It's time for a rubber match ... and this one is a Magnum XL.
After an instant knockout in their first fight and a hellacious beating in the second, Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos and are all tied up. And it's time to settle the score this Saturday night (Oct. 19, 2013) in the main event of UFC 166, which takes place at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
The pay-per-view (PPV) card will also feature a clash of two other elite Heavyweight stars, Strikeforce Grand Prix winner, Daniel Cormier, who will faces the rotund wrecking ball that is Roy Nelson. In addition, another Strikeforce standout will return to the cage when Gilbert Melendez squares off against Diego Sanchez in can't-miss Lightweight mixed martial arts (MMA) action.
But, before all that delicious main card action kicks off from "The Lone Star State," we've got a full suite of eight "Prelims" matches, the first four of which will stream on UFC's official Facebook page.
Without further delay, check out Part 1 of our UFC 166 "Prelims" preview and predictions below:
With 13 tapouts among 16 professional wins, T.J. Waldburger (16-7) has established himself as one of the premier submission artists in the Welterweight division, picking up "Submission of the Night" honors twice in his four Octagon victories. His last fight may have been his most impressive yet, submitting wrestling standout and Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt Nick Catone with a gorgeous guillotine-to-triangle sequence.
Though known primarily for his hellacious spinning heel-kick knockout of Maskhat Akhmetov (watch it here), Adlan Amagov (12-2-1) proved he had the goods in Strikeforce, picking up a 3-1 record with the sole loss coming against Robbie Lawler. His UFC (and 170-pound) debut was likewise successful, a decision win over Chris Spang in the latter’s native Sweden.
It is a treat to watch Waldburger -- he’s incredibly aggressive and technical on the mat, plus not too shabby a wrestler. On top or on bottom, he can give anyone in the division hell.
It’s too bad he’s not going to get to either against Amagov.
Amagov’s strength may be his striking, but he’s a very good grappler, packing a solid arsenal of trips and throws. He should have the takedown defense to force a striking match with Waldburger and, if necessary, scramble back to his feet before the Texas native gets that murderous submission game going.
Waldburger is hampered on the feet by limited durability. And even though Amagov’s hands are not as precise as his legs, he packs enough heat in them to end the night early. By head kick or counter punch, expect an early finish from the Jackson-Winkeljohn-trained product.
Prediction: Amagov via first-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Anthony Ferguson vs. Mike Rio
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Anthony Ferguson (13-3) in action. After his knockout of Ramsey Nijem on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 13 Finale, Ferguson defeated both Aaron Riley and Yves Edwards, earning himself a place among the fringe contenders. The resurgent Michael Johnson had other plans, though, running circles around Ferguson in May 2012 to end his six-fight winning streak.
"El Cucuy" has not seen action since, the longest layover of his career.
Mike Rio (9-2) didn’t go as far as anticipated on TUF 15, losing to Andy Ogle after a win in the elimination rounds, but proved his mettle in his UFC debut, submitting John Cofer late after a tough pair of opening rounds. In his sophomore effort, however, he had no answers for the size and strength of Francisco Massaranduba, succumbing to a first-round arm-triangle from the Brazilian giant.
Rio, who has finished his foe in eight of nine victories, will give up two inches of height to his younger opponent.
For all of Rio’s wrestling credentials, I’m just not impressed with what he’s brought to the table. Cofer brought him to the mat with regularity and avoided the majority of Rio’s takedowns. Had he simply taken better care of his arms inside guard, he’d have likely walked away with a unanimous decision. I’m not confident he can avoid a slugfest with Ferguson.
Which will end poorly for "The Wolverine."
Johnson (and, to a lesser extent, Edwards) demonstrated that Ferguson can be stymied by good footwork. When he’s got a stationary target, though, he’s a monster. Sadly for Rio, he does not have the sort of movement needed to avoid that fate. Expect "El Cucuy" to stuff the vast majority of Rio’s takedowns before finally hitting home with something big around the midway point.
Prediction: Ferguson via second-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Jeremy Larsen vs. Andre Fili
Jeremy Larsen (8-4) gave as good as he got for two rounds against Lucas Martins, but all of his right hands were for naught as the latter put him to sleep in the opening seconds of the third round. The loss was Larsen’s second straight and third in his last five, making Saturday a must-win occasion.
Possessing one of the finest nicknames in the sport, Team Alpha Male’s "Touchy" Fili backs that punning genius up with legit talent, winning eight straight since 2010. Of those eight victories, five have come inside the distance, a mix of knockouts and submissions.
Fili takes this bout on less than two weeks’ notice.
What little I’ve seen of Fili is generally positive -- solid wrestling and top control, as expected of a Team Alpha Male alum, plus decent striking and a good chin. He is a bit too hittable for my taste, but Larsen isn’t much of a striking threat.
Though coming in on short notice, Fili’s aggression and grappling make him the favorite in my eyes. He’s fighting out of an excellent camp with no history of Octagon jitters and has a better overall skill set than Larsen. Barring an adrenaline dump, I see Fili controlling the bout wherever it goes, working effectively from top position or just out landing Larsen in standing exchanges for a unanimous decision win.
Sorry I’m not more specific, but it’s another a new guy. What do you expect?
Prediction: Fili via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Dustin Pague vs. Kyoji Horiguchi
Dustin Pague (11-8) earned "Fight of the Season" on TUF 14, but has struggled to carry that success in UFC proper, going 1-3 against the likes of John Albert and Ken Stone. One could argue, however, that he deserved the nod his last time out against Yves Jabouin, controlling the majority of the grappling but suffering the misfortune of competing in Jabouin’s native Canada.
Pague has never gone the distance in victory, submitting eight opponents.
An understudy of the legendary "KID" Norifumi Yamamoto, Kyoji Horiguchi (11-1) has established himself as the premier prospect in Japan with seven knockouts and one submission. Since losing to Masakatsu Ueda in 2012, he has beaten five straight, including UFC veteran Ian Loveland and standout countryman Shintaro Ishiwatari.
Perhaps better suited for Flyweight (125 pounds), he will give up four inches of height to Pague.
Despite my adoration of all things Japanese MMA, I’m not blind to Horiguchi’s faults -- his takedown defense is not perfect and his jiu-jitsu is lacking. Manabu Inoue had success in the third round by sweeping an overzealous Horiguchi and both Ueda and Ishiwatari had success from the top. Plus, his cardio may need work and he’s probably too small for the Bantamweight division.
He’s still incredibly fast and one of the biggest punchers south of 145 pounds.
Pague’s trips are nasty and his submission skills very solid. I just don’t see him getting a hold of Horiguchi or surviving the monstrous shots the young prospect brings to bear (even Ueda and Loveland were rocked hard by Kyoji).
How far Horiguchi goes is dependent on his takedown defense. On the feet, he’s got the movement and power to put Pague to sleep in a hurry. And I think he does.
Prediction: Horiguchi via first-round knockout
Come back tomorrow for the remaining prelim bouts, including a clash between two of the Welterweight division's nastiest finishers.
See you then, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 166 event on fight night, starting with the Facebook "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.