Eight early finishes, a memorable heavyweight title defence and an early contender for Fight of the Year in Diego Sanchez vs. Gilbert Melendez ensured that UFC 166 was a rousing success.
Living up to the huge billing that it received, the latest installment of MMA action was one of the more entertaining events in recent months.
That being said, some bouts on the main card stood out more than others. Here are the grades (out of 10) for each of the five high-profile matches.
John Dodson vs. Darrel Montague (Dodson by KO)
Sometimes, there is doubt around winners of The Ultimate Fighter and whether they’re the genuine article.
John Dodson is the genuine article.
In his fifth UFC fight (including TUF finale), the 29-year-old handed Darrell Montague, who entered the Octagon with a 13-2 record, his third defeat in a Knockout of the Night-worthy finish.
Ending the fight in four minutes and 13 seconds, Dodson began in fairly withdrawn fashion, grounding his opponent with strong punching that Montague never recovered from. The latter managed to get upright again, but it wasn’t long before Dodson showcased his knockout potential with more clean punching.
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shawn Jordan (Gonzaga by TKO)
The first of the three heavyweight encounters on the card was a slight disappointment not because of its finish but because it might have lasted longer.
Barely a minute in and after some nervy trading of blows, Gabriel Gonzaga floored Shawn Jordan with a sweet countering punch before moving in and punishing him for his error.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez (Melendez by Unanimous Decision)
In a fight that will take some time for fans of the sport to forget, Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez saw out a titanic encounter that finished with the former Strikeforce champion claiming a deserved unanimous decision.
Having said that, it was only in the third round that Melendez stretched his lead over Sanchez. The judges had scored the match 58-56 until then.
Vitor Belfort praised the grit of the two fighters via his Twitter account:
Containing all the blood, sweat and adrenaline that one might hope to see upon paying for such an event, the pair put on a feast for the spectator, trading expertly struck strikes for fun at times.
It was easily one of, if not the best fight you’ll see in 2013.
Daniel Cormier vs. Roy Nelson (Cormier by Unanimous Decision)
Roy Nelson needed to win this fight to keep any hope of clinching a title shot alive, and he didn’t quite deliver.
Although the gap in class between the two fighters was not very large, this was a fairly simple result for Daniel Cormier to grind out. He exhibited his substantial wresting pedigree at times.
He was smart in his approach and kept Nelson out of the range he needed to make any great impact, eventually making his way past the tight encounter by unanimous decision.
Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos (Velasquez by TKO)
While Cain Velasquez’s latest win was a dominant one, Junior dos Santos showed an almost inhuman determination, given how long he stood up to the titleholder’s assault.
After four rounds of brutality, Velasquez finally put his opponent away in the fifth, landing a huge right hand on Dos Santos’ nose before pummeling him on the mat.
Yves Edwards didn't beat around the bush in his latest judgment of Velasquez:
With the win, Velasquez is unopposed as the best heavyweight in the world right now and is quite possibly one of the best ever.