Certain moments at UFC 166 will echo throughout the history of the sport. When Junior Dos Santos stepped forward while Bruce Buffer heralded his name, he moved to the center of the cage to perform his signature prefight ritual where he looks at his opponent across the cage from him and in a sort of downward salute, he points directly at the center of the cage mat, a place he intends on meeting his adversary.
As the camera focused on JDS’s approach to the center of the cage this time around, Cain Velasquez appeared in the frame as JDS pointed downward, fervently nodding at the challenger as if to say, “that’s right, we will meet here.”
That moment poignantly marked a night of violent intent where most fights ended by a knockout of sorts. Seven knockouts and one submission out of the thirteen bouts, in case anyone cares about the numbers after an epic night of intangible moments.
UFC 166 Moments of transcendence
Hector Lombard didn’t waste time at his new weight class, as he chased down Nate Marquardt after having wobbled the former Strikeforce welterweight champion within the first couple minutes, eventually closing him down like a lawn chair with an upper cut from behind that caught Marquardt from under his shoulder, right on the chin.
Gabriel Gonzaga walked out with his crazy smile and green and yellow fanged mouth guard in place (Brazil’s national colors of course), eating a straight right in the opening seconds from the promising young contender in Shawn Jordan, only to immediately fire back with a hook while the replay camera still caught the images of his face rippling from his opponents punch.
John Dodson was fighting a very hyped new addition to the UFC flyweight roster, and proved why he’s a good bet on being the first American to eventually conquer the Ninja Warrior Challenge when he cleanly put away Darrell Montague in the first round. After the fight he ran around the cage, vaulting off the walls in wild back flips that he landed, barely landed, or completely biffed.
But while the cage was able to hold together from the #2 ranked flyweight in the world’s celebration performance, no such luck was granted to the heavyweight champ and #1 contender since at one point, the cage reportedly started to break away from the posts as Cain constantly slammed JDS back in the cage as both men spent a lot of time working against the cage from the clinch.
It was an interesting main event that concluded a trilogy, of which for all intents and purposes, was being heralded as a long standing rivalry without an end in sight. Cain put an end to talks about a fourth or fifth meeting with the #1 contender after trouncing him again and then ending the match before the final bell with a dominant slam that left JDS with his face in his hand on the ground, while the ref waved Cain off, midway through the final round.
The fight of the night performance that had Joe Rogan stating it was the greatest fight he had ever seen, even before the bout was over, saw #2 contender in the light weight division Gilbert Melendez battle it out over three rounds of attrition with Diego Sanchez. Where Gil was definitely the winner, Diego made a fight out of it for the entire fifteen minutes, and even came close to winning himself when he dropped Gil with a powerful upper cut that sent the former UFC title challenger and Strikeforce lightweight champ, crashing down in to the cage.
Dana White pointed out later that Diego should’ve chosen to try finishing Gil with strikes at that point, instead of hunting for the rear naked choke while Gil was struggling to recover on the ground.
Dana did say that after the fight, he went in to the cage and was immediately confronted by Diego who begged him to allow them to fight for two more rounds. At this point, the only thing less concerting about Diego’s ability to take punishment and still come forward was the gigantic cut he suffered, a la BJ Penn style, against Gil in the opening rounds.
UFC 166: The next chapter for the winners and losers
During the post-fight presser, Dana was bombarded by questions about Cain Velasquez’s next opponent. Fabricio Werdum (ranked third) was talked about the most and according to Dana, is probably the most viable candidate at this point.
With one more win, Travis Browne (ranked fifth) may also start entering title talks again. Strong arguments exist for either Browne or Werdum at this point, but if one has to go through JDS to earn it, good luck.
Gabriel Gonzaga is such a hit or miss fighter, it’s almost impossible to think he could sustain a win streak long enough to earn a title shot. No disrespect or sarcasm, but any fighter who wins if he finishes is definitely going to find strong resistance at the highest level of the heavyweight elite.
Aside from Ninja Warrior aspirations, John Dodson is right in the thick contention at flyweight. After Joseph Benavidez gets his rematch with flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson, Dodson’s turn could logically be next.
On their way down to light-heavyweight, Daniel Cormier and Roy Nelson slugged it out in a sloppy and melodramatic performance, and according to Cormier, it was partially due to the unfortunate task of attempting to successfully following up Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez. Both men will have a lot of options going in to a weight class that has absolutely been murdered by the current pound-for-pound king, Jon Jones.