They say everything is bigger in Texas. It seems the UFC has taken that literally.
If UFC pay-per-views were like WWE events, UFC 166 would be like WrestleMania or SummerSlam. The card scheduled for the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, is stacked with intriguing bouts, and the headliners are the big boys—and not just in name.
Two colossal heavyweight clashes are the marquee bouts.
The UFC heavyweight title bout between champion Cain Velasquez (12-1) and former champ Junior "Cigano" dos Santos (16-2) is the main event. It is the tie-breaker meeting between the two men.
With dos Santos taking the title from Velasquez in their first meeting back in 2011 and Velasquez regaining it 2012, this third meeting should definitively decide who the better man is.
Just before they take the Octagon by storm, heavyweight contenders Daniel Cormier and "Big Country" Roy Nelson will do battle to determine who’s next in line for a shot at the crown. That bout is a co-main event, but it could headline a lesser card.
In addition to the heavyweight fights, there are at least six other well-known fighters scheduled for action.
Here’s how you can watch the event and predictions on each bout, followed by deeper analysis for the bouts projected to be top candidates for Fight Night bonuses and the main event.
|UFC 166 Fight Card and Predictions|
|Facebook Preliminaries at 6:15 p.m. ET|
|Matchup||Weight Class||Prediction||Fight Night Bonus Pick|
|Kyogi Horiguchi vs. Dustin Pague||Bantamweight||Horiguchi by decision|
|Andre Fili vs. Jeremy Larsen||Featherweight||Fili by decision|
|Tony Ferguson vs. Mike Rio||Featherweight||Rio by submission|
|Adlan Amagov vs. T.J. Waldburger||Lightweight||Waldburger by submission||Sub. of the night|
|Fox Sports 1 Preliminaries at 8 p.m. ET|
|K.J. Noons vs.George Sotiropoulos||Lightweight||Noons by KO|
|Jessica Eye vs. Sarah Kaufman||Women's Bantamweight||Kaufman by KO|
|Hector Lombard vs. Nate Marquadt||Welterweight||Lombard by KO|
|Tim Boetsch vs. C.B. Dollaway||Middleweight||Boetsch by decision|
|Main Card PPV at 10 p.m. ET|
|John Dodson vs. Darrell Montague||Flyweight||Dodson by KO|
|Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shawn Jordan||Heavyweight||Gonzaga by KO||KO of the Night|
|Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez||Lightweight||Melendez by decision||Fight of the Night|
|Daniel Cormier vs. Roy Nelson||Heavyweight||Roy Nelson by submission|
|Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos||Heavyweight Title Fight||Junior dos Santos by TKO|
Submission of the Night: TJ Waldburger over Adlan "Borz" Amagov
Waldburger’s UFC record is 4-2, but his losses have been respectable.
He was stopped by heavy-handed Johny Hendricks and lost an unanimous decision to Brian Ebersole in June 2012. His last fight was a technical submission win over Nick Catone in December. He returns after nearly a year away to take on relative UFC newcomer Amagov.
Borz won his UFC debut in April over Chris Spang by decision. He is a striker by nature, and though he has shown the ability to take opponents down, he’ll have no desire to allow the fight to go to the mat against Waldburger.
Up to now, Amagov hasn't won a fight in his MMA career by submission.
He is a Strikeforce veteran who has been in with guys like Robbie Lawler and Keith Berry, but Waldburger is arguably the best submission fighter he will face.
Waldburger doesn't possess much of a stand-up game; just one of his 16 wins have come by KO/TKO. He has however won 13 fights by submission.
This one will come down to the fighter who can dictate the tempo and identity of the fight. Expect Waldburger to get the fight he wants.
He shoots the legs with power and shows great takedown technique, and Amagov doesn’t possess the type of power that will serve as a big enough deterrent for Waldburger.
The latter will crowd his opponent and ultimately wear him down for a submission win.
KO of the Night: Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga over Shawn "The Savage" Jordan
Gonzaga has produced some of the most explosive KOs in heavyweight history.
His head kick of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic has to rank in the top five, and his most recent destruction of Dave Herman was impressive.
The eight-year veteran of the UFC is looking to make another brutal statement on Saturday, and Jordan is the perfect mark for another Napao bomb.
The Savage loves to trade, but against Gonzaga, that isn't the best game plan; however, it may be his only choice.
Jordan is the shorter man, and Gonzaga’s kicking game makes the length advantage even more noteworthy. Because Gonzaga is also the more accomplished grappler and submission artist with nine wins by tap out, Jordan’s options are limited.
The result of these unfortunate dynamics will be a memorable KO from Napao.
Nobody screams and looks like a stark-raving lunatic like Gonzaga after a KO win. Get ready to see the madman again on Saturday.
Fight of the Night: Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez vs. Diego "The Dream" Sanchez
The last time we saw Melendez in the Octagon, he was losing a close decision to then lightweight champion, Benson Henderson.
In his first fight since that bout in April, Melendez draws the tough veteran Sanchez. The latter knocked off Takanori Gomi by split decision in March, and he hopes to use this opportunity to vault himself into title contention.
Sanchez has great heart and a solid chin. Though Melendez is technically a better fighter, Sanchez’s grit and will should make this an entertaining scrap.
Melendez is a calculated, sharp fighter, but Sanchez’s pressure and attempts to take him down will force Melendez to work hard. Both men could have moments in this fight where they are visibly fazed by their opponent’s strikes.
In the end, Melendez’s defense is just too solid. In his career, he's defended 72 percent of the takedowns attempted against him and avoided 65 percent of the strikes.
Dating back to his days in World Extreme Cagefighting and Strikeforce, El Nino has been hard to hit and takedown.
This skill, along with his accurate striking, will lead to a win. However, don’t be surprised to see both men bloodied in this bout.
The Main Event
In the first two meetings between dos Santos and Velasquez, the one thing I've come away most impressed with is Cigano's beard. He took some mammoth shots from Velasquez early in their second fight, and he still survived.
In the first bout, dos Santos' power overwhelmed Velasquez, and he didn't even land flush. The punch that stopped Velasquez caught him high on the head, which can certainly disorient or disturb the equilibrium, but it isn't on par with the shots dos Santos took from Velasquez.
The third and decisive meeting is probably going to come down to striking again.
Velasquez is believed to have the edge if the fight goes to the mat; however, dos Santos has been excellent with his takedown defense in the UFC. He's stuffed 74 percent of the attempts to take him to the mat.
Cigano will be prepared for Velasquez's power in the third bout, but the champion isn't likely to withstand another flush strike from the challenger.
Look for the title to change hands yet again as dos Santos stops Velasquez via TKO.
Stat references per FightMetric.com
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