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Dublin: 4°C Sunday 11 April 2021
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Uncaged: Heavyweight rubber match for UFC gold

Fight fans, get set for a big night in Texas. Brian Kirk previews all the action at UFC 166.

Velasquez: will he be leaving with his belt tonight?
Velasquez: will he be leaving with his belt tonight?
Image: Pat Sullivan/AP/Press Association Images

THE CHAMPIONSHIP BELT of the top division in the UFC is on the line in Texas this Saturday as Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos meet in the Octagon for the third time in two years.

Both men have a win apiece against each other and it will be interesting to see how this will pan out given the contrast in their previous two bouts.

The main card has a couple of other fights coming from the heavyweight division as Daniel Cormier takes on Roy Nelson and Gabriel Gonzaga faces Shawn Jordan.

Right at the other end of the scale the always energetic and exciting flyweight John Dodson throws down with Darrell Montague while Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez battle it out in the lightweight division.

Third time’s a charm

Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos have had a tug of war over the UFC heavyweight belt over these past couple of years with both men being labelled “The Baddest Man on the Planet” at some stage over that period.

Saturday night will see these two men fight each other for the third time in a relatively short period and with the score currently standing at 1-1, it will be interesting to see what way it will go come the final bell.

Before their first fight took place, both men were deemed to be very well matched, sporting undefeated records and smashing their way through the division until they eventually collided in November 2011.

Junior dos Santos clubbed Velasquez with a thunderous overhand right in the first round on his way to claiming the belt in a performance that elevated him to the number one heavyweight in the world.

It later transpired that Velasquez was not fully fit coming into that fight and in their re-match his performance over dos Santos was every bit as emphatic, lessened only by a lack of a knockout, but he reclaimed the belt nevertheless.

This time there is no excuses. Both men have been fit and healthy in the build-up and the chance to finally settle who is the better fighter once and for all is here.

Since his only UFC defeat to the Brazilian, Velasquez has looked every bit as impressive as he did in his early career, easily seeing off “Bigfoot” Silva twice.

Dos Santos’ highlight-reel KO against Mark Hunt last time out proves that he is still possesses a very real and dangerous one-strike KO threat.

But Velasquez, through both his wrestling and striking, is a master at imposing his will and like their second fight, he will relentlessly pressure “Cigano” looking for any openings to take him down.

Failing that, he possesses a smart enough stand-up game to outpoint his counterpart on his way to a dominant decision victory.

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YouTube credit: TheAzyunyh5

Melendez dreams of beating Sanchez

Gilbert Melendez may still be smarting from his tough-to-take split decision loss to former lightweight champ Ben Henderson last time out but the best way to get that out of his system is to produce a good performance over Diego Sanchez.

Having gone the full 5 rounds in 5 of his last 6 matchups means this 3 round affair should be a walk in the park for Melendez but in Diego Sanchez he faces an extremely tough and durable opponent who has a very strong chin and notoriously difficult to finish.

“The Dream” beat Takanori Gomi in his return to lightweight last time out but his high pressure style has seemingly caught up with him as he hasn’t been dominant for a while. Melendez has fought some top-level guys recently and never looked out of his depth so he could prove too strong for Sanchez here.

Diego will have to be inventive if he is to stand any chance of victory here as he will have his work cut out trying to outwork the always busy Melendez. “El Nino” will take it to the ground if he isn’t finding any success on the feet on his way to a victory that could put him in line for another title shot.

YouTube credit: TheAzyunyh5

Best of the rest

Flyweight Darrell Montague faces a UFC baptism of fire in his debut against John Dodson. “The Magician” gained some kudos in defeat for his performance against the champion Demetrious Johnson last time out and he is keen for another shot so expect an explosive and dynamic statement from Dodson here.

Win, lose or draw against Roy Nelson here, it seems as if Daniel Cormier’s next fight is going to be in the light-heavyweight division. A win would put him in title contention but a reluctance to fight his training partner Cain Velasquez will force Cormier to drop down a weight.

Not that a win is guaranteed. Nelson’s right hand is always a factor that needs attention but Cormier’s relentless, grinding style should wear Nelson down and force him to gas paving the way for another UFC win for DC.

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Brian Kirk

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