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UFC 166 Preview: Velasquez, Dos Santos Vie for Heavyweight Crown

10/17/2013 10:58 am ET | Updated Dec 17, 2013

The Ultimate Fighting Championship heads back to Houston, Texas on Saturday, October 19, and for the third time in less than two years, Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos will square off with the heavyweight championship of the world on the line.

Already considered one of the UFC's all-time greatest rivalries, Velasquez and dos Santos, both 10-1 inside the UFC, split their previous two meetings, and this rubber match will determine, once and for all, who the "world's baddest man" is.

Reigning champion Velasquez will enter the octagon at UFC 166 in the midst of a three-fight winning streak, including a dominating five-round decision victory over dos Santos last December, when he re-captured the heavyweight title. Dos Santos, on the other hand, is coming off a stunning knockout win over Mark Hunt in May, and is hungry to reclaim the belt he lost just 10 months ago.

When the two first met in November 2011, then-champion Velasquez was touted as a heavy favorite, but just 64 seconds into their title tilt, dos Santos landed a vicious right that sent Velasquez to the canvas, putting an end to the contest, giving the heavyweight division a new champ.

Velasquez and dos Santos then fought for the second time in December 2012 to a vastly different result, with Velasquez obliterating dos Santos for 25 minutes, landing strikes and takedowns with ease, further punishing the former champion from the top position with his vicious ground-and-pound assault.

Experts are quick to point to Velasquez's wrestling prowess and supreme cardio and conditioning as a sizeable advantage, but no one is overlooking dos Santos, who is widely considered to be the division's best boxer. And while dos Santos has the potential to stop any opponent with his one-punch knockout power, Velasquez and his dizzying pace will prove to be too much.

Look for Cain Velasquez to retain his heavyweight title with a unanimous decision victory.

Now let's take a look at the rest of the UFC 166 main card ...

Co-main event: Daniel Cormier vs. Roy Nelson

Two of the more accomplished fighters in the heavyweight division, Cormier and Nelson posses contrasting styles and skills, with Cormier specializing in wrestling, while Nelson is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt who has notched every one of his six UFC wins via KO or TKO.

The prelude to this fight has featured significant trash talk between the two, with the undefeated Cormier going so far as to file a grievance with the Texas athletic commission, requesting that Nelson be required to shave his signature beard. Cormier's appeal has since been denied, allowing Nelson to compete, beard and all.

As usual, Roy Nelson will look for an early knockout, only relying on his grappling game if he's unable to score the stoppage.

Cormier, a former Olympian and Strikeforce heavyweight champion, has the wrestling chops to control Nelson's massive frame, allowing him to dictate the pace of the fight. Combine that with a decent set of hands and a high fight IQ, and Cormier appears to have the edge in this one.

And while he may walk away with a bad case of beard burn from pushing Nelson up against the cage, expect Daniel Cormier to win via decision.

Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez

Back in April, lightweight Melendez made his UFC debut, narrowly losing a controversial split decision to then-titleholder Benson Henderson. An accomplished striker, Melendez now returns to the octagon seeking his first UFC victory.

Standing in his way is grappler Diego Sanchez, who has already notched 13 victories inside the UFC since winning the first season of The Ultimate Fighter as a middleweight.

Melendez, who has never been submitted or knocked out in his 11-year pro MMA career, possesses a refined boxing style and excellent takedown defense, while Sanchez is a bit of a wild card, with a solid submission game.

Do not expect a stoppage in this one, and although Melendez is a heavy favorite, look for Sanchez to score an upset win by decision.

Shawn Jordan vs. Gabriel Gonzaga

Another heavyweight matchup on the UFC 166 main card, this contest between Jordan and Gonzaga should end quickly, as both men have a knack for highlight reel finishes.

A former title contender, Gonzaga was last seen recording the third fastest knockout in UFC heavyweight history, disposing of Dave Herman in a mere 17 seconds at UFC 162, while Jordan's last outing also ended via knockout inside the first minute, as he finished Pat Barry with punches at UFC 161.

Combined, Gonzaga and Barry have finished 97-percent of their victories, and neither fighter has ever been submitted.

The difference here may be Gonzaga's chin, as he's suffered six of his seven career losses via KO. So, look for Jordan to score the knockout in round one.

John Dodson vs. Darrell Montague

An explosive and dynamic striker, and winner of the fourteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter, flyweight John Dodson is known for his knockout power, flying knees, and heavy body shots, while opponent Darrell Montague is making his octagon debut.

Coming off a five-round, unanimous-decision loss to 125-pound champion Demetrious Johnson, Dodson, is determined to return to winning form.

Having never been knocked out or submitted during his career, Dodson will use his speed and power to wear Montague down, and some time in the middle of the third round, he'll muster the finishing blows and take this one via TKO.