Posted 10/15/2013 by Marlene Taborda in Untethered MMA

UFC 166: Velasquez vs Dos Santos III Preview

By Mike Fagan, October 15th, 2013

Big fight on Saturday. Maybe the biggest heavyweight fight in UFC history. Doesn’t seem big enough, though. I hate using words like “buzz” and “trending” and all the other word vomit you hear from people with titles like “marketing guru” and “social media expert.” Yet, for a fight as big as a trilogy-maker between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos – and one packed with a tremendous undercard – things seem…flat. No buzz. Not trending well. Etc., etc., and so on.

I’ve anticipated this fight since Velasquez regained the title in Vegas last year. Next thing I know, the fight’s on Saturday. Maybe it’s the packed UFC schedule. Maybe it’s a symptom of being sandwiched between a strong series of PPVs to close out the year. Maybe Velasquez’s one-sided Slothing of dos Santos is still fresh in our minds. I don’t know.

I do know we have an historic heavyweight title fight on Saturday, and despite whatever non-feelings I have now, come fight time, my head will be buzzing. Hahaha. I got you, suckers.

-Ranking the UFC trilogies:

1. Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard

2. Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture

3. Georges St-Pierre vs. Matt Hughes

4. Matt Hughes vs. B.J. Penn

5. Sam Stout vs. Spencer Fisher

6. Randy Couture vs. Vitor Belfort

7. Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock

8. Forrest Griffin vs. Tito Ortiz


Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos will fall somewhere in the top five, depending on how Saturday plays out. It’ll have to be particularly transcendent to knock off Edgar/Maynard, however.

Maynard and Nate Diaz have another trilogy wrapping up in November if you count fights that happened but didn’t happen on the Ultimate Fighter. I don’t, so why did I bring it up? I don’t know.

It might be harsh slotting Ortiz/Shamrock at the seven spot since those fights did good business and helped kickstart the UFC boom. The fights sucked, though. Also, Griffin/Ortiz has the added distinction of being the trilogy no one needed to see and wishes they hadn’t seen. (Somehow, they won two fight of the night bonuses.)

-I surveyed Twitter for predictions. Most common response: repeat of the second fight. I’m not sure we’ll get a straight replay (even Edgar-Maynard III differed from II with the finish), but I think the second fight is more indicative of how these two match up than the first fight.

Velasquez’s wrestling makes the difference, whether or not he proves effective or efficient. He took dos Santos down 11 times at UFC 155; Dos Santos defended 22 other takedowns. But just the threat of the takedown is enough. Dos Santos has to remain cognizant of it at all times. That threat plus Velasquez’s pressure standing should push dos Santos backward, and a backward-moving striker is a less-effective striker.

Dos Santos needs to discourage Velasquez’s wrestling early and/or land something big to throw Velasquez off his gameplan (or off his feet). If Velasquez’s key is his wrestling, dos Santos’s is nullifying said wrestling. He can’t allow Cain to take him down 10 times again, and he probably can’t allow him the time or energy it takes to attempt 33 in total.

-There’s already discussions about how these two stack up among heavyweight’s of MMA’s past. It’s a little early to crown either guy over Fedor Emelianenko, though either one is on track with a win.

I’ve already heard the argument that Cain and Junior fight in a weak heavyweight division and Fedor had to fight all these guys during Pride’s heyday and blah blah blah so on so forth blah blah. Emelianenko beat a lot of solid heavyweights. He beat a lot of bad heavyweights. And he beat Minotauro Nogueira and Mirko Cro Cop. That’s a reduction of his career, sure, but a fair summary in hindsight. Hell, we can even argue the merits of Mirko Cro Cop, all-time-great MMA heavyweight, too. Velasquez and dos Santos have essentially the same career arc, without as many bad heavyweights and with only each other in the “great” wins column.

The point isn’t to slag anyone. The heavyweight division has ALWAYS been shallow. It was shallow during Nogueira’s run, it was shallow during Fedor’s run, it was shallow enough for Randy Couture at 44, it was shallow during’s Lesnar’s run, it’s shallow during this Velasquez/dos Santos era, and it’ll be shallow when they move on (because, holy shit, they’ll both be on the wrong side of thirty come January).

It’s hard to argue legacies while we’re still watching those legacies play out (exception: Jon Jones is already the best light heavyweight ever). Velasquez or dos Santos are on pace to make it an interesting argument, though.

-Daniel Cormier plans on moving down to 205 pounds no matter what happens on Saturday. Which, I don’t know. He’s skilled enough and smart enough to present problems for Jon Jones. He probably beats the Jon Jones we just saw scrape a decision from Alexander Gustafsson, but it’s fair to write that Jones off as an anomaly until it becomes a pattern. I think he’s better off at heavyweight, though, where his combination of skill, speed, and smarts make him the toughest guy in the division not named Velasquez. He’s 34, though, and if he wants a run at a belt without having to fight a teammate, moving down in weight may be his only recourse.

-Born on the West Coast. 31 years old. Debuted in 2002. Started career with long winning streak. First two losses by controversial decision. Lost fights for the UFC lightweight belt.

Their careers deviated a bit (namely Diego’s whole welterweight thing), but that’s Diego Sanchez and Gilbert Melendez in a nutshell. Of course, Melendez is coming off a hard-fought decision loss against Ben Henderson for the title, and Sanchez is at his 16th career resurrection following an undeserved decision over Takanori Gomi back in March.


Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET at, also available as a podcast via iTunes.




Marlene Taborda