Was UFC 166 the best event of the year? It's certainly a front-runner right now. Almost every fight on the card delivered, and the icing on the cake was watching Cain Velasquez retain his UFC heavyweight title by putting a thorough beating on Junior dos Santos. Cain picked up a rare fifth-round stoppage, but it really could have been stopped before that due to the damage that Cain did. He is unquestionably the best heavyweight in the world now, and no one can take that away from him. I'm sure Fabricio Werdum will try, but it's hard to believe that he can.
As I mentioned, the fight could easily have been stopped in the third round when Cain dropped him and had him basically out on his feet. It also could have been stopped by the doctor before the start of the fifth as well due to Cigano's eye being basically swollen shut. The actual ending was strange, with JDS getting spiked into the ground while trying for a choke. But it was an interesting capper on a night that featured a ton of contenders for fight of the night and knockout of the night. And one of the best fights I've ever seen.
- How crazy was it to see Cain come up and challenge Dos Santos when he did his usual thing in the middle of the cage during his introduction? I never expected that, and it just turned up the intensity even more.
- Daniel Cormier easily handled Roy Nelson. Cormier was just was just way faster and more technical than Big Country, who never really landed anything of note in the whole 15 minutes. The fight wasn't very exciting, but Cormier's impending drop to light heavyweight will definitely be interesting.
- What can you say about Diego Sanchez vs. Gilbert Melendez? It was absolutely amazing. I said on twitter that Gilbert Melendez can be one of the most exciting fighters in the world when he throws caution to the wind and just brawls, like he did in the second fight with Josh Thomson. He did that tonight with a game opponent, and it was just magical.
- With that being said, it almost led to his demise. Sanchez surprisingly dropped him in the third round and might have been close to finishing a fight that Melendez was clearly in control of up to that point. Sanchez is obviously a warrior and what he did in there tonight was amazing. And sometimes it's way better for the fans to just chuck knuckles instead of fighting smart. But it was a good example of why it's called "fighting smart" in the first place - you shouldn't put yourself in that position. Still though, how can I complain when it was one of the most awesome things I've ever seen?
- How about Gabriel Gonzaga finishing Shawn Jordan with his hands? I make jokes about Gonzaga not fighting smart sometimes (there I go again), but he didn't need to work his vaunted submission game tonight. He just clubbered him instead.
- John Dodson might be the hardest hitter in MMA pound-for-pound. He absolutely destroyed Darrell Montague, to the point that I can't believe Montague's jaw isn't broken. I give Darrell credit for taking a lot of it and staying in there, but the Ric Flair flop at the end from the final monster shot was unreal.
- What's up with C.B. Dollaway? It's like he decided to embrace the fan's apparent dislike of him. Two eyepokes, a few arrogant looks on his face after Boetsch hit him, even some showboating and taunting. If that's how he wants to do things, I have no problem with it. But his corner certainly wasn't happy with it.
- One judge tonight did an absolutely horrible job, and his name is Ruben Najera. He was one of two judges that scored the Boetsch/Dollaway fight 30-26 for Boetsch, when Boetsch clearly lost the first round. He also directly influenced a fight before that with an even worse card.
- Hector Lombard devastated Nate Marquardt with some huge shots. The way that Marquardt went down was weird, but Lombard showed that nasty streak that the UFC wanted when they picked him up. Can he be a contender at welterweight? I don't know, but I certainly like what I saw tonight.
- That fight I mentioned above would be the super-entertaining ladies fight between Jessica Eye and Sarah Kaufman. The first two rounds were super close, and if Eye had been granted the split decision based on winning both of those, I'd have no problem with it. But that's not what happened. Kaufman came out in the third and battered Eye, clearly earning the nod in that round. But Mr. Najera somehow gave the third round to Eye, which led to her split decision victory. Which is a total joke. Apparently this was the first time he has judged a UFC card. And I sincerely hope it's the last time.
- K.J. Noons vs. George Sotiropoulos was okay. George was on his bike early, but he settled in and fought decently. Noons was just better, though I really thought he hurt his knee or something because he was really awkward with his footwork all night.
- Adlan Amagov is a monster. The referee was pretty late in stopping his fight with T.J. Waldburger, and it probably led to Waldburger's trip to the hospital (luckily he's fine). But Amagov just whooped him, and picked up his second straight win.
- For once, all the Eddie Bravo/10th Planet talk that Rogan and Goldberg inevitably blather on about whenever one of their fighters is in the cage actually turned out to be correct. They hyped the D'Arce choke, and guess what? Tony Ferguson obliged them and finished Mike Rio with a nice D'Arce choke. Well done, everybody.
- Andre Fili and Kyoji Horiguchi opened up the card with promising UFC debuts, both picking up knockout victories over their opponents. I was very impressed with Fili in particular. Well, I was impressed with everything but his hair.