If it's worth doing twice, it's worth doing three times.
With two definitive victories -- albeit in two wildly different ways -- Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos still have a Heavyweight score to settle, with Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, serving as the proving ground for their UFC 166 main event.
Joining them on the pay-per-view (PPV) main card are two more of the division's best, unbeaten Olympic-level wrestler Daniel Cormier and pudgy pugilistic powerhouse Roy Nelson. In addition, Gilbert Melendez will take on Diego Sanchez in a Lightweight scrap, while John Dodson will welcome fellow Flyweight Darrell Montague to the Octagon.
Before all that high-level mixed martial arts (MMA) action, however, we have a full plate of under card matches.
We examined the first four UFC 166 "Prelims" under card bouts that will air on Facebook / YouTube yesterday right here. Today, we dig into the remaining four "Prelims" that will air on FOX Sports 1 television network prior to the PPV broadcast.
Here we go:
185 lbs.: Tim Boetsch vs. C.B. Dollaway
It’s been an interesting ride for Tim Boetsch (16-6), who made an immediate Middleweight impact after an unremarkable Light Heavyweight run, notching upset wins over Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard. "Barbarian" seemed in control of his bout with Constantinos Philippou, too, only for an eye poke from the Cypriot to kickstart a big comeback that led to a stoppage defeat.
With a follow-up loss to Mark Munoz in Dec. 2012, Boetsch is coming off of two straight defeats for the first time in his career.
Replacing Luke Rockhold on short notice, C.B. Dollaway (13-4) is now two victories removed from consecutive stoppage defeats against Mark Munoz and Jared Hamman. He had previously won five of six since his loss on the TUF 7 Finale, picking up "Submission of the Night" twice in that span.
At 6’2," he stands three inches taller than his opponent.
Despite the Munoz loss, I see this being a favorable match up for Boetsch. That's because at 185 pounds, he’s demonstrated excellent physical strength, good conditioning and very effective wrestling. He’s tough to hold down, very aggressive and packs some pop.
Dollaway is a very skilled grappler; but, I just don’t think he’s got the goods to consistently take down Boetsch. On the feet, he’s yet to demonstrate significant aptitude, leaving him at the mercy of Boetsch’s power shots.
This may sound like I’m calling for complete annihilation of Dollaway, but I’m not -- if he can get Boetsch to the mat, his top control should be sufficient to win him the fight. The deciding factor of this bout is Boetsch’s takedown defense, which I believe holds up enough for a late stoppage victory.
Prediction: Boetsch via second-round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Nate Marquardt vs. Hector Lombard
With a stunning fourth-round knockout of Tyron Woodley in his 170-pound debut, Nate Marquardt (32-12-2) -- a longtime 185-pound bridesmaid -- seemed to have finally found his throne. Getting his leg halfway amputated by kicks from Tarec Saffiedine kicks in his sophomore effort, however, left Marquardt right back in the mix. And a subsequent starching courtesy of Jake Ellenberger sent him to the back of the line.
Marquardt, who has 24stoppages among his thirty-two victories, will enjoy a three-inch height advantage.
A 25-fight unbeaten streak that dated back to 2007 made Hector Lombard (32-4-1) an instant contender when he joined UFC, with most expecting him to dispose of Boetsch in short order in his debut. Unfortunately for the Cuban Olympian, a surprisingly passive performance left him on the wrong end of the judges’ decision. Though he blasted Rousimar Palhares his next time out, looking in prime Bellator form, his defeat against Yushin Okami not long after left him, at Joe Silva’s insistence, cutting down to a class more suited to his 5’9" frame.
Recent events have demonstrated that Lombard is not a world-beater. Even discounting his tepid match with Boetsch, it’s clear that he struggles with rangy fighters and that he can be overwhelmed by size and strength. While the latter may be alleviated by his move to 170 pounds, I’m not convinced he’s title material.
He’s still "kick the crap out of Marquardt" material, though.
As Jack Slack explained, Marquardt does his best work on the inside, even if he’s got a length advantage. Saffiedine savaged him from range and Marquardt was unable to keep Ellenberger off of him despite being noticeably taller and rangier. The problem here is that infighting with Lombard is suicide. For all his faults, Lomabrd is one of the biggest punchers in the organization and, with Marquardt getting dropped in all of his last three fights, I have zero confidence in "The Great" ability to withstand that artillery.
Marquardt may try to play the range game early, but eventually Lombard’s either going to get inside or he will step in himself. That’s "Shango’s" world, and nobody leaves Shango’s world with all his teeth intact.
Prediction: Lombard via first-round knockout
135 lbs.: Sarah Kaufman vs. Jessica Eye
Owning wins over Alexis Davis, Miesha Tate, Shayna Baszler and Liz Carmouche, Sarah Kaufman (16-2) has one of the best resumes in women's MMA. Her sole defeats have come against Marloes Coenen and Ronda Rousey, with the former taking her Strikeforce world title.
Kaufman has ended 10 fights inside the distance, all by knockout, and was last seen outslugging Leslie Smith under the Invicta FC banner.
While Jessica Eye (10-1) hit the big time with her 58-second submission of Zoila Frausto, she had long since established herself as one of the top Flyweight female prospects. She has won six straight bouts and owns an amateur win over Invicta FC champion Barb Honchak.
Most recently, Eye defeated veteran Carina Damm (sister of Rodrigo Damm) this past June.
Even though Eye is very impressive, I see her facing the same issue that Sheila Gaff and Rosi Sexton faced: She’s a great Flyweight competing against a great Bantamweight. Kaufman’s recent run of decisions may indicate "Stout Syndrome," an excellent finishing rate so long as the stage isn’t too big, but she is still an elite fighter. Taking out Baszler, Carmouche and Davis is a huge accomplishment; however, I simply don’t believe Eye can overcome that size and skill gap.
Kaufman is not great off her back, but is quite difficult to take down, as she demonstrated against Carmouche. This essentially guarantees a striking match, one which her resilience and power should win for her. Eye’s got a lot of potential and can go far at her weight class ... too bad this isn’t it.
Kaufman busts her up for fifteen minutes.
Prediction: Kaufman via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: George Sotiropoulos vs. K.J. Noons
It seems just yesterday that George Sotiropoulos (14-5) was knocking on the door of a UFC title shot, picking up seven straight victories capped off by a "Fight of the Night"-winning submission of Joe Lauzon. Things quickly went downhill for the Aussie vet, however, getting outstruck by Dennis Siver his next time out, knocked out by Rafael dos Anjos after that, and most recently suffering a third-round knockout courtesy of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Smashes" rival Ross Pearson.
This will be just Sotiropoulos' second fight since July 2011.
K.J. Noons (11-7) was on top of the world in 2008, having defeated Nick Diaz and Yves Edwards sequentially and picked up the EliteXC title. He seemed apt to keep his momentum going after a two-year absence with three straight victories, but is just 1-5 since his knockout of Jorge Gurgel with losses to the likes of Diaz, Josh Thomson and Donald Cerrone. All five of those losses have been by decision, as he has been stopped just once in the last 10 years.
I’m not going to fall victim to the "he’s a pro boxer, so he’s a great striker" myth; Noons is a good striker. Not great, not terrible, but good. He has okay power, great durability, and decent head movement. On paper, Sotiropoulos has the more well-rounded skillset, bringing to bear decent boxing and phenomenal Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
That grappling don’t mean squat when it’s attached to that bad a jaw, though.
G-Sots has a terrible chin -- just flat-out made of glass. Siver and Pearson dropped him multiple times each and neither are known for being terribly strong punchers. Dos Anjos’ only other technical knockout win was by cut in his third professional fight.
Noons isn’t a knockout machine, but he is accurate and packs a decent amount of pop. Sotiropoulos has to get it to the ground in a hurry; however, will he do it before a left hook finds its mark?
I think, "No!"
Prediction: Noons via first-round technical knockout
It's an historic title fight and fun match ups galore ... not bad at all.
See you Saturday, 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.