Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 | 4:45 p.m.
A banner measuring in at six stories tall outside the Toyota Center reads “Legacy of Bigs.”
It’s adorned with images of Hakeem Olajuwon, Yao Ming and Dwight Howard, an advertisement for the impending basketball season. The world’s largest mixed martial arts promotion is going to get with the theme in the building first, though, at Saturday night’s UFC 166.
The pay-per-view event features the biggest fight in the history of the biggest division, a third meeting between heavyweights Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. The two hit the scales at the UFC 166 weigh-in Friday in front of a, well, big crowd.
Almost every seat was filled, giving a sneak of Saturday night where tickets were in such high demand that the UFC removed the screens it typically hangs at fight cards to sell more tickets.
“It’s going to be great for the fans I know,” said the challenger Dos Santos, after weighing in at 240 pounds. “I’m here to give you guys one more knockout.”
That proclamation only sliced out a swath of the boos rained upon dos Santos. Known as one of the nicest and friendliest fighters in the sport, it was marginally surprising to hear dos Santos garner a negative reaction.
But even Velasquez, who the UFC wanted to fight in Houston because of his popularity in the Mexican community, received some boos as he weighed in at a nearly identical 241 pounds.
Perhaps it’s all Houston sports fans know after enduring disappointing seasons by the Astros and Texans. The Rockets are expected to turn the tide and give the city something to cheer.
The UFC will, too. Two of the three fights directly preceding Velasquez vs. Dos Santos III are also heavyweight bouts.
Roy Nelson (249) and Daniel Cormier (224) both came in slimmer than usual for their co-main event. Cormier is on his way down to light heavyweight, while Nelson may have chosen to focus on his conditioning after fading in his last fight.
Of the six heavyweights, one-time top contender Gabriel Gonzaga (257) and former LSU national-champion fullback Shawn Jordan (255) came in at the heaviest.
The lightweights sandwiched in between the heavyweight-buffet got the warmest reaction, as former challengers Gilbert Melendez (156) and Diego Sanchez (156) kept their distance but jawed during a staredown.
Two preliminary-card fighters jumped on the Rockets bandwagon to sway some Texan fans. Sarah Kaufman (135), who fights Jessica Eye (135), sported an Olajuwon jersey while K.J. Noons (156), facing George Sotiropolous (155), went newer with Howard’s No. 12 threads.
Noons came in overweight by a half-pound on first attempt before making it on an immediate, subsequent attempt when he stripped down.
The only fighter to miss weight was Andre Fili, who was 2.5 pounds over the featherweight limit at 148.5. The newcomer will give opponent Jeremy Larsen (145.5) 20 percent of his purse as a result.
The two stayed cordial during their face-off, just like the rest of the fighters.
“In this fight, I expect it to be tougher than the second one,” Velasquez said to close the weigh-in. “That’s what I trained for. That’s what I’m prepared for.”
Find full results from the UFC 166 weigh-in below.
Heavyweight championship bout: Cain Velasquez (241) vs. Junior dos Santos (240)
Heavyweight bout: Daniel Cormier (224) vs. Roy Nelson (249)
Lightweight bout: Gilbert Melendez (156) vs. Diego Sanchez (156)
Heavyweight bout: Gabriel Gonzaga (257) vs. Shawn Jordan (255)
Flyweight bout: John Dodson (155) vs. Darrell Montague (126)
Middleweight bout: Tim Boetsch (186) vs. C.B. Dollaway (186)
Welterweight bout: Nate Marquardt (171) vs. Hector Lombard (169)
Women’s bantamweight bout: Sarah Kaufman (135) vs. Jessica Eye (135)
Lightweight bout: George Sotiropolous (155) vs. K.J. Noons (156)
Welterweight bout: T.J. Waldburger (170.5) vs. Adlan Amagov (171)
Lightweight bout: Tony Ferguson (155) vs. Mike Rio (156)
Featherweight bout: Jeremy Larsen (145.5) vs. Andre Fili (148.5)
Bantamweight bout: Dustin Pague (135) vs. Kyoji Horiguchi (135)