LAS VEGAS – The Battle of Brazil was no contest.
Anderson Silva retained his Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight championship with a dramatic first-round knockout over Vitor Belfort in front of a sold-out crowd in the main event of UFC 126 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
The rivals from Brazil exchanged a lot of nasty talk prior to the fight and there was clearly a lot of bad blood. But there wasn't a punch thrown for about 90 seconds.
But as they were facing each other, Silva fired a straight front kick with his left leg. The heel of Silva's left foot landed squarely on the chin, knocking Belfort down, and, for all intents and purposes, out. Silva landed a punch or two on the ground before referee Mario Yamasaki stopped it at 3:25.
"That's one of the strikes I was working on, but I was focusing on various kicks and attacks," Silva said.
Silva will fight UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre next if St. Pierre successfully defends his belt against Jake Shields on April 29 in Toronto at UFC 129. With the win, Silva, the longest-reigning champion in UFC history, won a record 13th consecutive UFC fight and extended his record for successful title defenses to eight. Forrest Griffin (18-6) hadn't fought since a disputed victory over Tito Ortiz on Nov. 21, 2009, but he managed to overcome the ring rust to pull out a unanimous decision victory over Rich Franklin in a light heavyweight fight.
Griffin caught a Franklin (28-6) kick in the first, took Franklin down and managed to spend most of the rest of the round pounding the smaller Franklin from the top position.
Griffin started the second the same way, but Franklin battled to his feet and managed to land some good strikes. The third round was a back-and-forth battle with each man having his moments, but there was no major swing of momentum either way.
Jon Jones pulled off an amazing guillotine choke to finish Ryan Bader at 4:20 of the second round in a battle of the UFC's top prospects, but that was only part of the story.
Jones' teammate, Rashad Evans, sprained a knee ligament in training on Friday and is out for six-eight weeks, UFC president Dana White said. As a result, Jones' win puts him in the main event of UFC 128 on March 19 in Newark, N.J., in a battle for the UFC light heavyweight belt.
Jones (12-1) was extraordinarily impressive throughout, dominating the first round with a variety of moves, then finishing Bader (12-1) when he tried to pull guard. Jones quickly slapped on the guillotine and forced Bader to tap.
When Jones was being interviewed in the cage by UFC analyst Joe Rogan, Rogan told him he had the title shot if he wanted it. Jones dropped to his knees and put his hands on his head in exultation.
"I feel great," Jones said. "God is so good. Hats off to Endicott, N.Y. I'm going for the title, baby! Let's do it."
Jake Ellenberger (23-5) and Carlos Rocha battled hard with little to separate them for three rounds and, predictably, the judges were split. But Ellenberger's takedowns and aggressiveness apparently was the difference over the last two rounds in helping him pull out a split decision.
Rocha's Brazilian jiu-jitsu was the difference in the first round, but Ellenberger neutralized that in the final two and landed a few hard elbows from the top.
Judges Junichiro Kamijo and Abe Belardo had it 29-28 for Ellenberger, while Adalaide Byrd had it 30-27 for Rocha. Yahoo! Sports had it 29-28 for Rocha.
"He came out very strong in the first round and then I felt him drop off in the second and third," Ellenberger said. "I need to work on my combinations more. Of course, I knew he was going to be good on the ground and I can always fall back on my wrestling, but I want to improve my hands and that's something I'll work on."
Miguel Angel Torres (39-3) was one of the most dynamic offensive fighters in the World Extreme Cagefighting, but he took the conservative route to a one-sided victory over Antonio Banuelos (18-7) in a fight that had the sellout crowd booing lustily.
Torres' plan was to stay on the outside and use his jab and Banuelos did nothing to close the distance and get inside of the jab. After a first round in which neither was aggressive and made much of an attack, Torres at least began popping his jab in the second.
He bloodied Banuelos in the nose and mouth while cautiously circling and backing away. While it was effective and he didn't take one truly damaging blow, he didn't make many new fans by failing to engage or try for a finish.
"I did what my coaches told me to do," said Torres, who was trained by the highly regarded Firas Zahabi for the bout. "I stuck to my game plan. I wanted to use my range and land my shots. I have to be a smart fighter. I try to be as exciting as possible, but I spend too much time in my life on fighting to be reckless. I have a family and an academy to think of, as well.
"He's real tough. I think I broke his nose. He's a very tough fighter on the inside and that's why I was trying to keep my range. I can't wait to get back in there and do it again."
Donald Cerrone made an impressive UFC debut, submitting Paul Kelly with a rear naked choke at 3:48 of the second round.
The first round was relatively close, though Cerrone (14-3) seemed to have an edge, both with kicks and his hands. In the second, Cerrone managed to gain a full mount. Kelly (11-4) gave up his back as he was trying to escape and Cerrone pounced, locking in the fight-ending choke.
"It's great to get the win," Cerrone said. "It's my first win in the UFC and it goes to show you that these WEC guys belong here. It feels great to get the submission win. I train with the best submission team in the world and I'm happy I was able to pull one off."
Chad Mendes (10-0) kept his perfect record alive with a dominant performance over Michihiro Omigawa (12-9-1) in a featherweight fight, winning 30-27 on all three judges' scorecards.
Mendes softened Omigawa up with leg kicks in the first round, landing several punishing kicks that clearly bothered Omigawa. Mendes was then able to repeatedly take Omigawa down and landed a series of powerful elbows that opened a large cut on Omigawa's eyes.
Omigawa, who entered the fight on a five-bout winning streak, never was able to get anything going as Mendes controlled the match from start to finish.
Despite the one-sided victory, Mendes was not particularly pleased with his effort.
"I'm a little bummed," he said. "I'm happy I got the win, but I have a lot to work on. I'm getting better at all aspects of the game, but it's back to the drawing board.
"He is a tough dude with a strong chin. I hit him with a knee and he just shook it off. He is very tough to finish."
Demetrious Johnson spoiled the much-hyped UFC debut of Kid Yamamoto, outboxing and outwrestling the Japanese star to pull out a unanimous decision victory.
The judges had it 30-27 twice and 29-28. Yahoo! Sports also had it 30-27 for Johnson.
Yamamoto (18-4), a former Japanese wrestling champion, was never able to mount much of an offense, as Johnson (8-1) either beat him to the punch or was quicker with the takedown.
In a bout between men who desperately needed a victory, Paul Taylor (11-6-1) stopped Gabe Ruediger (17-7) with a kick to the face at 1:42 of the second round.
Taylor won the first round, but opened his offense up in the second. He landed several good right hands that wobbled Ruediger, who dropped his hands. Taylor responded with a left kick to the face that instantly ended the match.
"With all the fighters coming in from the WEC, I knew I needed a win," Taylor said. "I had two losses in a row and I knew that just a good performance wasn't going to keep me around. I needed a win."
Kyle Kingsbury buried Ricardo Romero with an avalanche of knees and a punishing left hooking, winning by first-round stoppage at just 21 seconds. Immediately after the bell, the fighters locked up and Kingsbury (10-2) delivered a perfectly placed knee to the solar plexus. It clearly impacted Romero (11-2), who reacted audibly and staggered toward the cage. Kingsbury connected with several more knees and then a hook to finish the fight.
"I knew I hurt him with that first knee," Kingsbury said. "I wanted to stay composed and not rush in prematurely and make any mistakes. It feels great to get the win. I felt great coming in and felt strong tonight."
After an uneventful first round, Mike Pierce wasted little time ending his fight with Kenny Robertson (10-1) when the second round began. Pierce came out aggressively to start the second and landed a right hand that seemed to hurt Robertson.
Pierce followed with a crushing left that landed on the chin and decked Robertson. Pierce (12-3) fired several punches on the ground before Dean stopped it at 29 seconds of the second.
"Coming into this fight, I worked and worked and worked my combinations," Pierce said. "I wanted to make sure my hands were crisp and it's even more gratifying to get a performance like that."