Velasquez pummels Silva, keeps title
Title defense No. 1 is in the books for Cain Velasquez.
After failing to hold on to the UFC belt in 2011, Velasquez made good in his second attempt, retaining the title in dominating fashion over Antonio Silva with a technical stoppage due to strikes at 1:21 of Round 1 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
"The important thing was to stay moving," Velasquez said. "Look for takedowns. Look for punches. But never stay in front of him."
Silva (18-5) did well to defend Velasquez's first takedown attempts, but whatever game plan the 33-year-old 6-foot,4, 263-pound Brazilian brought into the Octagon with him vanished when he was crushed by a right hand to the jaw.
Velasquez, 30, followed with a stream of strikes while Silva was on all fours. Referee Mario Yamasaki gave a close look and soon after pulled the plug on the fight. Silva protested, but only for a moment.
Afterward, Silva complained about the stoppage.
"The fight was stopped too early," Silva said. "The way that I think is that the saying that applies to athletes when they do something wrong or illegal, is the same for the referees. They too should be penalized."
"It's clear watching it that I took several blows to the back of my head. The referee explained to me that the first is a warning that should be issued. The next is points. As you can see I took several shots to the back of my head."
But he also said he wasn't trying to take away from Velasquez's win.
Speed and stamina are hallmarks of Velasquez (12-1) as a fighter. The 6-1, 240-pound Mexican-American, groomed by Javier Mendez at the American Kickboxing Academy, needed only to rely on one of those Saturday night.
Velasquez said after the win that he doesn't think about what he does as defending belts. Each fight is its own experience. That's a good way of looking at things since no heavyweight in the UFC ever has held onto the title more than two straight fights.
Up next is Velasquez's most challenging rival, Junior dos Santos, the man who yanked the belt away from him two years ago. Dos Santos scored a third-round stoppage over Mark Hunt, a performance Velasquez notice.
"He looked good tonight," the champion said of dos Santos. "He's tough. He's always looked tough."
Many people will claim the same of Velasquez, who went about his business the way a heavy favorite should.
For his effort, Velasquez became the first man since Randy Couture walked away from the Octagon in 1997 to hold the title of lineal champion. That distinction resided outside the UFC until Alistair Overeem brought it with him from Strikeforce. Having knocked out Overeem in February, it was "Bigfoot" who laid claim to that mythical title.
Now Velasquez has unified the division, and the UFC champion is truly the baddest man on the planet.
Dos Santos stops Hunt late in Round 3
Junior dos Santos never had thrown a spinning heel kick in a fight before.
He's now 1-for-1.
The former UFC heavyweight champion snapped off left hooks and monstrous overhand rights, but Mark Hunt kept ticking. It was only when dos Santos moved off the fence late in Round 3, stepped to his right, planted, turned and swung his right leg behind him that Hunt went down for good.
The stunning shot wasn't perfect but certainly good enough, putting Hunt on the floor, a rare sight during Hunt's many years in the fight game.
Hunt had bounced off the mat in the first frame after dos Santos(16-2) plastered him with a right hand over the top that got the arena screaming. However, he held off stepping up for a finish because he respected Hunt's durability.
"He's very dangerous," dos Santos said of the 39-year-old New Zealander, who up until last weekend wasn't sure if visa issues would prevent him from making it to the U.S. in time to fight. "I had to respect him. He's dangerous and a very nice guy. I like people like him. I did my best. I always try my best. This time everything was right, and I won."
Hunt (9-8) clearly suffered from a speed disadvantage, which is why dos Santos was able to land punches at will. In his previous four efforts, all wins, three of which were definitive stops, Hunt dictated the terms of the fight. However, against the taller, faster dos Santos he was forced to lunge and reach.
Dos Santos scored with a multitude of strikes, but his best weapon was the jab. He continually peppered Hunt's face, which was bloodied and battered by the time dos Santos spun and kicked and ended the contest.
The victory puts dos Santos square in the UFC heavyweight title picture, which could mean another matchup with Velasquez.
"That's what I most want," said the 29-year-old "Cigano." "I want that so bad. I really believe I can be the champion again and I will do my best to get there."
Teixeira tears through Te Huna
Glover Teixeira didn't need to make a statement against James Te Huna -- but he went ahead and made one anyway.
Validating the considerable hype behind the 33-year-old Brazilian, Teixeira won for the fourth time in 12 months, submitting the powerful New Zealander with an arm-in guillotine choke at 2:38 of the first round.
Te Huna, a late replacement for Ryan Bader, dealt with a man on a mission. Teixeira slugged from the opening bell, connecting with several right hands. Te Huna managed a well-placed uppercut to the chin, but he failed to defend a strong double-leg takedown and was grounded for most of the short fight.
As he worked on passing guard and landing elbows and short punches, the crowd inside the MGM audibly showed their support for Teixeira, whose delayed route to the Octagon only allowed him space to improve.
The finishing of Te Huna (16-6) represented Teixiera's 18th stoppage in 21 wins.
Teixeira (21-2) locked up Te Huna's head after a scramble, and though he doesn't like to pull guard, the hold was deep enough to make a calculated risk.
"Chuck [Liddell] told me this a long time ago, 'Don't be on the bottom,' " Teixeira said. "But I felt it was deep and I went for it."
The Brazilian hasn't lost since 2006, and looks in line to fight for top contendership at 205 pounds soon.
Grant destroys Maynard in Round 1
Without a shadow of a doubt, TJ Grant proved he deserves a shot at the UFC lightweight championship.
The 29-year-old Grant, fighting out of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, Canada, blasted former No. 1 contender Gray Maynard at 2:07 of Round 1, ensuring his spot as the next challenger for Benson Henderson.
Maynard came out punching, and looked to hold a speed advantage as he landed several stiff shots that rang Grant's ears.
"My ear was ringing after he hit me with two shots," said Grant, after his fifth straight win. "But I took it and wound up giving more."
That's exactly what he did, starting with a straight right that hurt the 34-year-old Maynard (11-2-1). Grant jumped forward with a strong salvo, including heavy shots to the body.
Grant said he practiced putting combinations together for eight consecutive weeks, and "knew exactly what [Maynard] was going to do."
"I knew he's usually flat-footed and I'd be able to land my strikes if I stayed there and used my footwork."
The Canadian was relentless at the end, pounding away at Maynard until the referee had no choice but to intervene.
Grant (21-5) cuts an imposing figure at 155. Against Maynard, perceived to be one of the largest fighters in the division, Grant was noticeably larger. It helped him take a punch, and deal with any grappling scenarios. This bodes well against Henderson, who has not put away an opponent in seven straight contests.
"Nothing but respect," Grant said. "I want to fight the champ. I want to be the champ."
Cerrone bloodies Noons
Donald Cerrone's grandmother called him Saturday and had a question.
"Cowboy, there's a bunch of guys out there watching tonight wishing they could be you. Do you want to be you today?"
Cerrone recounted the conversation after he blasted through UFC newcomer KJ Noons (11-6) for 15 minutes, a bloody mess of a fight that proved without a doubt that he's better than the Strikeforce import.
Cerrone is a wild, free-swinging brand of fighter, who has climbed several times within view of the top of the lightweight division only to fall back painfully. And the 30-year-old Colorado native delivered, starting and finishing strong while making a mess of Noons' face.
The effort comes one bout after Anthony Pettis put Cerrone on the canvas with a debilitating kick to the body. It was enough of a shock for him to find a sports psychologist and work on his mental game.
Noons, 30, made for a great comeback opponent. He's a weaker mixed martial artist and stylistically plays into Cowboy's strength. Cerrone (20-5) grappled when he wanted, just like everything else, and battered Noons so much the blunt-force trauma to his right elbow opened a nasty gash.
"I feel good," Cerrone said.
Pyle outlasts Story
Story nearly ended it in the opening frame, firing a powerful left straight directly into Pyle's mouth. The shot came after Story controlled Pyle, 37, on the canvas. Pyle threatened Story with an armbar, but the 28-year-old wrestler defended subs and maintained top control.
Pyle (25-8-1) made it through the first thanks to guile and deference from referee Steve Mazzagatti, who allowed the veteran out of Las Vegas space to recover. The round was lopsided enough for ESPN.com to see it 10-8 Story. Judges at cageside did not see a 10-8 frame, which meant the next two periods determined the outcome.
Pyle's pressure and slick grappling made all the difference in the second. Even though he was on his back early in the frame, Pyle went for and nearly finished a Kimura. The submission, attempted while countering a single-leg takedown, turned momentum in Pyle's favor.
As Story faded in the third, Pyle (25-8-1) turned up his strikes and output. He was particularly effective with elbows, which bounced a few times off Story's face. Pyle opened Story up, and in the final minute really went after "The Horror." A late takedown from Story (15-7) wasn't enough to change the outcome. It was his fourth loss in six fights.
Late surge nudges Bermudez past Holloway
Two judges, however, sided with Bermudez, handing the 26-year-old grappler a split decision and his fourth straight victory inside the Octagon. ESPN.com scored the contest 29-28 for Holloway.
The first period clearly belonged to the lanky 21-year-old. Holloway (7-2), standing 5-11, made life difficult on the 26-year-old TUF runner-up. With his length playing tricks on Bermudez, Holloway easily sidestepped punches and takedowns. He was confident enough to throw several spinning back kicks, including one that slammed into Bermudez as the 5-6 grappler ducked forward.
Holloway appeared to grab the second round as well, though not by as wide a margin as the first. Bermudez scored with a hard kick that nearly crumbled Holloway, but he also had to defend his back from being taken and never appeared comfortable.
Bermudez (11-3) owned the final period. An early takedown put him in position to ground-and-pound Holloway, who's long frame made for an active guard. Bermudez found his way through Holloway's defense, and scored with several elbows that induced cuts and bruises on the loser's forehead.
This was Bermudez's second consecutive split decision win. In February, he shared fight of the night honors with Matt Grice. His fight with Holloway wasn't as compelling, but it was still a quality showcase for both men.
Whittaker smashes through Smith
Whittaker, a heavy-handed 22-year-old Australian, secured momentum in the second period and didn't let up until Smith needed saving by the referee 41 seconds into the third period.
Smith, winner of TUF 16, barreled forward throughout the contest.
Early pressure paid off for the 25-year-old American, fighting out of Fort Hood, Texas, and he eventually clipped Whittaker late in the opening period with a right hand. If Whittaker was behind on the judges cards, he certainly evened things up in Round 2.
Whittaker (11-2) made Smith (3-2) pay for reaching, popping the active duty Army Ranger sniper with multiple left hooks. Soon Smith bled from his face and reached on takedowns, as the toll of Whittaker's attack came to pass.
The Australian maintained his pace and pressure to begin the the final period. Smith went down as he chased Whittaker, who moved backwards and deftly planted a snapping left hook. Whittaker followed the fallen TUF champion to the canvas, where he unloaded until the referee halted the contest.
Nurmagomedov outclasses Trujillo
Russian lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov crossed an impressive threshold for a mixed martial artist, pushing his professional record to 20-0 after a technically superior, soul-battering exercise against Abel Trujillo (10-5).
Nurmagomedov, 24, earned sweeping 30-27 scores from the judges, a clear reflection of his grappling prowess and the 29-year-old Trujillo's inability to find an answer for 15 minutes.
The lightweight pair got into a shoving match during Friday's weigh-in at the MGM Grand after Nurmagomedov missed weight by 2.5 pounds. While the fight didn't live up to those fireworks, there were several exchanges, usually with Nurmagomedov coming out on top.
Nurmagomedov improved to 4-0 in the UFC.
MORE MMA HEADLINES
- UFC's Jones: Won't always request drug tests
- Hendricks (biceps) aims for full health by July
- Rousey (9-0) to face Davis at July's UFC 175
- Ortiz to fight Shlemenko on May 17 Bellator card