UFC 166 promises to put an end to a pair of heavyweight-sized rivalries with none being more pivotal than Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos. The two men will face each other for the third time in their careers. JDS picked up a thunderous, one-punch knockout win against Velasquez on the UFC’s first venture to Fox television to capture the UFC heavyweight crown. Over a year later, Velasquez took the title back by dominating dos Santos over the course of five rounds. Both men believe they’re the better fighter, and they’ll have the chance to settle the score in the rubber match with UFC gold on the line.

In the evening’s co-main event, Velasquez’s coach and training partner, Daniel “DC” Cormier, faces Roy “Big Country” Nelson. Cormier has never tasted defeat and is coming off a successful (albeit not in impressive fashion) UFC debut in which he defeated former UFC heavyweight champ Frank Mir. Nelson, meanwhile, is looking to bounce back after being completely outclassed by Stipe Miocic in his last outing. Normally, the UFC doesn’t pair up fighters who are coming off wins against fighters that lost in their last outing, but the promotion made an exception due to the intense rivalry between the two. If Cormier is looking past Nelson towards the UFC light heavyweight division, “Big Country” and his right hand won’t hesitate to remind the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner of just who he’s in the cage with.

Also on the card is a lightweight contest between Ultimate Fighter winner Diego Sanchez and former Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez. Sanchez didn’t look great in his win against an over-the-hill Takanori Gomi. Meanwhile, Melendez lost a close decision to former UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson in his UFC debut. Both men will undoubtedly look to get back into the mix with an impressive victory.

In the heavyweight division, Shawn Jordan looks to make it three in a row when he faces Gabriel Gonzaga. The Brazilian is coming off a 17-second knockout of Dave Herman in his last bout. Jordan defeated Pat Barry and Mike Russow via TKO in his two most recent victories.

Kicking off the card are two flyweights looking to enter the title mix at 125 pounds. John Dodson nearly finished current UFC flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson before dropping a unanimous decision in his last fight. His opponent, Darrell Montague, is making his highly anticipated UFC debut with a record of 13-2.

UFC 166 takes place at the Toyota Center in Houston on Oct. 19. The action begins with the preliminary card on Facebook at 6 p.m. ET, shifts to Fox Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET for the remainder of the prelim-card lineup, then heads to pay-per-view at 10 p.m. ET for the main card.

The MMA Corner’s Sal DeRose, Dale De Souza and Kyle Symes break down the entire card in this edition of the Round Table.

FlyW: John Dodson (14-6) vs. Darrell Montague (13-2)

De Souza: When it comes to flyweights, very few ever know what to expect, apart from a fast-paced bout. Book two flyweights that match up well from a stylistic sense, and everything remains possible throughout the course of the bout, from powerful knockouts to insane techniques that resemble moves from a martial arts movie. Add in the attraction of one flyweight coming off an impressive performance in a title shot and another making his promotional debut, and it makes for an intriguing contest that holds potential to steal the show somehow.

“Stealing the show” correlates with the expectations for any of John Dodson’s fights. “The Magician,” a finisher in eight of his 14 career wins, always manages to showcase some trick up his sleeve, in terms of the physical and mental aspects of his game, and it doesn’t take long for people to start talking once he executes those aspects. In the past, this held some truth whenever Dodson found himself trading leather with a newcomer, as he will do against Darrell Montague, but recently, Dodson proved he could hang tough against the best in the world at 125 pounds.

Sure, people can look at his UFC on Fox 6 loss to UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and leave it at “Dodson lost to Johnson” if they choose, but few could hardly consider it much of a loss when Dodson challenged “Mighty Mouse” in one of the most intensely contested five-round affairs of the year thus far. Dodson displayed serious power in landing shots that hurt Johnson, as well as his ability to endure a lengthy bout that went into the championship rounds. Now he aims to right his ship while beginning his run towards another title shot.

“The Mongoose” threatens Dodson’s chances of getting a win, however. The former Tachi Palace flyweight champion last tasted defeat when he dropped the belt to Ian McCall, but he accumulated a 4-0 record since and finished three of the four foes he faced in that streak. Owning a reputation for finishing fights and not liking to leave his fate to the judges, Montague would desire nothing more than to make a statement at the expense of a high-caliber flyweight.

Unfortunately for Mr. Montague, in six pro losses, Dodson lost four unanimous decisions and two split decisions. In short, Montague will need to dominate Dodson for three rounds if he wants to beat him, because Dodson will not leave an opening for Montague to secure a finish. Expect Dodson to fight patiently, as he did against Jussier “Formiga” da Silva, en route to a potential third-round TKO.

DeRose: The flyweights are always my favorite part of any card. I love watching guys in my class fight, and I think this fight is a really good bout to add to the pay-per-view.

Dodson is a really exciting fighter to watch. Fast hands, quick takedowns and powerful striking are just a few thoughts that come to mind when describing Dodson. He is coming off a title loss to Johnson, but that fight was amazing to watch and really showed how great of a fighter Dodson is—when he has a full gas tank. Dodson was able to give Johnson his toughest test since the first fight with McCall and really took the fight to him. If you blinked, you probably missed every punch or kick thrown in that fight.

Dodson can take this fight to the ground if he wishes and dominate from top, or keep this fight standing and fire off some combos and quickly exit. Either way, I see Dodson having a very simple path to win.

Dale also mentioned Dodson’s losses. Montague is really going to have to earn that decision. Dodson always pushes the pace—and his opponent—to the brink. Montague needs to bring Dodson down, something that, before Dodson’s fight with Johnson, I thought was unlikely.

Dodson is just the pick to make here. I loved his last fight and thought he fought valiantly on his way to beating Formiga. He will take the decision victory.

Symes: Wow, my colleagues are amped up for the flyweights, aren’t they? I don’t really share that enthusiasm, but I can respect that this is a pivotal bout in the flyweight division.

As Dale mentioned, people who just look at the record books and see that Dodson lost to Johnson are missing some very important details. Dodson came the closest to beating “Mighty Mouse” at 125 pounds, and if he had more of a resume, he would likely be challenging Joseph Benavidez for the second-place ranking.

What I think will make the difference in this fight will be Dodson’s physical gifts. He’s an explosive athlete, and although that’s a trait shared by many flyweights, he also possesses knockout power. Montague is regarded as one of the best flyweights in the world outside the UFC, and now is the chance to prove the hype is real.

Unfortunately for him, I don’t see him doing so with his hand raised. Montague will prove that he belongs in the UFC, but Dodson will be too fast and too athletic for Montague to contain. Dodson will take this fight by decision.

HW: Gabriel Gonzaga (15-7) vs. Shawn Jordan (15-4)

DeRose: The first in a trio of heavyweight fights to grace this card, this contest should feature some pretty good action between Gabriel Gonzaga and Shawn Jordan.

Gonzaga is coming off a win where he dismantled Dave Herman in 17 seconds to score a knockout victory. Gonzaga is 3-1 in his current UFC run with his only loss coming to the highly touted Travis Browne. Gonzaga is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, and I expect that to play a big factor in this fight. Jordan isn’t nearly as good as Gonzaga in the grappling department. I hate being that blunt and stating the obvious, but that is easily Gonzaga’s way to win this fight.

Again, I hate to simplify this all, but Jordan’s route to victory is through his heavy hands. Jordan needs to sprawl-and-brawl and keep the fight off the ground. Gonzaga’s chin isn’t what it once was, and I don’t think it could stand a bunch of shots from Jordan. Jordan has 11 knockout victories and is coming off a TKO win over a very good striker in Pat Barry.

This fight can really go either way, as the methods to victory are just very blatant. However, I’ll take the experience of Gonzaga to take home a submission victory in this fight.

Symes: Sometimes, as Sal pointed out, it’s very simple to see how each guy can win a fight. Gonzaga may be coming off a 17-second KO of Herman, but nobody is going to confuse him for a touted striker. He’s a grappler first, and I suspect he’ll look to utilize those skills in this match-up.

Jordan, coming off that victory over Barry, should be looking to land some heavy leather against Gonzaga. Just looking at Jordan’s body composition, I can’t see how Gonzaga will take him down in this fight. Jordan’s legs are bigger than tree trunks, and I don’t believe Gonzaga’s wrestling is good enough to plow through Jordan.

Where Gonzaga will find success is in putting Jordan against the fence and using trips to knock Jordan off-balance prior to a takedown. We saw Cheick Kongo have success against Jordan using this strategy, so expect Gonzaga and his crew to come into the fight with the same tactic in mind.

Jordan is an intriguing prospect, but he hasn’t fought someone with the level of BJJ skills that Gonzaga possesses. Once Gonzaga gets the fight to the mat, it will be academic. Gonzaga via submission.

De Souza: I wish I could disagree with my two colleagues here, but alas, I cannot. I’ll reiterate Sal’s point of how the methods to victory stand as absolutely blatant—either Jordan knocks out Gonzaga or Gonzaga submits Jordan.

Now, I’ll credit Gonzaga for what he demonstrated in the past. Against expert kickboxers like MIrko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and athletes like Herman, he held a submission artist’s chance and still found the knockout. Not only that, but let’s not forget that while he did become a part of Shane Carwin’s lengthy streak of first-round finishes, he also forced Carwin back and caused the now-retired heavyweight to mount a comeback.

Still, that does not make Gonzaga a striker. Going up against a knockout artist in “The Savage,” Gonzaga needs to answer the power that Jordan possesses, because Jordan can put guys down and out at a moment’s notice. As far as keeping him off-balance a la Kongo, that sounds easier said than done, because while Gonzaga could wear Jordan out, he may run the risk of leaving his chin exposed in an attempt to take this fight to the ground.

Still, it does not mean Gonzaga cannot get the fight to the ground. It just means that he will need to work more diligently for takedowns if he wants a submission win. Jordan will not get submitted, but trust Gonzaga to find a way to drain Jordan’s energy away from him. “Napao” takes a unanimous decision after three tough rounds.

LW: Gilbert Melendez (21-3) vs. Diego Sanchez (24-5)

Symes: A few years ago, this fight could’ve been a very important bout in the lightweight division. Now, it’s more or less a fight to save either man’s career in the 155-pound division. UFC fans need no introduction to Diego “The Dream” Sanchez. The original Ultimate Fighter winner has become a mainstay in the division. He’s jumped back and forth between welterweight and lightweight, but has found mixed success in both divisions. His recent fight with Takanori Gomi wasn’t anything spectacular, and Sanchez missed weight on top of it.

Gilbert Melendez isn’t as well-known as he should be considering his top-five ranking, but competing mainly in Strikeforce will do that to you. After dominating everyone put in front of him in Strikeforce, Melendez jumped into the Octagon and faced the UFC lightweight champion (at the time) Benson Henderson. The two engaged in a razor-close fight, but in the end it would be Henderson who walked away with the win.

Even though Sanchez won his last fight, I think we can all agree he seemed to have taken a step back. If Gomi was game enough to give Sanchez problems, Melendez can frustrate the TUF winner. Sanchez seems to be entering this bout with a lot of motivation, and that’s always a good sign. But Melendez is just a little better than Sanchez at this point in their careers. Melendez via unanimous decision.

De Souza: Whether or not Melendez vs. Sanchez holds the same importance that it might have held at another time, it still holds the same potential to steal the show (if the flyweight fight does not). If things had gone just a little bit differently, both men would be coming off of wins in their last fight. But they’re not. Either way, this one ranks as a must-see affair, and I emphasize “must-see.”

How could Melendez have won over former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson in the eyes of some? Well, Sal brought up the razor-close nature of the fight, and although it holds true that Henderson retained the belt in hostile territory, some people felt that Melendez actually displayed the better offense. Nevertheless, the bout by no means classified as a robbery, as it could have gone as much to Henderson as to Melendez. But that all resides in the past now.

Sadly, most feel “the past” is where Sanchez’s best days reside as well. Not to say he looked terrible against Gomi, but “The Dream” is capable of putting on a much more impressive performance than the one he put on against the former Pride champ. The man possesses a fighting spirit unlike anyone else at lightweight, and when he comes in with a full focus, few can handle his killer instinct, which has helped him score six wins by some form of knockout and nine submission wins, including three by way of punches.

Interestingly enough, the two once trained with each other, which leaves us asking if we will see a tentative start to this bout. When two people know each other well, it can cause the two to spend an extensive amount of time in a feeling-out mode. Still, Melendez should get the better of the takedowns here, and if he can pass his way into a full mount, he holds the potential to rain down with heavy ground-and-pound, as well as a few sharp elbows, as he hands Sanchez another TKO loss via a cut.

DeRose: I, like many, wasn’t sold on Sanchez’s last fight with Gomi. This fight seems to be biting off a bit more than he can chew at this point in his career, when Melendez easily ranks ahead of Sanchez.

The decision in Melendez’s losing effort against champion Benson Henderson was as close as you can come in the combat sports business. The fight was equally as much Melendez’s as it was Henderson’s. You could really argue that case either way.

This fight really depends on who dictates the pace and the action more. If Sanchez is able to bring Melendez down or drag Melendez into a brawl, “The Dream,” who can take a punch like a champ, will have this fight won.

The same holds true for Melendez in this fight. If he can dictate the fight, keep it standing or bring Sanchez to the ground and dominate from top control, maybe work his submission game a little bit, he easily has this fight wrapped up.

I like Melendez’s overall skill set more in helping him bring home this fight. Melendez is still near the top of the lightweight pyramid, and with Anthony Pettis as the new champ, this could be the first of a couple wins that he needs in order to see himself back into the title picture after his loss to Henderson.

HW: Daniel Cormier (12-0) vs. Roy Nelson (19-8)

DeRose: Unless Roy Nelson lands his trademark knockout punch in the first round, I don’t see any way that this fight goes the distance. That being said, I think this fight is going to be a great fight between two guys who really know their grappling.

Daniel Cormier, of course, is a former Olympic wrestler and can take anybody down. His wrestling is really top notch, and while I don’t expect him to take down Nelson a lot in this fight, I do expect him to work in a few, especially early in the fight, to score some points and win the round.

Cormier also has great power in his hands, and I fully expect him to just circle away from Nelson’s power and pick him apart standing. Nelson’s gas tank isn’t the best, and it really won’t take long for Nelson to start throwing those wild overhands. Cormier has to also avoid being on his back, as Nelson’s top control and grappling is insanely good and could easily wear Cormier down, especially that side control of Nelson’s where he can just chip away at his opponent’s will and strength.

Nelson has some slick jiu-jitsu, which could give Cormier some issues on the ground. He also has the knockout power to keep Cormier weary on the feet. That gas tank, though, is the biggest thing separating him here. If Nelson could keep up for three rounds, I would give him more than a puncher’s chance, but just overall after the first round, Cormier should really dominate this fight on the feet and on the ground.

Regardless, Cormier seems poised to make a drop to light heavyweight if he wins here to avoid a title fight with teammate and current champion Cain Velasquez, so we should enjoy the last we see of the heavyweight version of Cormier. Cormier by unanimous decision.

De Souza: With a number of things on the line, it becomes hard to fathom exactly how Nelson and Cormier don’t turn in something memorable, even if it does not come close to a bonus-winning bout.

Nelson lost to Stipe Miocic at UFC 161, whereas Cormier scored a unanimous decision win over Frank Mir. Throughout this year, anything relevant to Cormier either involved his training with UFC heavyweight champ Velasquez or a potential fight with him and UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones. For the latter to transpire, though, a win over Nelson proves extremely important.

Nobody in the UFC can claim to have exposed Nelson’s chin at this point. The man just stays in the fight until the bitter end, and he never lets himself out of the fight mentally, even when he cannot get the knockout. When he does get the knockout, however, everyone takes notice. The way he throws his knockout punch, he looks like he wings it, but it always lands on the mark. It tends to put people out, too, in ways that few ever anticipate.

As sick as Nelson gets with that one punch, though, he never signed on to do it against a former Olympian. An American Kickboxing Academy product and coach to heavyweight kingpin Velasquez, Cormier owns some knockout power of his own. If he can’t find the knockout, he will either pin his opponent up against the cage or take them down any number of times in order to drain their energy. Against the likes of Jeff Monson in 2011, though, Cormier did show a willingness to stand for the duration of the bout. He also showed that he could do more than just punch.

With both men moving straight forward, expect them to look for a big shot early. If the fight goes to the ground, anyone can win the game. However, anticipate this fight taking place mostly on the feet, and if things stay there, Cormier will break Nelson down and take a unanimous decision.

Symes: Fans will likely be expecting Cormier and Nelson to come out throwing bombs, as Dale suggested, due to the rivalry that’s been created between them. After all, that’s what Nelson does in every one of his fights anyway. But that’s exactly why I have to disagree with Dale. I expect Cormier to utilize the “wall and stall” method we saw him use against Mir.

Everyone knows Nelson’s gas tank lasts about as long as a Hummer on the highway, which is why I believe Cormier will look to grind Nelson down in the early going. Once Nelson tires, the speed difference between the two will become even more evident. Cormier isn’t known for his combination punching or boxing, but I could see him looking like Miocic did against Nelson, with some in-and-out movement during the striking exchanges.

If the fight goes to the ground, it’s Cormier all the way as well. Everyone wants to talk about how Nelson is a legit Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, but I’ve yet to see him threaten with sweeps or submissions from his back in his MMA career. If Cormier can ragdoll Josh Barnett, why would he have any trouble taking Nelson down, especially after “Big Country” gasses?

Nelson has a puncher’s chance, as always, but that window closes with every minute that goes by. Cormier will likely be a bit looser and fight more aggressively now that the Octagon jitters are out of the way, but Nelson still makes it to the end. Cormier by unanimous decision.

HW Championship: Cain Velasquez (12-1) vs. Junior dos Santos (16-2)

De Souza: The first time Junior dos Santos fought Cain Velasquez, he quickly finished the AKA product and became the first Brazilian to win the UFC heavyweight title. When the two met up at UFC 155, Velasquez dominated all five rounds, rearranged dos Santos’ face and walked out with the UFC heavyweight title. Now, we come to the rubber match, and honestly, it should make for the hardest fight to predict of the three.

See, we know what Velasquez wants to do. He wants to punish dos Santos in similar fashion to how he did last December, and he wants to do it in much quicker fashion than before. Regardless of whether or not dos Santos overtrained for the second fight, the fact stands that Velasquez’s wrestling game and his striking regiment take plenty away from the people he faces, so it stands to reason that Velasquez simply bettered JDS because he executed the better game plan.

Still, if Velasquez thinks he will get a “Cigano” that can’t win if he can’t land a punch on the jaw, he needs to reconsider his line of thinking. Dos Santos showed in his UFC 160 bout with Mark Hunt that he really worked on doing just about everything. He worked takedowns, his boxing and even a nice spinning wheel kick into his arsenal. In fact, dos Santos easily enjoyed the option to coast his way to a unanimous decision win, but he still elected to finish Hunt.

The question remains, since both did it once, which one will do it again? These two men bring out the best in each other to where each man owns one dominating performance over the other. Therefore, it would make perfect sense to think the winner will dominate in this fight too. Instead, I’ll say that it goes to a unanimous decision again, except this time it turns in a closer bout than the second affair. If dos Santos worked on his takedown defense, this could even end in a split decision. Ultimately, though, dos Santos takes the unanimous decision, and the UFC heavyweight title, back.

Symes: This is a pure toss-up to me. Dos Santos ended Velasquez’s first title reign in only 64 seconds, while Velasquez recaptured the title by putting a five-round beatdown on the Brazilian. We’ve seen both guys implement their game plans to perfection, but Dale asked a very pertinent question: Which guy is the one who’ll win the battle of wills to get their game plan going?

I’ve been critical of Velasquez’s striking defense since his fight with Cheick Kongo, and there’s no doubt JDS has the kind of power to end the fight in one strike. That played a huge factor in their last bout, where dos Santos simply looked to recreate that one-punch knockout moment rather than utilize his talent to the fullest. I don’t know if dos Santos overtrained or if it was personal issues, or any combination of factors, but the fact is that dos Santos didn’t come into his rematch with Velasquez in the right state of mind. Of course, in their first meeting, the same could be said of Velasquez, who inexplicably decided to stay on the feet against JDS.

Since then, Velasquez has come out and virtually destroyed everyone in his path. His bounce-back win against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva was something out of a horror movie, and he has looked dominant as ever since the dos Santos loss. Not to be outdone, JDS looked like a polished mixed martial artist rather than just a pure boxer in his win over Hunt.

Both guys have improved tremendously over the course of this rivalry, and I’ll likely flip my prediction from one to the other as the days progress up until fight night. I believe dos Santos will come into this fight in a much better mental state and won’t take Velasquez lightly like he did in the first rematch. I see the fight starting off similar to their second encounter, with Velasquez possibly securing some early takedowns. However, dos Santos will land that one punch to turn the lights off. JDS by TKO in round three.

DeRose: Like Kyle, I see this as a real toss-up for all the reasons he pointed to.

That last fight really says a lot to me. Dos Santos was dominated over the course of the fight and was made to look absolutely juvenile. It really is a wonder how he remained in that fight for all five rounds considering the beating he took.

Velasquez’s striking is no joke and, along with his wrestling, it makes him a deadly combination for dos Santos. If dos Santos wants to win, his only real option is to keep this on the feet, pick Velasquez apart from the outside and land the big blow to end the fight.

Velasquez has a multitude of options, including the ground. If he can duplicate that last fight, which I don’t think he should have any problems replicating, he has a great chance at taking the fight.

I’ll flip-flop on this too until the main event happens on Saturday night, but I’ll take Velasquez to retain his belt in what will most likely be a barn-burner.

Preliminary Card
BW: Kyoji Horiguchi (11-1) vs. Dustin Pague (11-8)

Symes: Dustin Pague will be fighting to save his job here after three straight losses in the Octagon. I’m not sold on Kyoji Horiguchi being “UFC material,” but it’s hard to pick a guy who is 1-4 in his last five fights. Horiguchi via split decision.

DeRose: In his 11 wins, Horiguchi has finished eight opponents. Pague’s recent record, as Kyle mentioned, is 1-4 in his last five, which makes me wary to pick him. However, Horiguchi is making the transition from Japan, and I’m always reluctant to pick fighters making that switch. I’ll take Pague to save his job by earning the decision.

De Souza: Everyone looks like UFC material until they don’t. But if anyone can look like it, Horiguchi can. Pague presents a tough challenge, but while he should have that win over Yves Jabouin, the man just never catches much of a break once the bout goes the distance. Horiguchi takes a clear unanimous decision.

FW: Andre Fili (12-1) vs. Jeremy Larsen (8-4)

De Souza: Jeremy Larsen hopes his first UFC win comes against the debuting Andre Fili, but Fili has other plans. Larsen arguably almost beat Lucas Martins before Martins finished him off. Fili rides an impressive eight-fight winning streak into the Octagon. An injury caused Fili’s only pro loss, and he will not go down without a fight. Don’t jump the gun on the kid’s potential just yet, but give me Fili by a mid-round TKO in the first frame.

DeRose: All I had to do was see Fili’s association with Team Alpha Male. That alone makes me buy into the hype. Fili owns six knockout victories and, what do you know, Larsen’s current two-fight winning streak consists of back-to-back knockouts. I like the pattern. Fili by TKO.

Symes: I like where my colleagues’ heads are at. If we’re going with the idea that Team Alpha Male coach Duane Ludwig is the striking guru, it’s hard not to pick Fili by knockout in this one.

LW: Tony Ferguson (13-3) vs. Mike Rio (9-2)

DeRose: Tony Ferguson has some real nice power in his hands and has displayed that twice in his UFC career thus far, once breaking Aaron Riley’s jaw and the other time knocking out Ramsey Nijem to win The Ultimate Fighter 13. Ferguson hasn’t fought since May of 2012, when he lost to Michael Johnson. I’m a little hesitant to pick him here. Mike Rio is coming off a loss to Francisco Trinaldo this past May. Rio is slightly below Ferguson’s level, and although I might regret it, I’ll take Ferguson by knockout.

Symes: I’ll agree with Sal on this one. I don’t believe Rio is at the level where Ferguson is at the moment. I know Ferguson hasn’t fought in a long time, but he’s also faced (and beaten) better competition than Rio. Ferguson by TKO.

De Souza: Let’s call this a sweep. Ferguson will come off a layoff, but he will come out looking to release some four-ounce fury on Rio. Rio likely deserves a bit more credit than he gets, since no shame ever came from losing to Trinaldo, but Ferguson gets a TKO before the third round ends unless he takes Rio extremely lightly.

WW: Adlan Amagov (12-2-1) vs. T.J. Waldburger (16-7)

Symes: Adlan Amagov and T.J. Waldburger bring competent ground games to the cage at UFC 166. However, Waldburger has faced stiffer competition and will have enough tricks in his bag to pull off the decision victory.

De Souza: Agreed. Amagov’s ground game is much better than some may think. Still, Texans always stand in firm support of Texans, and Belton’s own Waldburger will draw motivation from fighting just three hours away from home when he meets Amagov in Houston. Amagov will hunt for a big knockout, but he will get taken to the ground, and once he does, Waldburger will lock up the win via a submission of his choice.

DeRose: Ah, a Texan fighting in Texas? I’m going to make this quick to avoid any Alamo references, being the history nerd I am. Like Kyle points out, Waldburger has faced tough competition before. If he can take this fight to the mat, he has an easy decision victory in the bag. Amagov wants the knockout, but he won’t get it. The hometown crowd wills Waldburger to victory.

LW: K.J. Noons (11-7) vs. George Sotiropoulos (14-5)

DeRose: This fight is between two guys who haven’t found a way to win since the Neolithic Era. K.J. Noons is 1-5 in his last six and Sotiropoulos is on a three-fight losing skid. Noons has the power in his hands to win this fight, but his ground game is majorly lacking. That leads to my pick of Sotiropoulos to win. He’ll get his eighth submission victory here.

De Souza: I question Sotiropoulos’ chin against Noons. There, I said it. Sotiropoulos will hold an edge on the ground against most opponents. However, after his loss to Donald Cerrone, Noons will look to show improved takedown defense and force Sotiropoulos to stand. A win only gives Noons his second victory in his seven most recent bouts (including this one). Noons will knock Sotiropoulos out in the earlier part of round one.

Symes: Remember a few years back when “G-Sots” was considered a lightweight dark horse title contender? How the mighty have fallen! This fight comes down to whether or not Sotiropoulos can get the fight to the ground and use his jiu-jitsu. We know Noons will look to use his boxing, and I believe that’s where this fight will end. Sotiropoulos will suffer another knockout loss.

Women’s BW: Jessica Eye (10-1) vs. Sarah Kaufman (16-2)

De Souza: It’s tough to not like either girl here, especially since Jessica Eye shocked the world not too long ago with a win over Zoila Gurgel. Gurgel does not bring Sarah Kaufman’s fire to the fight. Kaufman will give Eye all she can handle and score big on a second-round TKO win after taking this to the ground.

Symes: Kaufman is the more known fighter in this bout, but don’t count out Eye. As Sal pointed out, Eye took out Gurgel, who was widely regarded as one of the best women fighters in the world. Although I like Eye to have long-term success in the UFC, I believe Octagon jitters will play a part in this bout. Kaufman will do just enough to take the decision.
DeRose: Eye’s victory over Gurgel is no joke, as Kyle and Dale have pointed out. It was a huge shocker for me covering the event. Seeing it happen, I really had no words to describe what I thought. That being said, Kaufman is a tough opponent for anyone’s UFC debut, and that nervous feeling that overtakes many fighters will play a factor here. Kaufman by decision.

WW: Hector Lombard (32-4-1) vs. Nate Marquardt (32-12-2)

Symes: Years ago, this fight could have headlined an UFC event. Now, however, it’s relegated to being a prelim fight. That should tell you all you need to know about where Hector Lombard and Nate Marquardt are at in their careers. It will be interesting to see how Lombard fares with his muscular frame at 170 pounds. Marquardt is still a dangerous fighter and always brings a wealth of knowledge into the cage with him, but it will not be enough for the win here. Lombard’s takedown defense will be too good, and he will catch Marquardt on the feet for a TKO victory.

DeRose: As dangerous a fighter as Marquardt is, Lombard is just as dangerous. Marquardt is going to have to get some takedowns, but I don’t see him breaking through Lombard to do so. Lombard is a very dangerous fighter on his feet—with a full tank. Lombard by TKO.

De Souza: I’ll argue that this fight stands as a prelim because of how loaded this card looks, but I digress. Lombard’s tank-like physique seemed fit for middleweight, but then he faced bigger middleweights like Tim Boetsch and Yushin Okami. Against a guy like Marquardt, who I expect to hold some sort of reach advantage over the former Bellator champion, I anticipate the rebirth of the Cuban-Australian as he knocks Marquardt out early—and I do see the move to welterweight helping his gas tank out greatly.

MW: Tim Boetsch (16-6) vs. C.B. Dollaway (13-4)

De Souza: Tim Boetsch originally planned on meeting Luke Rockhold, but considering he still enjoyed time to formulate a strategy when Rockhold withdrew, the change in foes should not pose much of a difference. C.B. Dollaway never looked like a small middleweight, but he will get overpowered by Boetsch. “The Barbarian” lays the smack down and gets a first-round TKO after taking Dollaway’s tank away from him.

DeRose: Let’s make that two for Boetsch. Dollaway has to do a lot to win this fight, including controlling Boetsch, which is something I don’t see happening. Unless Dollaway finds a way to knock out Boetsch or catch Boetsch making a mistake and submit him, Boetsch has this by knockout. Not in the first, but I’ll say it comes in the late second round.

Symes: And let’s make it three for three. Dollaway has never really done anything to make me think he’ll take a step forward in his career to move out of the mid-tier of 185-pounders. Meanwhile, Boetsch has at least shown flashes of being a very good fighter. Boetsch will be too strong for Dollaway to take down, and I see “The Barbarian” using that strength to secure a TKO victory.

Photo: Cain Velasquez (Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.