The best ever?
If you're a believer, Saturday night bore witness to the best heavyweight ever on the best card ever that featured the best fight ever in the Octagon. That's a lot to wrap your head around. So how do we break this thing down to something palatable?
Cain Velasquez is the best heavyweight on the planet right now. No question. No debate. But that's not what was discussed leading into the fight, when UFC president Dana White pushed the line that the winner between Velasquez and Junior dos Santos would be, without a doubt, the top heavyweight in MMA history. Velasquez emerged as the winner, and you can understand why people might say the 30-year-old human oxygen tank deserves such acclaim. I'm not there yet. Maybe that won't surprise you. I'm not suggesting that he won't be best some day. I am suggesting that that day wasn't Saturday, Oct. 19.
Why? Well, he hasn't done enough. That's the main argument against putting the heavyweight GOAT label on him. Let Velasquez do what no other heavyweight in the UFC has done and win his third straight title defense, and then I'll come around. But he hasn't done that yet, so for the time being I'll defer to history and the likes of Fedor Emelianenko.
Speaking of, how would the Velasquez who ran roughshod over Cigano in Houston have matched up against a prime Emelianenko? I'm talking 2003-2006 Emelianenko, when his speed and timing were unparalleled, as was his ability to recover from bad situations, which I have no doubt Velasquez would have tested.
A few points about this hypothetical matchup: Emelianenko was his best fighting in a ring, which requires different skills and strategies from fighting in cage. It's more difficult to wrestle in a ring. It's harder to cut off angles and escape clinch scenarios in the cage. On the speed front, prime Emelianenko might have been a hair quicker. But barely. Transitions, I'm calling that even. The ability to switch from standing fighting to ground fighting was a hallmark of the Russian's game, and Velasquez is gifted with similar ability. Power is almost impossible to measure. Let's just say both fighters have it in droves.
Pure wrestling goes to the American, but Emelianenko's incredible hips and balance would have been a factor.
So I led you down this path, may as well pick a winner. Velasquez. I'm saying Velasquez.
Second, the card.
UFC 166 was utterly impressive. Top to bottom, just a great night for fight fans who saw it live in Houston or on TV everywhere else. So, is it the best UFC card of all time? I can't go there. The promotion has produced so many more-than-memorable evenings during its rise to prominence. I just don't think it's right to say something like that in the immediate afterglow of the thing. Let it settle for a week or two, then make a determination like that.
And, third, the fight.
Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez produced the best fight of the night. Of that, you'll get no argument from me. I talked up the bout in a major way, and it surpassed even my expectations. But like the discussion about the best card ever, we need to let this one breathe as well. I'm not so sure it's even the best fight Sanchez has been a part of. That should tell you plenty about the kind of fighter and warrior he is. For my money, Sanchez's fights with Nick Diaz and Karo Parisyan were as spellbinding, if not more. And Melendez has had his share of great clashes, including the contests with Josh Thomson and my favorite bout of his, the first one with Tatsuya Kawajiri.
So, the point of all this is to say, let's pump the brakes on "this is the best [insert whatever UFC thing you want] ever" talk for a bit.
Let's at least temper that stuff. It's like from one of my favorite movies, "The Incredibles." Paraphrasing here: If everything is special, nothing is. There was so much that turned out to be special about UFC 166.
Let it simmer and stew for a bit, OK?