The rubber match between two Heavyweight juggernauts is finally a few days away and the anticipation could not be any bigger for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) return to Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, for UFC 166: "Velasquez vs. Dos Santos 3."
The main event features the third battle between UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez and the man he beat to win the belt back, Junior Dos Santos, with both competitors hopeful to put a rivalry to rest that started two years ago at the end of 2011. With both athletes having a dominant win over the other in their respective performances, this third bout could not come any sooner for mixed martial arts (MMA) fans all over the world.
That's just one of many key storylines heading into "The Lone Star State" this weekend.
Here are "Five Burning Questions" for UFC 166:
With the first co-ed season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) going well and the inclusion of a women's Bantamweight division producing stellar bouts thus far, fights between the women on the roster are being noticed more and more, and this would be a perfect opportunity for Sarah Kaufman and Jessica Eye to shine and steal the show as they fight on the FOX Sports 1 "Prelims."
Their track records speak for themselves, as Kaufman is no stranger to wars, having faced Leslie Smith, Alexis Davis and Roxanne Modafferi in highly entertaining fights, not to mention fighting the best in the world and owning a spectacular record of 16-2.
Both are not afraid to plant their feet and throw bombs, and besides their impressive ground games, both Kaufman and Eye would like to make a lasting impression to continue chasing the champion, whomever that may be after UFC 168.
4. Does Hector Lombard become the ultimate can crusher with a loss?
Backed by a massive amount of hype coming into UFC from Bellator, Hector Lombard was Bjorn Rebney's Middleweight champion, tearing through his opponents with ease before jumping ship to the Octagon and making his debut against Tim Boetsch in Calgary at UFC 149.
Boetsch was not the most difficult opponent out there for "Lightning," rather the perfect opportunity to see if the Cuban could hack it in the premiere MMA organization in the world. He came up short, and to make matters worse, the fight was a true stinker. He went 1-1 afterward, but you have to wonder if keeping Lombard in the plans is that necessary for the brass -- especially losing to Yushin Okami in his latest fight, who is a competitor it just let go.
Although Lombard was the Bellator Middleweight kingpin, beating guys like Falaniko Vitale, Jay Silva and Trevor Prangley will only get a fighter so far. And with the high price tag that comes with Lombard, a loss to the seasoned Nate Marquardt could be all she wrote for the once-feared striker.
If Lombard cannot beat Marquardt (who is also in crossroads right now) on Saturday, his mystique would be long gone (if not already).
3. Is there anyway Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez could be a bad fight?
One could count the amount of times both Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez have been in boring fights, and even with a grain of salt, that number becomes even less. The former Strikeforce Lightweight champion and UFC title contender meets another former title challenger who has been more motivated than ever to get his career back on track, hence his name change from "Nightmare" to "Dream."
Melendez will be appearing for the first time since his split decision loss to Ben Henderson at UFC on Fox 7, while Sanchez tries to make it two-straight with his last win being over Takanori Gomi earlier in March of this year.
Both 155-pound standouts have similar styles, very good on the feet and their mat work is exceptional, with Sanchez being a black belt and "El Nino" being a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu from Cesar Gracie's camp, which may be a little more difficult to obtain top honors.
At times, a clash of similar styles could result in a stalemate, but with the ferocity that both men possess and the eagerness to get back into the title hunt, is there any way this scrap could be dull?
On paper, this fight could be a main event for a free televised card and although it has competition for winning a post-fight bonus, this one has "Fight of the Night" -- and even "Fight of the Year" -- written all over it.
2. Will a trimmed-down version of Roy Nelson make a difference on Saturday night?
Roy Nelson has been a cult fan favorite for his physique, his presence and the way he fights -- there is no guessing his gameplan is to go in and trade until someone drops. He hasn't spent that much time at Burger King anymore, as recent photos (and in the flesh sightings) that have been surfacing indicate a much slimmer and cautious version of Nelson will now be entering the Octagon.
Is it to impress his bosses, who are critical of his appearance? Is it to get more sponsors, something he has had difficulty acquiring? Or is it to finally take his career seriously if he wants to be viewed as a legitimate title contender and hijack Daniel Cormier's post-fight plans?
He may also be doing it to prepare for his opponent, who is known for his athleticism and well rounded fighting abilities, being an impressive Olympic and collegiate wrestler.
To say Nelson has always come second to having his opponents being more athletic than him is an understatement, but Nelson will have to be on his game if he needs to defend takedowns and resist Cormier's urges to make this an ugly fight.
Hopefully for Nelson, this cut will be beneficial since his cardio has cost him in his battles with Junior dos Santos, Stipe Miocic and Frank Mir. Also, his weight loss has to make some sort of difference; however, how much will it impact his performance will be determined this weekend ... for better or worse.
1. Will 'Velasquez vs. Dos Santos 3' look anything like their two previous fights?
In their first meeting at the UFC's inaugural FOX show (UFC on Fox 1), Junior Dos Santos blasted Cain Velasquez with a right hand and the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA)-trained standout was unable to recover, losing his title at the hands of the Brazilian. Dos Santos' win was marred by the Velasquez camp citing a knee injury for their product's loss, and after a gnarly video surfaced on the surgery, that statement was a little more than just an excuse.
After defending the belt once against Mir at UFC 146, it was a much different story for dos Santos at UFC 155 in the rematch, as Velasquez reclaimed the title by utilizing his superior grappling techniques, his wrestling, takedowns and even rocked "Cigano" more often than not with his fists, a facet that pundits gave the edge to dos Santos for having.
This third match up is as difficult as they come to call, and with each of these two having one loss in UFC at the hands of their foe, this trilogy is slowly becoming arguably the best one in the Heavyweight division that we have ever seen.
With some giving dos Santos the striking edge while others give Velasquez the grappling and wrestling points, it is almost unpredictable judging by both of their previous fights and their respective outcomes.
Those are our "burning" questions ... what are yours?
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