- Brett Okamoto
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HOUSTON -- There will be no need for a fourth fight. Not any time soon, at least.
Velasquez (13-1) defended the belt for the second consecutive time, becoming just the fourth fighter ever to do so. His only professional loss came to dos Santos in November 2011, via a first-round knockout.
"[The game plan] was the same as the last fight," said Velasquez, who won the second meeting by unanimous decision. "Pressure, but throw better punches. Crisper punches, so I could beat him to the punch. He has great heart."
Dos Santos (16-3) struggled with Velasquez's aggressive style from the opening round. He staggered Velasquez early with a short right hand, but even that didn't stop the former collegiate wrestler from coming forward.
It felt as if dos Santos was fighting two opponents: Velasquez and the cage. The 29-year-old Brazilian could not circle off the fence, leaving him with no space to throw his notoriously dangerous knockout punches.
A straight right hand by Velasquez dropped dos Santos in the third round. He managed to recover and get back to his feet, but the damage was irreparable. He suffered a deep cut over his left eye, which required medical attention twice.
"He's very -- what can I say? He beat me up," dos Santos said.
Similar to the display of heart he showed in the second fight, dos Santos willed himself to throw dangerous punches even in the later rounds. He backed Velasquez off in the fourth with a left elbow from the cage, but Velasquez was never in trouble.
In the final round, dos Santos attempted a standing D'Arce choke. Velasquez shrugged it off violently, throwing both heavyweights to the ground. Dos Santos remained on his knees after the collision with nothing left. Velasquez moved in with punches, and referee Herb Dean stopped the bout at the 3:09 mark.
The trilogy was the 10th in UFC history, in which all three fights took place in the Octagon. Fabricio Werdum is expected to face Velasquez as the next No. 1 heavyweight contender.
Cormier nullifies Nelson, takes decision
When Roy Nelson doesn't land his signature right hand, he struggles to win.
He didn't land it on Daniel Cormier on Saturday night.
Cormier (13-0) remained unbeaten as a professional mixed martial artist, defeating Nelson in a clean, decisive unanimous decision. All three judges scored it a sweep for Cormier, 30-27.
"The game plan was to stand with him in the first round and take him down in the last two," Cormier said.
In his last heavyweight appearance before an attempt to drop weight class, Cormier brought a well-rounded, intelligent game plan to the Octagon. He wore on Nelson's gas tank early, forcing him to defend takedowns and counter grapple.
Cormier didn't really dominate Nelson (19-9) on the ground, but he took away his biggest weapon early -- the right hand. Four minutes in, Nelson took a deep breath against the fence as Cormier worked on a single leg.
The takedown attempts slowed down in the second and third rounds, as Cormier relied on a quick jab and footwork to avoid the haymaker. It wasn't all defensive tactics by Cormier, either. He landed several hard right hands of his own on the feet.
In the third, a confident Cormier showcased his diversity and his ability to keep a desperate Nelson at distance. He started throwing head kicks and front kicks to keep Nelson on the outside.
Cormier reiterated his intention to move to the light heavyweight division in his next fight. He's 2-0 in the UFC cage, with back-to-back decision wins against Nelson and Frank Mir. Nelson falls to 6-5 in the Octagon.
Melendez outlasts Sanchez in barnburner
Melendez (22-3) earned a unanimous decision over Sanchez in a three-round, instant favorite for Fight of the Year. All three judges scored it for Melendez: 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27. The win marked Melendez's first win inside the Octagon.
"It was a great feeling getting my first UFC win," Melendez said. "It was a battle and exactly what I expected from him as an opponent. He didn't go down at all."
As high as expectations were for action, the prevailing thought was Sanchez (24-6) had little chance to win. Melendez went into the fight a 7-to-1 favorite.
For two rounds, it played out that way. Melendez was simply better than Sanchez everywhere. A slip on an early head kick attempt almost cost him, as Sanchez jumped on his back and looked for a choke. Melendez escaped fairly quickly.
The rest of the round was a clinic by Melendez. He measured off his right hand expertly and opened a deep cut over Sanchez's left eye with a counterpunch. Ringside physicians checked on the cut in the second and third rounds.
With his corner alerting him that he needed a finish to win, Sanchez went for broke in the final round. At one point, he took three consecutive right hands to the face during an exchange, but continued to move forward.
Melendez kept his focus for the most part, getting the best of the exchanges, but he couldn't help but back up even though he was landing the cleaner shots. Midway through the round, Sanchez landed the shot he was looking for -- a right uppercut that dropped Melendez along the fence.
Sanchez followed him to the floor where he looked to finish with a rear-naked choke. Melendez escaped and got back to his feet where the fight ended with the two lightweights trading punches in the pocket.
Melendez expressed his pleasure in trading with Sanchez for all three rounds.
"My only three losses have been to guys who try to win by the scorecard, and it's unfortunate for a lot of fans," Melendez said. "This is the first time they are seeing my style. I always try to give the fans a fun fight. I want the belt, so the next fight I would like is the winner of the (Anthony) Pettis/(Josh) Thomson fight."
Sanchez falls to 1-1 since dropping back to lightweight earlier this year.
Gonzaga bludgeons Jordan
Gabriel Gonzaga is having himself a year.
Gonzaga (16-7) earned his third win of 2013 with a first-round knockout of Shawn Jordan. A beautifully timed counter right hand was the weapon of choice, forcing referee Jason Stafin to move in at the 1:33 mark.
At 34, Gonzaga has now won five of his last six heavyweight fights. He's recorded a finish in every one of them.
Jordan (15-5) had trouble establishing the range he wanted against the UFC veteran. He ate several early leg kicks and a Gonzaga right hand that brought a smile to his face.
At about the 90-second mark, Jordan moved in aggressively with a combination. Gonzaga, walking backward, absorbed Jordan's punches and threw the hard counter right. Jordan crumpled, and Gonzaga quickly followed with hammerfists to end the fight.
Gonzaga seemed none too surprised by the ease of his victory.
"I was expecting to throw some good punches and get the victory," Gonzaga said. "The training at my gym and the support of my partners has helped me a lot.
"We got together and fixed the mistakes I was making in the past. Before I was worried about winning and losing; now I'm just focused on the fight and that's the key."
The loss snaps a two-fight win streak for Jordan. He had won four of his past five fights.
Dodson disposes of Montague
John Dodson fought for a UFC title in 2013. Good chance he does it again in 2014.
In his first appearance since a loss to UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, Dodson (15-6) annihilated Darrell Montague via first-round knockout. Referee Jacob Montalvo broke it up at the 4:13 mark.
As always, the left hand was deadly for Dodson in the fight. He landed it as a lead strike from the southpaw stance and on the backend of a lightning quick jab.
Montague (13-3), who is also known as a power puncher, had no answer for it from the start. He was dropped by a straight left midway through the round, but somehow managed to rise immediately to his feet.
Dodson smelled blood and caught Montague again with an uppercut along the fence. A single-leg takedown attempt by Montague led to a scramble that slowed things for a moment. It was only a matter of time, though, at that point.
Another left straight to the chin dropped Montague again in the center of the Octagon, and that was it.
For Dodson, showmanship was almost as important as earning the victory.
"I want to make sure I put on exciting fights," Dodson said. "I want to be the champion, but I want to put on exciting fights and show everyone what I can do.
"In the flyweight division I see myself as a champion, but I have to prove it to everybody else, so that's what I am going to do."
Dodson improves to 4-1 in the UFC, including three finishes. Montague, a 25-year-old UFC newcomer, sees a four-fight win streak snapped.
Boetsch bounces back, edges Dollaway
Sometimes in this sport, you get a weird scorecard -- or three.
Dollaway (13-5) was penalized one point in the third round by referee Kerry Hatley for accidental eye pokes, but it ultimately didn't matter. Two judges scored the fight 30-26 for Boetsch. The other had it 29-27 in favor of Dollaway.
To many of those watching, Dollaway clearly won the first round. For reasons that weren't immediately clear, he started to taunt Boetsch several minutes in, raising his arms and daring Boetsch to hit him.
Boetsch (17-6), however, couldn't take advantage of the taunts and even looked a little flustered by them. Dollaway ended the round with a flurry of his own, catching Boetsch on the inside with an uppercut and left hook.
Dollaway took Boetsch to the ground in the second round, advancing to side control before eventually losing position. Back on the feet, Boetsch landed a hard right hand, prompting Dollaway to smile and drop his hands again.
Following a late takedown in the round, Boetsch mildly threatened with a submission from his back, but never came close to producing a tap.
The final round was an awkward one. The first accidental poke came seconds into the round and had Boetsch in visible pain. He was clearly angry at Dollaway after a second one moments later, which cost Dollaway a point.
Afterward, Boetch expressed his frustration with the eye pokes.
"Unfortunately eye pokes are one of those things that are difficult to ignore," Boetsch said. "I just sucked it up and hung in there and just got the victory, that's all that matters. Once, you can blame an accident, twice is something else. I just sucked it up, it's just frustrating. Definitely a gut-check type of fight. I'm glad I pushed through it and got the win."
Dollaway was in position for his third consecutive win, but instead falls to 7-5 in the UFC. Boetsch, who had been in title contention last year due to a four-fight win streak, gets his first victory since July 2012.
Lombard lambastes Marquardt in welter debut
Whoever told Hector Lombard to try out the welterweight division, good job.
Lombard (33-4-1) sent a message to his new division with a highlight knockout over Nate Marquardt. The finish came just 1:48 into the first round.
It was Lombard's debut at 170 pounds, after he wilted under heavy expectations in the middleweight division. After signing with the UFC in 2012, Lombard went 1-2 in his first three fights, with split-decision losses to Boetsch and Yushin Okami.
"He wanted this fight, he asked for this fight, so I did what I needed to do," Lombard said. "He is a good fighter with a lot of fights in his career and was a champion in Strikeforce.
"He said he wanted to stand and trade, but he started backing up and I caught him. I wanted to make sure I finished him. I had a lot of motivation to do this."
Marquardt (32-13-2) looked to avoid Lombard's power early. He tried to keep things on the outside, but the explosiveness of Lombard made it difficult.
After slipping several short hooks along the fence, Marquardt circled to his right with Lombard in pursuit. A right hand to the temple had him basically running across the cage where he caught a left hand under the chin.
Lombard went in for follow-up punches, but it was clear Marquardt was out and referee Jason Stafin rescued him from further punishment.
A member of American Top Team, Lombard improves to 2-2 in the UFC with two knockouts. He finished Rousimar Palhares in the first round of a middleweight fight in December. Marquardt suffers three consecutive losses for the first time in his career.
After the fight, a dazed and confused Marquardt had trouble explaining what went wrong.
"It's hard to say what happened this close after the fight," Marquardt said. "I rocked him early on. He's just a very good finisher, he had me hurt. I never really had that happen to me before. He fought great. He fought an in-shape, focused Nate Marquardt and won. I have no excuses."
Eye squeaks past Kaufman
Eye (11-1) secured a win in her UFC debut, edging Kaufman in a close split decision. Two judges scored the bantamweight fight 29-28 for Eye, while the third had it 29-28 for Kaufman. ESPN.com scored it 29-28 for Kaufman.
Kaufman looked to rely on pressure throughout the bout, walking through Eye's counter jab to land the right hand. Eye handled the pressure well early, staying light on her feet and slipping in and out of Kaufman's range.
Eye, a natural 125-pound fighter, managed to hold her own on the inside as well, turning Kaufman into the cage when they clinched. She landed a nice right elbow up the middle off the clinch late in the first round.
Kaufman (16-3), however, stuck to her game plan. She continued walking Eye down in the second round, despite developing a nasty mouse under her left eye.
Her best shots came in the third, as a pair of right hands wobbled Eye for the first time. Eye would answer with nice work from the jab, but there was no question Kaufman landed the harder shots.
After the bout, Eye expressed her pleasure with her debut performance.
"I feel unbelievable," Eye said. "People say that it's an amazing feeling. I can't even describe how I feel right now.
"I think I did great the first two rounds. I think I stopped and let her get the third round. I dropped my hands and let her get that round. I hate it. I knew better than that and will do better next time, but I feel great."
Kaufman, who was also making her UFC debut, falls to 1-2 in her last three fights. She suffered a submission loss to current champion Ronda Rousey in August 2012. Eye extends her win streak to eight.
Defending heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez battered Junior dos Santos before stopping him in five rounds in their grueling heavyweight rubber match at UFC 166.