When Chael Sonnen was awarded a shot at Jon Jones' Ultimate Fighting Championship light-heavyweight title despite having no fights at the weight class since 2005, many mixed martial arts observers complained Sonnen didn't deserve the bout.
After Saturday, those howls appeared justified. Jones (18-1) toyed with Sonnen in the main event of UFC 159 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., retaining his title via first-round TKO.
It figured yjsy Sonnen's only path to victory was through his wrestling, as the 26-year-old Oregonian is a former U.S. Olympic wrestling alternate. Jones, though, was determined to make a point out of beating Sonnen (27-13-1) at his own game.
Jones scored effortless takedowns throughout the round. Sonnen is a crafty veteran who has fought since 1997 and did his best to keep Jones at bay. But by the end of the round, Jones landed a series of unanswered strikes on the ground, prompting referee Keith Peterson to call off the fight at 4:33.
Jones wasn't unscathed, though, as he came out of the bout with what appeared to be a broken big toe.
"I wanted to prove a point to him tonight," said Jones, who had to conduct his postfight interview while seated. "Chael's a great fighter, but he talked a lot of trash leading up to the fight and I wanted to prove him I could beat him any way I felt like."
With the victory, Jones defended his title for the fifth time, tying Tito Ortiz for the most light-heavyweight championship defenses in UFC history.
Sonnen, who also had two unsuccessful challenges to Anderson Silva's middleweight title in recent years, strongly hinted at retirement without coming out and actually using the word.
"I'm going to think it through," Sonnen said. "I'm not one of those guys to hang on. If there's not a road to the title, this sport isn't for me."
In the co-feature bout, a gruesome eye poke put a damper on popular middleweight Michael Bipsing's victory over Alan Belcher. Bisping, an Orange County, Calif., transplant from London, slowly picked apart Belcher in the standup, utilizing solid movement and repeatedly beating Belcher to the punch.
In the final minute, with Bisping well on his way to a unanimous decision, Bisping accidentally poked Belcher in the right eye, causing a gusher of blood to squirt from the eye socket. Because of the accidental foul, the bout went to the judges' scorecards. Bisping won via technical decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
"I feel terrible that happened," Bisping (26-5) said. "Alan is a tremendous competitor and I would never do anything like that on purpose. I hope he's OK. I was pleased with my performance tonight and that's not how I wanted it to end."
Popular brawler Roy Nelson gave the crowd what it wanted with a thunderous knockout of Parisian Cheick Kongo (18-8-2). The bearded, beer-bellied Las Vegas native known as "Big Country" caught Kongo on the jaw for the victory at just 2:04 of the opening round of their heavyweight bout.
With the victory, Nelson (19-7) won for the fourth time in his past five fights. His last nine victories have come by way of knockout or TKO.
"I want a crack at the gold," Nelson said. "They've been lining them up for me one by one and I've been knocking them down. Bring me the champ."
The leadup to the light-heavyweight battle between Phil Davis and Vinny Magalhaes was marked with months of internet trash talk. The duo took turns blasting each other on Twitter and interviews. But when the bell sounded, Davis put on a clinical, one-sided performance. Davis took a unanimous decision with judges' scores of 30-27, 30-27, and 29-28.
The two fighters showed respect for one another's strengths. Davis (10-1, 1 no-contest) was an NCAA wrestling champion at Penn State and Magalhaes (10-6, 1 NC), a Las Vegas resident by way of Rio de Janeiro, is a jiu-jitsu black belt. This turned the fight into a standup kick-boxing match that Davis controlled. Magalhaes simply had no answer for Davis' crisp jabs and combinations.
"I want to thank Vinny," said Davis, who trains in San Diego. "For all the trash talk, he forced me to up my game and take things to the next level."
Pat Healy had only fought once -- seven years ago -- in the UFC during a 46-bout career. The lightweight veteran made his long-awaited return count in the main-card opener and posted an impressive win over rugged veteran Jim Miller. Healy won via choke submission at 4:02 of the third round.
Miller (22-5), of nearby Whippany, N.J., was the crowd favorite and he nearly finished the fight in the closing seconds of the first round with a series of elbows. But Healy, a Salem, Ore., native, stayed calm and took control of the fight in the final two rounds. Healy used his wrestling to score takedowns and relentless grappling on the ground before getting into position for the winning maneuver.
"I can't tell you how pumped I am right now," said Healy (29-17). "Jim Miller is one of my favorite fighters. It was an honor to fight a competitor like him. I'm putting the UFC lightweight division on notice."