LAS VEGAS – Junior dos Santos did something Saturday that is a rarity in the UFC these days: He successfully defended the heavyweight title. A big right hand from dos Santos put Frank Mir down and ended the bout at three minutes, four seconds of the second round.
Dos Santos controlled the fight with his striking, keeping the fight standing and thus neutralizing Mir's vaunted jiu-jitsu game. Mir tried for a takedown in the early seconds of the fight, but other than that, there was little offense from the ex-champion.
"Man, that guy can take a punch!" an exultant dos Santos said in the ring after the bout. "He has a hard head."
Dos Santos hurt Mir near the end of the first round with a shot to the body that forced Mir back to the cage. At that point, dos Santos fired off a flurry of about six or eight punches, but the bell sounded and Mir survived the round.
Unable to get the fight to the ground, though, Mir was lost.
"He's the champ, he's fast and I couldn't get out of the way," said Mir, a two-time ex-champion. "He hit me hard. It was too many of them."
Mir added, "I didn't want a boxing match with him. I just couldn't get him down."
It's not like Cain Velasquez needed to make a statement on Saturday, but a statement he made nonetheless. The former UFC heavyweight champion likely sewed up a title shot with a dominant first-round stoppage of Antonio "Big Foot" Silva.
Velasquez took Silva down seconds into the bout and then spent the next three minutes pummeling him. He turned Silva into a bloody mess – Silva looked as if he rolled in a tub of red paint – and stopped him at 3:36 of the first.
There was little secret that Velasquez, who lost his belt in 64 seconds to dos Santos on Nov. 12 in Anaheim, Calif., would go for the takedown. Yet, Silva looked utterly unprepared and spent all but a couple of seconds of the bout on his back.
Roy Nelson got back on the winning track in a big way, blowing out Dave Herman in just 51 seconds. Nelson, who was trained by Jeff Mayweather for the fight, landed a big overhand right and that just about did it, knocking Herman silly. Nelson landed one shot on the ground before it was stopped.
"My plan was to wrestle," Nelson said. "My coaches had a different game plan, which was 'Hit him in the face.' I guess it worked. Clearly, my hands have dynamite in them or small rocks or whatever. I have to congratulate Dave for stepping up and fighting me. Everyone kept dropping out. I think it's clear to everyone that the fans are here to see me and not the UFC. Now I'm going to Carl's Jr. and getting a Western bacon cheeseburger."
Two of the best young heavyweights in the UFC went at it early on the main card and it was Stipe Miocic moving up the ladder. He survived a tough first round to put a beating on Shane Del Rosario in the second, finishing the fight with a very tough ground-and-pound attack that opened a massive gash over Del Rosario's eye.
Del Rosario was fighting for the first time in more than a year, following an auto accident 13 months ago. He looked good in the fast-paced first round, as he hurt Miocic with a number of body kicks.
It was a different fight in the second. Miocic had the edge early in the round on the standup, but he got it to the ground and when he did, it was a nightmare for Del Rosario. Miocic showed excellent ground-and-pound, blasting Del Rosario with elbows and punches, forcing the stop.
Del Rosario had a long and deep cut alongside his forehead.
Stefan Struve opened the all-heavyweight main card with a quick submission of Lavar Johnson. Johnson was fighting for the third time in 2012 and the second time this month, following knockouts of Joey Beltran in January and Pat Barry on May 5.
But when the fight got to the ground, it was no contest. Struve quickly maneuvered into position for the arm bar and forced the tap-out just 1:05 into the bout.
"It feels really good," Struve said. "One minute and five seconds is always a good time to win a fight. Everyone kept telling me I was going to get knocked out. I didn't want to give him a chance to do what he does best. They way he was holding me, I felt like I could get the arm bar so I went for it."
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