UFC 166: What's Next for Main Card Winners
The buzz surrounding UFC 166 manifested itself in the form of one of the most memorable and entertaining cards in the company's history Saturday night at the Toyota Center in Houston.
Heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez won his rubber match with Junior dos Santos, crushing the Brazilian in similar fashion to his unanimous-decision win at UFC 155, except this time the champ scored a TKO in the fifth round.
The night's co-main event, a unanimous-decision win for surging heavyweight Daniel Cormier over Roy Nelson, was overshadowed by an epic lightweight clash between Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez.
Melendez and Sanchez slugged it out and put on a particularly captivating third round. But when the dust settled, the second-ranked Melendez had scored a unanimous decision and Sanchez had squandered a priceless opportunity.
Along with Velasquez, Cormier and Melendez, Gabriel Gonzaga and John Dodson each notched impressive knockouts.
Here's a glimpse at what's next for the UFC 166 main card winners.
Second-ranked flyweight John Dodson set the tone for the main card, and scored a vicious first-round knockout to welcome touted prospect Darrell Montague to the UFC.
Dodson tagged Montague with a thunderous left hand earlier in the round before clipping "The Mongoose" on the button again and putting him to sleep at the 4:13 mark.
Dodson scored his third UFC knockout (second at flyweight) and pocketed his second "Knockout of the Night" bonus.
Montague certainly has a bright future at 125 pounds, although he clearly ran into a more complete fighter in Dodson.
Dodson, who dropped a unanimous decision to champ Demetrious Johnson in his last bout, deserves a top-five opponent next.
With Johnson already slated to face Joseph Benavidez (No. 1), the UFC should pit Dodson with either John Moraga (No. 4) or John Lineker (No. 5).
An imposing win over either Moraga or Lineker should put Dodson in line to take on the winner of Johnson/Benavidez.
Gabriel Gonzaga notched his second straight swift KO with a 93-second disposal of former Louisiana State University football player Shawn Jordan in the main card's second bout.
Gonzaga stunned Jordan with a thunderous counter right hook and then finished the surging heavyweight with a series of follow-up punches at the 1:33 mark of the first round.
Since his unanimous-decision loss to Brendan Schaub at UFC 121, Gonzaga has won five of six fights, three by submission and two by KO.
Gonzaga, a former heavyweight title challenger, deserves a top-10 foe next, and guys like Roy Nelson and Stipe Miocic have yet to find dance partners for their next fights.
After getting edged in his promotional debut in a title fight against Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 7, Gilbert Melendez redeemed himself with a fight-of-the-year caliber performance against Diego Sanchez.
In what many consider one of the best fights in the company's history, Melendez narrowly got the best of Sanchez in each round en route to a "Fight of the Night" showing.
Melendez outstruck Sanchez 98-42, including 96-42 in the significant strikes category. He also stuffed five of his six shots from "The Dream" and denied Sanchez on both of his submission attempts.
The UFC should next consider matching the second-ranked Melendez with the third-ranked T.J. Grant. And in the case that Grant can't get healthy, a rematch with Henderson, the only man to defeat Melendez since 2008, would also prove tantalizing.
Much like his win over Frank Mir in his UFC debut, Daniel Cormier took few chances in his bout with the venomous Roy Nelson, a game plan that resulted in another workmanlike win.
Nelson only managed to hit Cormier 26 times in three rounds. Meanwhile, the former Olympic freestyle wrestler landed 83 total strikes, including 74 in the significant strikes department, and managed to ground Nelson three times.
With his friend and training partner, Cain Velasquez, sitting firmly atop the heavyweight division, Cormier will make the inevitable move to 205 pounds in his next bout.
It wouldn't make much sense to let Cormier skip line at 205, despite his extraordinary success at heavyweight. But the former Oklahoma State University wrestler definitely deserves a top-five ranked light heavyweight in his next bout.
Either the top-ranked Alexander Gustafsson or the third-ranked Phil Davis would make worthy suitors to break Cormier into the light heavyweight division.
Heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez said before UFC 166 that he would put his rivalry with Junior dos Santos to bed, and when the lights dimmed in Houston, Velasquez seemingly made good on his word.
For the second time in less than a year, Velasquez pummeled "Cigano" for the better part of five rounds. This time, however, Velasquez finished the job, spiking Dos Santos' face off the mat during an escape from a guillotine choke and then finishing Cigano with a series of punches at the 3:09 mark of Round 5.
With a bout with Cormier apparently out of the question, Fabricio Werdum seems like the lone opponent that could make a case for Velasquez next.
In the case that Werdum doesn't get the call, the winner of the Travis Browne/Josh Barnett fight could also provide Velasquez with a deserving future challenge.