryan Jimmo and Jimi Manuwa were two of the most successful light heavyweights outside the UFC. 

    Jimmo dominated Canada's MFC promotion, racking up a 16-1 record and taking wins over notable 205ers such as Marvin Eastman, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and Emanuel Newton, as well as an assortment of various washouts from the UFC, Strikeforce, EliteXC and Bellator. While he is the sort of grappling-focused fighter the UFC seems to be willing to cut after a 3-1 stretch, he lit up Anthony Perosh with a seven-second knockout back at UFC 149 that vaulted him into the fringe of the top 10.

    He would follow that up, though, with a less-than-inspiring decision loss to James Te-Huna, bringing his hype train to a screeching halt. While he is currently back in the winning column (most recently taking a handy 30-27 decision win over Igor Pokrajac), he could use another big win to get people back on the bandwagon.

    Jimi Manuwa has almost exactly the same story but change "Canada's MFC" to "England's UCMMA." While he hasn't been facing the same caliber of competition, he has earned stoppage victories against all thirteen of his professional opponents thus far. 

    His UFC debut saw him slap around Kyle Kingsbury en route to a doctor's stoppage, but Cyrille Diabate stole his thunder in his sophomore bout by sustaining an injury to his calf that left him unable to continue. In spite of the fact that Manuwa still got a TKO victory for his trouble, it robbed him of the chance to really make himself known to American fans.

    Both fighters have the chance to make a big impression here and, with the thin nature of the light heavyweight division, could easily find themselves prominently featured in the title picture by the end of 2014.

Is Ross Pearson Turning the Corner Toward Contention?

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    Ross Pearson is on hist first winning streak since 2010 with back-to-back TKOs.
    Ross Pearson is on hist first winning streak since 2010 with back-to-back TKOs.Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Ross Pearson might just be one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC. Not to the same level as Dong Hyun Kim, mind you, but he's one of the best strikers that nobody ever talks about. Jack Slack broke down the technical brilliance of his demolition of TUF: The Smashes rival George Sotiropoulos earlier this year.

    Strong striker that he is, winning hasn't always been the standard with him. While he began his UFC career 3-0, he has gone 4-3 since. Stuck in the middle of that stretch is a 1-1 run at featherweight. Since returning to lightweight, though, he is 2-0, with both wins coming by TKO. 

    If he can get past Guillard and, even more so, if he can beat him convincingly or finish him, it's very possible he may be right in position to make a title run.

    Pearson matches up very well against most of the lightweight top 10. In fact, I'd go so far as to say the only unfavorable stylistic matchups for him would likely be Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez (and maybe Gray Maynard). That isn't to say he'd necessarily beat any given one of them, but there are few fights where I would completely dismiss his chances.

    That may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but in this hyper-stacked lightweight division, it definitely is. Ross Pearson is somebody worth following.

Can Melvin Guillard Stay in the Win Column?

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    Melvin Guillard is finally back in the win column...but can he stay there?
    Melvin Guillard is finally back in the win column...but can he stay there?Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    If Melvin Guillard was anybody else, he'd be in a Bellator tournament right now. Guillard, though, is one of the ultimate "Just Bleed" fighters. While Yushin Okami can suffer one knockout loss after years of dominant performances, Melvin Guillard can survive a 1-4 stretch while never notching a single win over a top-10 fighter in 20 career UFC fights.

    Can you tell I'm still sore over Yushin Okami getting cut? 

    Anyway, Melvin Guillard hit a serious rough patch after climbing his way back to title-contendership in 2011. After dumping the Blackzilians and getting rejected by Greg Jackson, Guillard found himself with the Grudge Training Center and with a much-needed win over Mac Danzig

    While Guillard's job is almost certainly safe, he doesn't train and cut weight to lose. He's in it to win it, and Ross Pearson is standing between him and his first winning streak in nearly three years.

    In spite of his recent struggles and Pearson's rapid ascent back to relevance, this is still a very winnable fight for Guillard. He hits harder than perhaps any other lightweight, and even though Pearson has some solid grappling chops, he is far more comfortable standing than anywhere else.

    That makes this a tough fight to call but an interesting one to watch.

How Is Michael Bisping Doing?

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    Michael Bisping has his fans biting their nails over his eye concerns.
    Michael Bisping has his fans biting their nails over his eye concerns.Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    For those asking how I'm watching tv.... Like this, seriously. Lol. pic.twitter.com/NyusyfkcZi

    — michael (@bisping) September 30, 2013

    That's Michael Bisping and his one functional eye. 

    As you probably heard, the British star had to withdraw from the main event of this card and has his career possibly in jeopardy due to a serious, recurring eye injury. It has caused him problems in the past but was aggravated to the point where it needed surgery after his bout with Alan Belcher earlier this year. It flared up yet again in September, leading to the current headlining bout between Mark Munoz and Lyoto Machida.

    While reports indicate he'll be ready to return at some point in 2014, eye injuries are no small thing. Numerous boxers have had promising careers cut short by this sort of injury, and far too many have been left permanently blinded. It doesn't help that Bisping is a striking-focused fighter, which makes him far more likely to sustain another injury than if he were a wrestler.

    There isn't any sort of indication that Bisping isn't going to return to the cage, but this is still a scary topic that will follow the Brit until he retires. All fans can do is hope that Bisping doesn't end up like Yuki Nakai.

How Does This Fight Help Mark Munoz?

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    Mark Munoz is at a serious disadvantage stylistically to Lyoto Machida.
    Mark Munoz is at a serious disadvantage stylistically to Lyoto Machida.Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Michael Bisping was an awesome opponent for Mark Munoz. A strong win almost certainly would have vaulted him into the title picture the same way his shellacking of Chris Leben did in 2012.

    Lyoto Machida is the exact opposite. Machida vs. Munoz is possibly the single worst fight that could have been made for "The Filipino Wrecking Machine".

    Machida's striking, honed through years of karate, is far more evolved than Munoz's. His takedown defense, built on his experience in both Judo and Sumo (two martial arts basically dedicated to staying standing), is absolutely absurd and can arguably be labeled as the best in MMA today. His ground game is very strong, based on the rare occasion we actually get to see it.

    This leaves just two realistic avenues for a Munoz win: a random knockout or Machida gassing early on and dropping a decision.

    Neither of those, though, would be regarded as Munoz succeeding. A knockout would be labeled a fluke by most fans, a combination of Munoz's luck and Machida's pliable, but only occasionally touchable, chin. A decision win would be because of a tough weight cut, a failure on Machida's part rather than an actual victory on Munoz's. 

    Munoz's game plan entering the fight is obvious: channel his inner Mark Coleman, take the Brazilian down and beat on him as much as possible. 

    The problem is Machida's takedown defense has been almost impossible to get through, even for light heavyweights. Machida has shrugged off the likes of Tito Ortiz, Rashad Evans and Phil Davis with ease, so it's difficult to imagine Munoz being able to suddenly do what they couldn't.

    Ultimately, this is almost certainly a lose-lose for Munoz. The best he can hope for is a win that likely won't move him any closer to a title shot than he is now. The worst that can happen is he suffers a Ryan Bader-like knockout at the hands of "The Dragon" that serves as the latter's coming out party in the middleweight division.

What Will Lyoto Machida Look Like at 185 Pounds?

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    Lyoto Machida, on paper, seems like an unstoppable force at middleweight.
    Lyoto Machida, on paper, seems like an unstoppable force at middleweight.Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    In a division high on talent but low on star power, Lyoto Machida has a chance to quickly work his way into a title shot (assuming his BFF, Anderson Silva, doesn't win back the belt).

    Stylistically, he matches up favorably against pretty much the entire top 10 of the division. He can still out-point basically anybody standing, and he's now going to have a size advantage over most prospective opponents at this time. The only real question with Machida is: How much will the weight cut take out of him?

    While Machida has been keeping clear of the 206-pound weight limit for the light heavyweight division since 2012, when he weighed in at 201 pounds for his fight against Ryan Bader, this drop may or may not be a big deal.

    "The Dragon" was never an especially large light heavyweight, which actually means this might be an especially difficult cut for him. He discussed how he typically walked around between 205 and 210 pounds. What that translates to is that this could very well be the first serious weight cut of Machida's career.

    Not only that, but he is making the biggest drop possible between weight classes, shedding 20 pounds to move from light heavyweight to middleweight. While Machida's cut almost certainly won't be nearly as bad as James Irvin (who was so strung out from dropping weight his face shrunk into itself), we have still seen experienced fighters like Jake Shields struggle getting to welterweight after several years in the division.

    In a five-round fight against a strong wrestler, Machida could find his cardio pushed to its limit. The former champ's entire game relies on him standing, so if he gasses against a fresh Mark Munoz, he could find himself losing.

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