What wasn’t there to love about UFC 166? In general, the fights were all entertaining and the show featured plenty of jaw-dropping finishes. Some quick thoughts – Andre Fili is one to watch; Sarah Kaufman and Jessica Eye are both welcome additions to the roster; Hector Lombard should make waves next year as long as his takedown defense is shored up; Tim Boetsch is overrated; Gabriel Gonzaga is underrated; John Dodson will challenge for gold again in 2014; I could watch Diego Sanchez vs. Gilbert Melendez twenty times and not get tired of it; Roy Nelson has hit his peak and is officially on the downside of his career; not considering Daniel Cormier, Junior dos Santos is still the second best heavyweight in MMA despite losing; Cain Velasquez is a win or two away from becoming the greatest heavyweight to ever grace the UFC roster. Sanchez’s spirits weren’t dampened by his hard-fought loss to Gilbert Melendez. While he obviously would have preferred to win, “The Dream” apparently enjoyed the all-out brawl and overwhelmingly positive reaction from onlookers. He’s since gone on to call out Nate Diaz. Personally, I love the match-up. Both are tough as nails, love to scrap, and there’s history between their families in that Sanchez beat older brother Nick Diaz a number of years ago. Though the younger Diaz has a match-up with Gray Maynard in late November, Sanchez needs some time to heal up from the damage he took against Melendez so adding an extra six weeks onto his recovery would actually be a good thing. Featherweight champ Jose Aldo is still in relative limbo where his next title-defense is concerned. Fortunately, the UFC has a few options to play with, and Lamas appears to be the frontrunner based on a recent tease from UFC President Dana White. He’s on a four-fight winning streak with wins over three men formerly seen as contenders and been waiting for a shot since January. The only individual who would be an acceptable alternative is Cub Swanson but it’s hard to forget he was finished by Lamas when they locked horns a couple of years ago. UFC middleweights Carmont and Rockhold decided to take matchmaking matters into their own hands recently by working towards a tilt against one another via Twitter. Carmont fired the first shot, saying he’d heard Rockhold was interested in action with the American Kickboxing Academy staple responding in kind with some added stakes, stating, “If I beat you, GSP can never wear that little camo hat again…” It’s a smart move on Rockhold’s part based on Carmont’s status as a potential title-contender while Carmont has less to gain from beating a guy who suffered an opening round knockout in his only UFC fight to date. That being said, expect Carmont to end up facing a fighter with standing similar to his own in the division (like Ronaldo Souza) and Rockhold to land someone along the lines of Costa Philippou or Michael Bisping. At one point Tyson was seen as the baddest man on the planet. However, that’s because the masses didn’t know much if anything about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Mixed Martial Arts in general. If they had, folks might have seen things a bit differently. According to Tyson, even he feels Royce Gracie would have beaten him if he’d been part of the UFC’s early tournaments, admitting on UFC Tonight, “I had no idea what was going on with that type of fighting and would’ve been taken by surprise.” It’s a nice bit of humility from “Kid Dynamite” and, though he obviously would have destroyed Gracie with one well-placed strike, it’s tough to disagree given his reliance on hands and inability to compete on the mat. For the most part, a fighter’s standing in the UFC is heavily influenced by a “what have you done lately” attitude. In the case of Grant, who was named as a title-contender a few months ago, the answer is, “not enough”. Grant has been forced to turn down two cracks at the championship due to some lingering effects of a concussion he suffered while training for a tilt with former divisional king Benson Henderson. With Gilbert Melendez re-establishing himself by winning a full-on war with Diego Sanchez, and other names like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Jose Aldo looming, UFC President Dana White recently confessed Grant will probably have to pick up another victory if hoping to go for the gold. Such a scenario definitely makes sense, and not just because Grant has been out. Rather, he’s only beaten one Top 10 opponent and still needs to build his brand up a bit more before being a lock as top contender. In the “long overdue” category, it looks like Kawajiri will finally take his talents to the Octagon. The 35-year old is on a five-fight winning streak and should inject some energy into the featherweight division. He’s also one of the few bona fide Japanese stars out there so that in itself makes his presence on the roster worthwhile. For those who aren’t familiar with “Crusher”, he holds an overall record of 32-7-1 with 21 finishes and past success against Joachim Hansen, Michihiro Omigawa, Yves Edwards, Gesias Cavalcante, and Josh Thomson. The UFC upped its charitable contributions this week with the decision to help the fight against HIV/AIDS. The organization decided to help raise awareness after learning that infection rates are on the rise in their targeted demographic. As a result, the world’s foremost MMA promotion will partner in creating a series of public service announcements featuring their fighters and will offer incentives through local testing facilities in cities hosting UFC events. Without question, it’s a commendable move by a company rarely seen in such light. The good news: Sonnen and Silva have finally agreed to face off in an official capacity. The bad news: It won’t take place for at least six more months. Earlier this week it was revealed the rivals would serve as head coaches on TUF Brasil 3 with action against one another to occur after taping concludes. It’s an interesting move to say the least, especially with so many American fans invested in the feud. On the bright side, it means Sonnen-Silva will almost certainly square off in Brazil, and the atmosphere involved will unquestionably be one of the most memorable in the organization’s history. Sonnen has rubbed plenty of Brazilians the wrong way and he’s sure to feel the heat come showtime. It’s even the kind of clash with enough appeal to serve as co-headliner if the UFC decides to shoot for a soccer stadium and 80,000+ fans. Yes, there *is* a UFC event this weekend. Though UFC Fight Night 30 has gotten lost in the shuffle after UFC 166, fans are in for a treat this Saturday night when the Octagon sets up shop in Manchester. There are a few potential-laden preliminary pairings like Andy Ogle-Cole Miller, Rosi Sexton-Jessica Andrade, and Luke Barnatt-Andrew Craig, plus Jimi Manuwa-Ryan Jimmo, Melvin Guillard-Ross Pearson, and Lyoto Machida-Mark Munoz should all be fun to watch as well. Also nice, the card gives fans a chance to watch a live event in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday and still have their evenings open. P.S. – Don’t forget it’s on FOX Sports 2, not FOX Sports 1.
Wednesday has rolled around again and, as expected, the 10-Point Must is back! Every week I’ll give my thoughts on ten topics from the past seven days with hopes the readership will contribute their takes as well in the Comments section. This time around, subjects range from
Diego Sanchez targeting Nate Diaz to Mike Tyson vs. Royce Gracie to the Chael Sonnen-Wanderlei Silva rivalry moving to TUF Brasil and much more in-between! (Photos by USA Today Sports Images)