VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Junior dos Santos earned himself a shot at the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title with a championship-level dismantling of Shane Carwin.
Dos Santos garnered his shot later this year against champion Cain Velasquez by dominating Carwin with his boxing. Dos Santos knocked Carwin down with a right hand late in the first round and nearly finished off the big man on the ground.
For the rest of the fight, dos Santos used a stiff jab and great takedown defense to easily defeat Carwin, a former interim champion. The judges had it scored 30-27 twice and 30-26. Yahoo! Sports saw it 30-27 for Dos Santos.
"Much respect for Cain Velasquez, but I'm coming for you," a jubilant dos Santos said to Velasquez in the cage after the bout.
It was arguably the best performance of dos Santos' career, as he picked apart a powerful boxer and never let Carwin's wrestling become a factor.
Earlier in the night, Kenny Florian proved his drop to featherweight was successful. Fighting in his UFC-record fourth weight class following stints at middleweight, welterweight and lightweight, Florian used offensive wrestling and a sharp jab to pull out a unanimous decision victory over Diego Nunes.
Nunes is a dangerous striker with a wide variety of kicks, but Florian muted him for much of the bout. Nunes never was able to put together the combinations he needed to turn the tide in his favor.
Judges had it scored 29-28 twice and 30-27 for Florian. Yahoo! Sports scored it 29-28 for Florian.
According to CompuStrike statistics, Florian outstruck Nunes 86-37 overall and 48-24 in power strikes. Florian had a 62-6 edge in strikes on the ground.
"Conditioning was not an issue in this fight at all and I think I performed very well tonight," Florian said. "I mixed it up. I kept it standing with strikes, I secured takedowns and just put it all together. … I think that answered a lot of questions."
Mark Munoz and submission specialist Demian Maia put on an outstanding demonstration of MMA, as each fighter had moments to shine in all disciplines. Munoz pulled out a unanimous decision, winning by scores of 29-28 twice and 30-27. Yahoo! Sports had it 29-28 for Maia.
Maia surprised Munoz with his striking early and landed several good blows. Later in the fight, Munoz went to the ground and nearly caught Maia in a submission.
It was back and forth all the way and the fans roared their approval.
"His standup got a lot better," Munoz said of Maia. "His punches were crisp and a lot straighter than I expected. We had expected more looping punches, but he definitely tightened that part of his game up. At the end of the day, I was able to persevere and grind out a tough decision. This is a very rewarding win. All of the sacrifices that my family has made and all of the work my training partners put in to help me get ready for this fight, it all came to fruition tonight. Demian is obviously an excellent jiu-jitsu artist, but fortunately, my wrestling really helped me grind this one out."
Dave "Pee Wee" Herman and John Olav Einemo put on a fun back-and-forth heavyweight fight in which it looked like both were completely out of gas. But Herman landed a sharp left hook while they were against the cage and he managed to finish Einemo on the ground in a fight that had the crowd roaring.
Referee Kevin Dornan stopped it at 3:19 in the second as Einemo was taking blows from Herman and couldn't fend them off.
"I wanted to keep it on my feet against a world-class submission artist," Herman said. "I've been working on my conditioning at Team Quest because that's been an issue for me in the past. Once I started hitting him with big shots, I knew I could finish him."
Einemo landed several good shots of his own, but he tired noticeably. He hadn't fought since Nov. 12, 2006, and that nearly five-year layoff seemed to hurt him.
"It was just too long away from the ring," Einemo said. "I just froze in there. I don't know how what else to say. I didn't do anything but wait for Dave to throw. I have to get in there more often and gain experience."
Donald Cerrone left his opponent battered, beaten and barely able to walk out of the cage, but he still wasn't happy. Cerrone used a barrage of kicks to score a unanimous decision victory over Vagner Rocha, but he wanted to do more with his hands and finish the fight.
Rocha is a black belt with a great ground game and Cerrone was able to avoid the ground for the most part. He delivered a series of kicks to the lead leg that had Rocha limping throughout. But Cerrone wanted more.
"My wrestling has gotten better and better thanks to [coach] Greg Jackson and all of the wrestlers down there," Cerrone said. "I'm working with guys like Clay Guida, Melvin Guillard and the Vanier brothers every day. I'm disappointed that I didn't get the chance to finish him. After the first round, I could tell the leg kicks started bothering him. I just didn't let my hands go after negating the takedown. I'm happy with the win, but you know I always want to put on exciting fights."
Sam Stout may have provided the knockout of the year shortly after nearly being knocked out himself. Yves Edwards caught Stout with a right hand to the jaw, but Stout landed a massive counter left hand that put Edwards down and out.
Edwards went down flat on his back and Stout, realizing Edwards was out, simply raised his hands in celebration and didn't bother to go to the ground. He knew for certain the fight was over.
The veteran Edwards walked out under his own power to the dressing room with a ringside physician holding his arm to steady him.
"I thought it would take a little bit longer to be able to connect against a fighter of Yves Edwards’ caliber," said Stout after getting his first UFC knockout in dramatic fashion. "I was putting my combinations together and trying to slow him down. We've been working for several months on landing a left hook against a left-handed fighter. Tonight, it landed and it worked. It's an amazing feeling to score a knockout like that in front of the Canadian fans."
Edwards was fine after the bout but clearly didn't remember the finish. His head banged off the mat and he lay prone for several minutes before being helped to his feet.
"I've never been knocked out, so this is a tough loss for me," Edwards said. "I've got to go back and see the tape to figure out where my defense broke down."
Chris Weidman scored an impressive victory over Jesse Bongfeldt, controlling the fight throughout the first round and pulling off the standing guillotine choke submission at 4:54.
Bongfeldt landed a pair of good kicks in the opening seconds, but after that, it was all Weidman, as he used his wrestling ability to control the match and set up the submission.
"I have a lot of dangerous moves from that position, so when I had his head, I knew I could pull off the choke," Weidman said. "It felt good to have a full camp to prepare and work on all parts of my game."
Krzysztof Soszynski prepared first to face a jiu-jitsu expert, then a striker, but he wound up facing wrestler Mike Massenzio, who took the bout on four days' notice when Igor Pokrajac was injured and had to pull out.
Soszynski was workmanlike in taking Massenzio apart, avoiding takedowns and controlling the fight wherever it went. He won by scores of 30-27 twice and 30-26. Yahoo! Sports scored it for Soszynski, 30-27.
"Cardio was the key for me," Soszynski said. "I fought a wrestler for the first time in three years. Training with guys like Mark Munoz and the boys at Reign [Gym] paid off. I hadn't planned on fighting a wrestler, but the improvements I've made in my sprawl and getting back to my feet really paid off. I appreciate him stepping up and taking this fight."
Nick Ring, a former contestant on "The Ultimate Fighter," made the Canadian fans happy with a dominant victory over James Head. He finished the bout with a rear-naked choke submission at 3:33 in the third round.
Head landed a few good strikes early, but it was Ring who landed the better and harder blows. And when he took Head down, Ring did plenty of damage, opening a huge gash on the eyeline with a thudding elbow.
"It's mixed martial arts for a reason and I came prepared for a fight that could go a variety of ways," Ring said. "I respect [Head] a lot. He is physically strong and has a lot of power. I'm happy with this win, but I really want to go back and watch the tape. Fortunately, I'm leaving here the winner tonight and was able to get the finish."
Dustin Poirier got a unanimous decision victory over Jason Young in a back-and-forth stand-up battle, but he paid a heavy price. Young hit him repeatedly with a series of hard kicks and after the fight, Poirier felt them and was walking gingerly.
Judges had it 30-27 twice and 29-28 in favor of Poirier, but it wasn't as wide as the scores indicated. Yahoo! Sports also favored Poirier, 29-28.
"He was definitely one of the toughest opponents I've ever faced," Poirier said in tribute. "His kicks were incredible. My legs have never been this busted up. He's got a great chin. I started out strong and landed some good shots. He was a lot quicker than I expected and his punches were thrown straight. When I watched video on him, he threw a lot of strikes from angles, so he surprised me a bit. I was able to land some big punches and execute. This is a win I'm definitely proud of."
Joey Beltran and Aaron Rosa didn't show a lot of technique, but nobody seemed to mind as the heavyweights engaged in a fun back-and-forth slugfest.
Beltran got the best of the action, hurting Rosa in the third, taking him down and finishing him with blows on the ground. The bout was stopped at 1:26.
"I think I'm barely starting to show the type of fighter I am," Beltran said. "To succeed in the UFC, it takes a full team effort and my team did a great job preparing me for this fight. To be blunt, I knew he was going to be tough as hell. I was able to land some big shots and I am really happy with this performance. Putting away a tough guy like him is just a testament to how hard of a camp I went through to get ready for tonight."
Rosa simply was unable to stand up to the non-stop attack of Rosa and wilted under the pressure. He credited Beltran's power.
"I got tired, but I think I got hit in the back of the head after he took me down and that dazed me," Rosa said. "When I got up, he hit me with more hard shots and I never recovered. He's tough and proved that tonight."
The night opened with a controversial call, when Darren Elkins earned a unanimous decision over Michihiro Omigawa by scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28. Yahoo! Sports favored Omigawa, 29-28.
The fight was contested mainly on the feet and both man landed their share of clean shots. Omigawa seemed to get the better of the shots as the fight wore on and opened a cut on Elkins' right eye with a left hook.
"I feel like I went out there and served my purpose and won the fight," Omigawa said. "I know 100 percent that I got the better of him in the stand-up. I don't know what to say. I think I won this fight."
Elkins, not surprisingly, saw it differently, though he felt Omigawa deserved the third round.
"I feel like I won the first two rounds and truly beat him boxing," Elkins said. "I think I landed the crisper strikes and controlled it on the feet. I was surprised to get a 30-27 score. That actually had me thinking that I lost. I gave him (Omigawa) the third round, but I definitely felt that I won overall. That was a good win over a proven veteran."