Mexican World War in UFC 166
UFC Pres. Dana White in a rare move joined sportscaster Joe Rogan at the end of UFC 166 telecast at Houston Texas last October 20, 2013 (Manila Time). Phrases like the “greatest fight card, greatest night of fights” were exchanged between them and there’s strong argument to believe that it really was one of the best nights for the UFC. The carnage of the Diego Sanchez and Gilbert Melendez fight upstaged what could be one of the best heavyweights face offs in UFC history: Velasquez vs Dos Santos. The heavyweight title fight however, still has to be given more importance.
Sanchez, Melendez and Heavyweight champ Velasquez are all of Mexican descent, which inspired White to call the night a Mexican World War. Junior Dos Santos is from Santa Catarina, Brazil. Cain even has BROWN PRIDE tattooed on his chest and walks out to a Mariachi band.
Mexican flags were visible all over the TOYOTA Center in Houston, which has a strong Mexican population. Houston Rockets’ Dwight Howard, James Harden and Chandler Parsons were seen ringside along with NBA great Charles Barkley. Parsons recently admitted to dating Filipina celebrity KC Concepcion during their preseason game here in Manila. James Harden and Cain Velasquez are both Arizona State Sun Devil Alums.
VELASQUEZ VS DOS SANTOS I & II
In their first meeting November 2011, Dos Santos took the heavyweight title from Velasquez with a devastating knock out at the opening minute of the fight. It was an overhand right that sent Velasquez down. Although Velasquez was reported to have a knee injury and was not a 100%, the proud Mexican refused to make any excuses for his loss. Dos Santos had given him his only loss in the octagon while Dos Santos remained unbeaten. His one punch knock out power has been evident even before that destroying the likes of Fabricio Verdum, Stefan Struve and Gabriel Gonzaga.
A year later December 2012, Velasquez had a rematch with Dos Santos. This time Velasquez walked through Dos Santos’ punches taking him down at will, putting on the ground and pound and punishing him in the clinches. The fight went the distance, even though Dos Santos was knocked down.
In the documentary UFC Primetime, Dos Santos claimed, “Cain hits like a girl. I gave him 5 rounds to knock me out and he couldn’t.” Cain’s striking coach Javier Mendez responded, “If that’s the case this girl dropped him.” Junior’s camp also claimed that he suffered from overtraining in his defeat against Velasquez that’s why he was gassed in the fight.
VELASQUEZ VS DOS SANTOS III
There was an elevation of animosity between the two during fight night last October 19. Junior Cigano Dos Santos has a signature move during the call out by Bruce Buffer. He moves forward points to the canvas drawing an imaginary line. This time he moved all the way to the middle of the octagon and Cain met him with a steely glare.
When the first round started Cigano opened with an uppercut that caught Cain. Instead of getting knocked out he immediately went for a single leg takedown. Cigano got up but not after getting hit several times and getting pushed up against the cage where Cain punished his thighs with knees. The punches just kept on coming creating swelling on Cigano’s left eye.
Once in a while Junior would land an elbow or a punch but was overwhelmed by Cain’s attack. In the clinch strikes on Round 2 it was 47-9. Total strikes landed were 274-62 in favor of Velasquez. The bright spot for Cigano was the 9 other takedown attempts he defended successfully.
Rogan described Cain’s style as trying to fight a “wet blanket, constantly on you.” Cain used the style made famous by Randy Couture of dirty boxing in the clinch. He smothers his opponent by pushing him to the cage while landing punches and knees. Junior just could not handle the relentless pressure of getting pressed up the cage and getting hit with elbows, punches and knees. The accuracy of straight punches was something that Cain worked on for this fight.
By the 3rd round, Cain hits him with a powerful overhand right and knocks him down. Cain lands a couple of ground and pound punches but Junior still manages to get up but goes down again from being off balanced. As Cain pushes him onto the cage yet again, referee Herb Dean taps him on the shoulder as if wanting to stop the fight and yet changes his mind. At this point Junior was clearly out on his feet, dazed and was only a matter of time before the fight was stopped. Meanwhile Cain lands a jab and cross combination making Junior’s right eye bleed from a huge cut. The 4th round worsened both the cut and a swelling on the left eye.
The stoppage finally came in the 5th after a guillotine attempt was foiled by Velasquez on the ground. Junior was collapsed, head down on the canvas waiting for an imminent ground and pound. After one punch, Herb Dean mercifully stops the fight at the 3:09 mark of the 5th round.
In the post press con, UFC Pres. Dana White shared, “I’m not a doctor but I think the fight should’ve been stopped in the 3rd round. I’m a guy who’s been around this sport for a long time and boxing. Seeing men who are too tough for their own good. I think Junior Dos Santos is one of those men in the last Cain fight and in this Cain fight. And I think that fight should’ve been stopped. I didn’t think he should not have been hit more. Yes Dos Santos hits hard, has heart like Diego. I just think a young talented guy shouldn’t take that kind of punishment when he’s out on his feet. I was kind of hoping someone was going to throw the towel in or the ref was gonna stop it. Or the doctor was gonna stop it. One eye was closed and the other eye was cut wide open.”
Gilbert Melendez vs Diego Sanchez
From the UFC post fight press conference Dana White summarized the fight, “Diego’s been out for a while with injuries. Everybody was questioning where Diego belongs in the division. He comes right in and fights the number 2 guy in the world and proved tonight Diego Sanchez showed he’s never out of any fight. One of the things I love about Mexican fighters, that’s a Mexican world war we have there. These are 2 guys who keep on moving forward who keep swinging and just awesome.”
Being at the TOYOTA center in Houston made it more special. UFC 69- GSP vs Serra (Apr 2007) was the top grossing event for the venue, followed by The Rolling Stones Concert and third is UFC 166 with 17,238 attendance grossing just over 2.5 million dollars.
“In the 13 years I’ve been in this company we’ve seen some amazing fights. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fight like that. The fight was insane and being here in Houston the crowd was amazing. Everything about it was perfect. I don’t ever go to the preparatory fights for this one I was hell yeah I’m going there. I talked to both these guys and I ran to you guys in the media,” said White.
Gilbert Melendez began as a training partner of Diego Sanchez, but has since won the Strikeforce & WEC Belt and rose to be the number 1 contender in the UFC’s lightweight division. While a lot of fans have dismissed Sanchez via Twitter as washed up, he proved them wrong. Joe Rogan described it best, “Diego believes in himself to the point of being insane. I give him the advantage of crazy and tenacious face.” Evidence of his heart is winning Fight of the Night, 5 times.
The first round came as expected with Melendez landing the crisper punches. Using his faster hands with body shots, jabs and hook combos he was able to cut Sanchez. The saving grace for Diego was 2 solid body kicks and slowed down Melendez. This encouraged Sanchez to go for a wild flurry of punches. Even though he was getting hit, he kept on throwing in spite of getting a cut above his left eye. The dying seconds of the first round became a wild exchange of punches from both sides getting a standing ovation from the crowd.
By the second round Diego’s cut worsened from even more accurate punches. A doctor inspected it and Diego said, “I’m good I just have some Vaseline in my eye.”
The third and final round was even more exciting. At the 3-minute mark both decided to stand in the middle and throw punches with abandon. Diego was even more reckless throwing wild punches while the cut slowly turned into a gash bleeding profusely into his face. The crowd was mesmerized with this damaged man who seemed to get stronger. After each punch he’d take Diego would thump his chest and ask for more. The crowd started to chant: DIEGO! DIEGO! DIEGO!
Out of nowhere Diego lands a wild uppercut that sent Gilbert Melendez to the canvas. Instead of slowing Melendez down he got up and still fired some shots. It leads to another wild exchange of punches where neither of them backed down even though both of them were obviously hurt. The flurries from both fighters went on til the very last second of the fight.
Melendez won by decision but Sanchez displayed incredible heart and nearly finished the fight in the third in spite of incredible odds. In the post interview Melendez was humble after the fight admitting he used to sleep on Diego’s couch and was honored to fight a warrior. Diego responds by waving his arms and gets the crowd roaring. He tells Rogan, “Houston baby give it up!! Do you hear that? That’s your decision.” He also adds that he’d like a rematch but only if its for 5 rounds.
The exciting match according to White puts Melendez for title contention. Even before the drama of Mexican fighters Sanchez and Melendez there are already talks between TELEVISA from Mexico and the UFC Network. White also hinted at the possibility of a TUF The Ultimate Fighter Mexico.
Sanchez vs Melendez won Fight of the Night Honor earning a bonus of $ 60,000.00 for each. John Dodson earned KO of the night for his win over Darrel Montague. Submission of the Night went to Tony Ferguson for his tap out of Mike Rio.