Sherdog’s Brian Knapp recounts all the thrilling action from Saturday, including the remarkable Melendez-Sanchez bout.
Velasquez stopped dos Santos on a fifth-round technical knockout to retain the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight crown in the UFC 166 main event on Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston. Dos Santos (16-3, 10-2 UFC) finally wilted under an accumulation of punishment 3:09 into round five, having struck his head on the canvas during a failed attempt at a guillotine choke.
According to preliminary FightMetric figures, Velasquez (13-1, 11-1 UFC) landed 274 total strikes, 123 of them significant.
“Junior came out strong,” he said. “I tried to beat him to the first punch, but it seemed like he was kind of beating me to it. It was kind of a battle for who could land the first punches. Trying to get him down this time was very hard. I heard the crowd, and I was trying, man. I want better for myself, and the fans deserve better also.”
Velasquez, who waded through heavy fire throughout, went 2-for-13 on takedown attempts. Instead, he brutalized dos Santos in the clinch, abusing him with punches to the head and knees to the legs and body. The Brazilian simply could not keep any distance between himself and the ruthlessly relentless champion. Velasquez floored him with an overhand right in the third round and swooped in for the finish. Dos Santos somehow survived, but he was never the same.
“I was very OK for this fight,” he said. “What can I say? He beat me up. He did a great job. Congratulations to him. I’m going to go home and train harder to face him again.”
Nelson No Match for Cormier
In the co-main event, American Kickboxing Academy standout Daniel Cormier kept his perfect professional record intact, as he cruised to a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner Roy Nelson. Cormier (13-0, 2-0 UFC), who plans to downshift to 205 pounds for his next bout, swept the scorecards by matching 30-27 marks.
Cormier’s quick hands, quick feet and multi-faceted offensive repertoire stymied the man they call “Big Country.” The unbeaten 34-year-old took down Nelson (19-9, 6-5 UFC) in the first round and drained the former International Fight League champion’s suspect gas tank on the ground and in the clinch. Cormier spent rounds two and three pecking away at his counterpart with various punches and kicks. Nelson landed almost nothing of note in the 15-minute match.
“The game plan was to stifle him in the first round and then stand with him in the last two,” Cormier said. “That’s what I did. I [wanted to show] that I could take a punch and get out of the way of a punch. I [wanted to show] the diversity of my striking. I’ve been working my tail off. This was better than last time but not the best. I’m going to continue to get better, and I’m going to put on better fights for you guys. I promise.”
Afterward, Cormier took a not-so-veiled shot at reigning light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, a man with whom he has traded verbal barbs in the past.
“I’m going to be at 205 [for my] next fight,” Cormier said. “The heavyweights are big. There’s a guy on my mind, but I think I’ve still got to do some work. Listen, I’m going to be the champion eventually. Those guys can’t get away from me for long.”
Melendez Outlasts Sanchez in Remarkable Bout
Tight punching combinations and his trademark toughness carried former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez to a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner Diego Sanchez in a lightweight battle that was hailed as an immediate contender for “Fight of the Year.” All three cageside judges scored it for Melendez (22-3, 1-1 UFC): 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28.
The unforgettable 15-minute war was marked by wild scrambles and even wilder exchanges. Melendez was superior in most of them, opening a horrific horizontal gash on Sanchez’s left eyebrow with a standing elbow in the first round. The referee had the cageside physicians examine the cut twice before the fight was done.
Round three was an extraordinary study in the human spirit, as Sanchez, clearly behind on the scorecards, made his move. “The Dream,” who had been dropped to a knee by a right hand in the first round, floored Melendez with a right uppercut.
The dazed Cesar Gracie protégé collapsed to the mat, and Sanchez pounced on his back in search of the rear-naked choke. Melendez wiggled free, perhaps aided by the considerable amount of blood that had been spilled, and the two lightweight gladiators resumed their frenetic dance on the feet. They closed with a throw-caution-to-the-wind exchange, forcing a spellbound crowd to stand and applaud what it had witnessed.
“You don’t feel nothing when you’re in here,” Melendez said. “I was out for a second [after the uppercut], and then I was on a single-leg. That’s the best compliment I’ve ever had. It’s better than winning, [to know] that was the best fight you’ve ever seen. I’m just trying to put on a show and entertain. I love my job.
“That’s what Mexicans do,” he added. “We hold our ground, and we fight. I’d rather go down on my shield than run in circles. Diego is a warrior. I respect him so much. I slept on his couch before and trained with him. It was an honor to fight him, and if I can get through a guy as tough as him, I think I get through anybody in the division. I think I’m the uncrowned champ, and I’m coming for that belt.”
Battered and bloodied, Sanchez, like the rest of the MMA world, wanted 10 minutes more.
“I want five rounds,” he said. “I want a rematch.”
Gonzaga Counter Stops Jordan
Team Link’s Gabriel Gonzaga put away Shawn Jordan with an exquisite counter right hook and follow-up hammerfists in the first round of their featured heavyweight scrap. Gonzaga (16-7, 12-6 UFC) put in the win column 93 seconds into round one.
Jordan (15-5, 3-2 UFC) moved into range and tagged the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with a two-punch combination. Gonzaga answered immediately with a short right hook that sent the former Louisiana State University fullback crashing to the canvas. The hammerfists fell next, and Jordan could not withstand them.
Dodson Left KOs Montague
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 winner John Dodson knocked out former Tachi Palace Fights champion Darrell Montague with a left cross in the first round of their flyweight showcase. Dodson (15-6, 4-1 UFC) finished it 4:13 into round one.
Montague (13-3, 0-1 UFC) was no match for the combination of speed and power of “The Magician.” Dodson leveled the Millennia MMA export with a left hand and swarmed for the stoppage. To his credit, Montague weathered the initial onslaught. Dodson backed off and looked for the next opening. A lightning-quick left cross short-circuited Montague and sent the Californian crashing face-first to the canvas.
“I wanted to make sure my striking was perfect and accurate every time, but I still have to work a lot harder if I want to become champion,” Dodson said. “I’ve already told everyone that I want to be champion at three weight classes, and I’ve got to start right now.”
This article originally appeared at Sherdog.
An award-winning writer and editor based near Atlanta, Brian Knapp has spent the last 15 years as a journalist and now serves as features editor for Sherdog.com. Prior to his move to the MMA world, Brian worked as sports editor and managing editor of The Covington News, a tri-weekly newspaper in Covington, Ga. His work has appeared on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, TheFightNetwork.com, CagePotato.com, Covers.com and in Real Fighter, ChopTalk, Ultimate MMA and Sports Spectrum magazines.
Photo: AP/David Becker