Describe UFC 166 in a word.
I’d say… spectacular.
Among the highlights: a main event which cemented Cain Velasquez’s status among the all-time greats at heavyweight.
Of course, prior to that, Diego Sanchez and Gilbert Melendez’s lightweight bout erupted into a classic brawl, with one of the most dramatic final rounds in MMA history.
Only one bout would fail to deliver, as Daniel Cormier (pictured above, to the right of his American Kickboxing Academy teammate Velasquez) easily evaded Roy Nelson’s attacks to dominate a plodding heavyweight fight. Still, even that clunker ended on a positive note, with Cormier announcing his move to light heavyweight.
The PPV began with a couple of memorable knockouts featuring two former title challengers, and prior to that, an overall solid series of preliminary bouts.
UFC President Dana White would pronounce UFC 166 the finest show that ZUFFA had ever presented. Commentator Joe Rogan described the Melendez/Sanchez bout as the greatest he had ever witnessed. Later, the two would dub Cain Velasquez the greatest heavyweight of all time.
Of course, they’re all selling the product.
What’s really important, then, is how you, the fans, felt about it.
Me? I loved the show, but I wouldn’t go quite as far as Rogan and White. There was a lot to love, but also some things I wasn’t so fond of, like the main not getting stopped in the third round. I also felt the first and second rounds of Melendez/Sanchez were too one-sided to call it the fight of the year.
It’s hard to imagine anything more subjective than measuring the greatness of an MMA show, though. I mean, what’s really tangible?
Intangibles for UFC 166 include how it was a ton of fun hearing the Houston crowd go wild for every Mexican-American on the show. The dueling ringwalks in the Melendez/Sanchez bout added to the atmosphere: Melendez used Santana’s cover of “Oye Como Va,” and Sanchez walked down the aisle to “La Raza” by Kid Frost. (Big Tito Puente fan here, but I’ll score that one for Sanchez.)
Where does this show stands in MMA history will really depend on what you love about MMA.
People will compare UFC 166 match-for-match with, say, the great technical displays of the past. It’s a good approach. Look at the ninth Bushido event, which offered many of the era’s pound-for-pound best in typically aggressive PRIDE bouts. It was possibly at the promotion’s highest point, with Tokyo crowd was abuzz at the sight of finally seeing their county’s best lightweight talent — the likes of Tatsuya Kawajiri and Takanori Gomi — getting a glamorous showcase.
When I think of great MMA events, I think of… those days where MMA was still being created. There was a buzz back then that you just can’t replace.
I think of forgotten shows like the Vale Tudo Japan series, UFC 35, and UFC 37.
Yes, I was among the few the proud, the 50,000 or so fans who bought UFC 35 & 37. We saw BJ Penn and Jens Pulver put on a bout for the ages in UFC 35, and Murilo Bustamante and Matt Lindland put on a wrestling, striking, and jiu-jitsu clinic in UFC 37. The undercards were very good. Fighters were barely making a living at the time, and ZUFFA’s purchase of the UFC had already seemed to be a dream slipping away. Everyone seemed to be fighting for pride back then. Never again.
Comparing these… it’s tough. UFC 166 had a heavyweight battle for the ages between Velasquez and Dos Santos, but we weren’t waiting (seemingly) years for it, like Emelianenko Fedor vs. Mirko Cro Cop. The event where it finally happened, PRIDE Final Conflict 2005, also included a one-night 200 lb tournament with Wanderlei Silva, Ricardo Arona, Alistair Overeem, and Maurício Rua. That setting, and that talent? We may never see it again, either.
Like I wrote above, the fans’ opinions are the ones that matter, though. That’s you. Where do you rate UFC 166 among MMA’s all time great shows? Please let us know in comments.