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UFC 166 Aftermath: The Latest Emperor

(Cain Velasquez admires his violence on the big screen. / Photo via Getty)

Suddenly, the rivalry between heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos seems a little less competitive than was hoped for. Many observers were treating this fight as merely the latest engagement in a battle for the heavyweight crown that was to last for years ahead. Less a conclusion to a trilogy and more a precursor to a tetralogy or beyond, it was expected that this fight would see a more competitive affair showcasing the strengths of both men. That didn’t happen. Velasquez absolutely dominated Dos Santos, flooring him in the third before finishing him (sort of) in the fifth. It’s clear now that Cain Velasquez is the unstoppable force. Despite his unquestioned stature as the second best heavyweight in the UFC, Junior Dos Santos is not the immovable object.

Pace and pressure are amorphous terms reliant on context; it’s more difficult to conceive of these finishing a fight than something we can easily discern like a punch or kick. Yet it was the relentless forward motion and unending attack of Velasquez that led to the finish last night and the dominance that preceded it. Dos Santos had his moments; he landed a number of hard shots to open the first round, and landed a nice elbow against the cage to end the second. But other than that, it was all Cain. He didn’t dominate from bell to bell like he did in the second fight, but he wore down Dos Santos over the course of the first two rounds before capitalizing in the third. Velasquez floored Dos Santos with a counter overhand right, and almost finished the fight there; Herb Dean put his hand on Velasquez’ shoulder at one point, but reconsidered.

Things didn’t improve for Dos Santos afterwards, and in the fifth round he went for a desperation front choke. As Cain attempted successfully to escape, Dos Santos rolled, crashing his forehead on the mat. Either disoriented or utterly exhausted, Dos Santos could not continue and Velasquez secured the latest stoppage victory in UFC history. At the undisputed pinnacle of his weight class – the first heavyweight to truly claim this distinction since Fedor Emelianenko – it’s hard to imagine anyone toppling Velasquez soon. Daniel Cormier, who fought earlier in the evening, is his wrestling coach and is moving down to 205. Fabricio Werdum, his presumptive opponent, can submit anyone but will unlikely be able to take the fight to the ground against a wrestler of Cain’s caliber. A future rematch with Dos Santos is not inconceivable, but a different result is at this point. Despite his heart, his chin and his skills, it seems that Dos Santos is not destined to be the foil to Velasquez that we hoped he would be; Velasquez is the heavyweight division’s emperor.

Speaking of Daniel Cormier, he took an easy decision victory over a game Roy Nelson before changing and coaching Cain Velasquez to victory. On his way down to light heavyweight – he weighed 224 for this fight – Cormier dominated Nelson in all facets of the sport. He outstruck, outwrestled, outworked and simply outfought Nelson. There isn’t much to add to this. Cormier, if he can cut the weight, might just be the best fighter at 205 right now. He’s not just a complete fighter; he’s a complete fighter with exceptional abilities in every department. With his win, the members of the 2008 Olympic wrestling team move to 33-0 in MMA, Cormier moved himself to 13-0, and Roy Nelson took sole ownership of the UFC record for most significant strikes absorbed in a career with 511. He might not contend for a title any time soon, but Nelson is still guaranteed to put on good fights at the expense of his cognitive ability.

But the best fight of the night – as well as the literal Fight of The Night – was the slobberknocker between Diego Sanchez and Gilbert Melendez. In what may be the fight of the year, both men left it all in the Octagon. Within 30 seconds of the first round, Sanchez had already managed to take Melendez’ back and things just got crazier from there. Neither man backed down throughout the fight, although Melendez generally got the better of the exchanges. He cut Sanchez in the first round and dropped him at the end of it. But Sanchez wouldn’t be discouraged. Despite being cut so badly above his left eye that the fight was halted twice to check on it, he pressed on. In the third, he caught Melendez with an uppercut in a wild exchange and dropped him, sending the crowd into a frenzy. But it wasn’t to be; tough as Sanchez was, Melendez’ own toughness prevailed. He won a deserved unanimous decision through the strength of superior combinations. This wasn’t a fight were there was a true loser though; both men left everything they had in the cage.

The first two fights on the main card were, suffice it to say, less competitive. Gabriel Gonzaga, looking like a cross between a caveman and a 70′s pornstar, flattened Shawn Jordan with a counter right hand before annihilating him with hammerfists a minute into their bout. And John Dodson knocked out Darrell Montague in the first round, hitting him so hard it took a second for Montague’s brain to register that it wasn’t working anymore. When this realization came, Montague face-planted into the mat and the fight was stopped. The amusing knockout earned Dodson the KO of the Night bonus; the Submission of the Night went to Tony Ferguson for a brabo choke on the undercard.

The sound and fury that accompanied this card have given way to silence. No one is debating whether Cain Velasquez or Junior Dos Santos is the best heavyweight. Any arguments have dissipated; dissent has ceased. Velasquez is less a fighter than a force of nature; save for an act of God – like the right hand that led to his sole loss, which is looking less consequential by the day – he can’t seem to be stopped, let alone withstood. The narrative is no longer waiting to see who can stop him; it’s simply accounting for how much damage he will do.


Main Card:

Cain Velasquez def. Junior Dos Santos via TKO, Round 5, 3:09
Daniel Cormier def. Roy Nelson via UD (30-27×3)
Gilbert Melendez def. Diego Sanchez via UD (30-27, 29-28×2)
Gabriel Gonzaga def. Shawn Jordan via KO, Round 1, 1:33
John Dodson def. Darrell Montague via KO, Round 1, 4:13

Preliminary Card:

Tim Boetsch def. CB Dollaway via SD (30-26×2, 27-29) [Author’s note: Uhhh…?]
Hector Lombard def. Nate Marquardt via KO, Round 1, 1:48
Jessica Eye def. Sarah Kaufman via SD (29-28×2, 28-29)
K.J. Noons def. George Sotiropoulos via UD (30-27, 29-28×2)
Adlan Amagov def. T.J. Waldburger via KO, Round 1, 3:00
Tony Ferguson def. Mike Rio via SUB, Round 1, 1:52
Andre Fili def. Jeremy Larsen via TKO, Round 2, 0:53
Kyoji Horiguchi def. Dustin Pague via TKO, Round 2, 3:51

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