Well, that was certainly worth the money. The UFC 166 card delivered right from the opening preliminary card fights all the way to the headliner, and any complaints about the actual fights would probably be nitpicking at best. Sure, it featured some hiccups at times but when you get seven knockouts, a submission win, and one of the best fights of the year out of one event, you have to be satisfied. With that being said, let's take a look at the winners and losers from last night's show in Houston.
Cain Velasquez - He's now the undisputed best heavyweight in the world. He completely dismantled Dos Santos again, and finally got the finish he couldn't get in the last fight. While some probably didn't like how much he clinched against the fence, it was perfect strategy. He was always busy, and didn't give JDS any space at all. There might not be a more complete fighter in the UFC, and that's saying a lot. Good luck, Fabricio Werdum.
Daniel Cormier - It wasn't flashy, but he got the job done. He's going to be a force in the light heavyweight division for sure. While I know that it'll never happen, the idea of Cain vs. Cormier is really interesting. Hell, I'd like to see Cormier fight Dos Santos if he wanted to stick around HW. While I'm still not sure he would be able to beat Jon Jones or anything, he'll certainly be a top fighter at 205 right away.
Diego Sanchez and Gilbert Melendez - Their fight was amazing. I don't care if Sanchez didn't connect a lot, or if Melendez chose to fight a little recklessly. It made for one of my favorite bouts of the year, and I'm not ashamed to say that I jumped out of my chair and yelled "Holy sh*t!" when Diego cracked him with that uppercut in the third. I was doing PBP so it wasn't the wisest idea, but I know I wasn't alone in reacting like that. And that pure visceral, uncontrollable reaction is why I love this sport so much. So go ahead and pick it apart - it doesn't matter. Gil's awesome, Diego's awesome, and the fight was awesome. And that's the bottom line.
John Dodson - Does this kid have dynamite in his fists or what? I've seen Darrell Montague fight many times, and he has a really good chin. Dodson made him look like Jonathan Goulet. Props to Montague for quickly recovering from the first round of bombs, but that last one nearly took his head off. I can't wait to see his next fight.
Hector Lombard - Now THAT'S what he's getting paid all that money for. He has a new lease on life at welterweight, a division that's a much better fit for him with his style and skills. Wrestlerboxers beware - Lombard's coming for you. Shango's a way cooler nickname than Lightning though. Just sayin'.
Junior dos Santos - His performance was kind of weird. It wasn't a carbon copy of the second fight, but he didn't show any new wrinkles in there against Cain. He let himself get pushed around, he didn't try to create space, and it seemed like he spent most of the first round looking to land something flashy instead of just punching him in the face. If he's such a good boxer, where's the jab? It just wasn't a good look for JDS last night. He's still obviously the second-best heavyweight in the world, but the gap between one and two is that much wider now.
Roy Nelson - He seriously didn't do a damn thing against Cormier. And then he had the audacity to complain about Cormier's style afterwards? Really? I generally like Roy, but he was nowhere near landing his monster right all night. And it's becoming increasingly obvious that he's too in love with it to try and diversify his striking game a little more. Maybe he'll stop talking about a title shot for a while at least. Then again, maybe not.
Nate Marquardt - Is it the end of the line for Nate the Great? There's no shame in getting knocked out by two extremely hard hitters like Ellenberger and Lombard, but he has been in a lot of wars over the years. He might be looking for work soon and while he's still a marketable name with a solid resume, it's pretty clear he's not going to turn it around and suddenly become a top welterweight now. It's too bad too, because I thought he had real potential at 170 after what he did to Tyron Woodley.
George Sotiropoulos - Like Marquardt, the Australian fighter appears to be on the downside of his career. And after four straight losses, he might very well be fighting for another organization next time out. If there is a next time out. After running away from K.J. Noons for the first part of the fight, he engaged a little bit and won he second round in my eyes. But that's about it. I'm not sure what else to say really - it just doesn't appear that Sots is a UFC-caliber lightweight anymore, unfortunately.
The Texas Athletic Commission - First off, the referee for the Adlan Amagov-T.J. Waldburger fight had never reffed in the UFC before. And his inability to stop the bout in a timely fashion sent Waldburger out on a stretcher. Then he let Shawn Jordan get blasted a few more times than necessary just for good measure. And they also assigned a judge, Ruben Najera, to four important fights including the main event, despite never judging anything remotely relevant in MMA before. And shockingly, he completely bungled two of them (giving Jessica Eye the third round of her fight with Sarah Kaufman, and being one of two judges to give Tim Boetsch a ridiculous 30-26 score in his bout with C.B. Dollaway). Another judge, Gino Garcia, was in the same spot with no relevant experience. At least he got things right. But the larger point is this - even though the UFC doesn't come to Texas often, it's not ridiculously hard to fight officials that might actually understand what they're doing. The commission doesn't have the best reputation, and it's not hard to see why after UFC 166.
Oh, and don't even get me started on the doctors.