UFC 166: Observer Main Card Picks & Preview for Cain vs. JDS III

UFC 166

By Josh Nason

We find ourselves in a great season for sports with the baseball playoffs winding down, football in midseason form, hockey just underway and basketball preparing to kick off their season.

And, of course, we have a really good UFC card with compelling fights on the Fox Sports 1 undercard and a value-rich main PPV card that has potential to be among the year’s best. (Hopefully, that isn’t a jinx.)

It’s time for UFC 166, headlined by the completion of a trilogy for the heavyweight championship of the world.

Our standings to date:

- Dave Meltzer (78-33 | .702):
Wrestling Observer founder & writer

- Josh Nason (78-33 | .702): Wrestling Observer web editor & social media guy

- Todd Martin (77-34 | .693):
Weekly FFD guest | LA Times | Sherdog

- Mike Sawyer (73-38 | .657): ToughTalkMMA.com, co-host of Tough Talk

- Oliver Copp (70-41 | .630):
of combat sports insider fame, co-host of Tough Talk

- Mike Sempervive (68-43 | .612): Wrestling Observer Live | Big Audio Nightmare


Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez (12-1) vs. Junior dos Santos (16-2) III

At 31, Velasquez is the best heavyweight MMA fighter in the world with his lone loss coming at the hands of his challenger. Since that defeat, he crushed Bigfoot Silva via first round TKO twice and dominated Saturday's challenger over five rounds in their rematch. He looks to dispatch JDS Saturday and then look ahead to someone that can possibly press him into a great fight. A glance at the rest of the division gives an answer of, "That could be a while."

If it wasn’t for Velasquez, JDS might find himself as the reigning king of MMA heavyweights. He’s lost just once since his UFC career began in October 2008. He’s knocked out Stefan Struve, Frank Mir and Mark Hunt, gone the distance with Mirko Cro Cop, Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson, and yet the sole blemish in the Octagon is the champion.

We’ll see on Saturday if their second fight really told the truth, or if JDS truly over-trained as he claims. Perhaps we’ll get another flash KO win like in their first fight, one where Velasquez came in injured. As far as this being the greatest trilogy in UFC history, it all depends on how this fight goes. Many assume Velasquez will win again, but that’s why they get in there and compete.

Velasquez: Nason, Meltzer, Sawyer, Copp, Martin, Sempervive

Daniel Cormier (12-0) vs. Roy Nelson (19-8)

This is a very interesting fight to say the least. Both men wanted it and have been going at it via Twitter, arguing about beard length and just about anything else they could find to disagree on. (By the way, the slimmed down Nelson will keep his beard for Saturday’s fight to Dana White’s dismay.) Nelson is coming off a surprising lopsided decision defeat to Stipe Miocic, a bout he took on short notice to honor his then-expiring contract. That loss snapped a three-fight win streak for the 37-year-old.

The undefeated Cormier is also considerably trimmer, weighing in at 224 pounds on his expected final destination down to 205 pounds. In his first UFC bout, he ground out Frank Mir in a dull decision win. As Todd Martin mentioned on FFD this week, this one could fall the same way with lots of clinching as Nelson will dutifully engage in a slugfest and with Cormier’s history of broken hand issues, he might choose to avoid that.

Cormier has a lot to lose in this fight and plenty of possibilities if he wins. We’ll see how he responds Saturday night.

Cormier: Nason, Meltzer, Martin, Sempervive
Nelson: Sawyer, Copp

Gilbert Melendez (21-3) vs. Diego Sanchez (24-5)

The former Strikeforce champion returns to the cage nearly six months after a tight April split decision loss to then-155 pound champion Benson Henderson. That snapped a seven-fight win streak, and Saturday’s fight will be the first time Melendez hasn’t competed with a title involved since December 2007 (10 fights).

In his way is the enigma known as Diego Sanchez, the true originator of “Yes!” and one of the most unique personalities in the sport. This is his second fight back at 155 after a four-fight run at 170 pounds, but he actually missed weight for his March split decision win over Takanori Gomi. This has the makings of a pretty awesome bout.

Melendez: Nason, Meltzer, Sawyer, Copp, Martin, Sempervive

Gabriel Gonzaga (15-7) vs. Shawn Jordan (15-4)

Since returning to the UFC, Gonzaga has won three of four with finishes in all three. He last was seen dropping Dave Herman in 17 seconds back in July, and has done a good job dispatching the lower tier of the heavyweight division. Jordan also has finishes in three of his last four (all first round TKOs), and is coming off a 59-second win over Pat Barry in June. This is an important fight for both guys as they’re essentially at the same place in the UFC heavyweight hierarchy.

Gonzaga: Nason, Sawyer, Martin
Meltzer, Copp, Sempervive

John Dodson (14-6) vs. Darrell Montague (13-2)

Dodson returns to action for the first time since losing a unanimous decision to 125-pound champ Demetrious Johnson in January, snapping a five-fight winning streak. Across the cage will be the 25-year-old Montague, making his UFC debut. Mainly fighting in California regionals, he has four straight wins with finishes in 10 of his 13 victories.

Dodson: Nason, Meltzer, Sawyer, Copp, Sempervive

Big Dave will be doing live coverage this afternoon starting with the Facebook prelims, and he will recap all the action with Bryan Alvarez late night on Wrestling Observer Radio.

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