Challenger Cain Velasquez wanted his belt back and came out and immediately proved that Champion Junior dos Santos' win in their first fight would not be repeated. He battered Champion Junior dos Santos early with a MONUMENTAL right hand and kept battering him late. It was five rounds of grinding, relentless assault and battery. By beginning of the third round dos Santos' face looked like he'd gone on a spending spree and bought multiple botched plastic surgeries and got huge collagen injections in his lips.
But there was NO quit in dos Santos. He kept fighting to the end, landing some nasty reverse elbows and a few uppercuts and lots of punches to the ribs. Nevertheless, dos Santos never managed to leave more than a tiny mark on Velasquez' face. But the outcome was never really in doubt and two judges awarded Cain 10-8 rounds, one twice.
Cain beat Junior up on the feet, on the ground and in the positional fight too. He struggled to get Junior down initially but after he hurt Junior in the first he had a solid three and a half rounds of at-will take downs before he faded a bit late. Dos Santos put on an incredible exhibition of heart, but Velasquez showed put on an exhibition of relentlessness, grinding offense and punches, kicks, elbows and more than a few accidental head butts.
Oh if only this fight had aired on Fox TV last year instead of dos Santos' 64 second KO of Velasquez. The ratings were incredible early on but never got to grow they way they would have through a fierce, five round war. Oh well, perhaps it's karmic justice that the pay-per-view audience got the better show, given their investment.
A few other thoughts from the show:
- Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon put on a monster classic
Pre-fight Miller had talked of wanting to destroy "somebody," and when the fight began he made it clear Lauzon was somebody. Soon Lauzon was a bloody pulp, hemorrhaging blood from about 30 stitches worth of gashes on his forehead and over his eye. However Joe wouldn't go down and Miller eventually had to endure his turn on as the nail being hammered. The two men savaged each other through every phase of martial arts and earned a roaring response from the crowd. Miller earned the decision with his early blitz but he was in a very serious guillotine at the end of the fight. Most epic Fight of the Night? Maybe not in comparison to the headliner which is serious MMA history but it was a certain Fight of the Year contender.
- Constantinos Philippou first crippled, then killed Tim Boetsch
It was like watching a bear baiting thrown by 14th Century peasant folk. The power wrestling Boetsch had his way with Costa early on. Unfortunately for Boetsch, he broke his right hand early. Soon Costa was picking him apart on the feet and then on the ground in a brutal grinding exhibition of will, dominance and sheer bloody savagery that had me for one thoroughly entertained.
- Alan Belcher almost KO'd Yushin Okami but this ain't horseshoes
Belcher indeed outstruck Okami, repeatedly battering him with punches that wobbled and clearly intimidated the veteran contender on the feet. However Okami completely outgrappled Belcher and dominated on the ground after Belcher inexplicibly kept pulling guard. 7 years ago it was the exact same stylistic mismatch despite Belcher's dramatic improvements on the ground and Okami's dramatic improvements on the feet and once again the grappler beat the striker.
- Derek Brunson executed a great game plan against Chris Leben
Leben stuffed a lot of take downs but when Brunson got him down he kept him down -- for the entirety of the first round and much of the third - and on the feet he stuck and moved, frustrating Leben by controlling the distance. Brunson just never let Leben get into the bout. Not bad for a late substitute making his Octagon debut.
- Eddie Wineland's reach made all the difference against Brad Pickett
Despite getting "only" a split decision win over the formidable Pickett, Wineland completely dominated the fight with his reach advantage. Pickett never figured out how to get inside on the rangy Wineland. Really the most impressive thing about Pickett's performance was that he somehow managed to not get knocked out by the barrage of blows Wineland planted upside his head throughout the fight.
- Erik Perez: ¡Luchador!
Perez finally got permission from the UFC to wear his Luchador mask in the Octagon (post-fight at least) and he justified the heavy pre-fight hype he got (stories in Sports Illustrated, ESPN, etc etc all focused on his Luchador mask and Mexican heritage) by dismantling Byron Bloodworth in short and bloody order.
- Jamie Varner and Melvin Guillard put on a savory simmer of a fight and Varner took home the gold
The action was just a tad too slow to be hailed as an instant classic but both fighters displayed an immense amount of heart and skill in a fight that had this viewer on the edge of his seat much of the way through. Fine striking exchanges and especially dynamic grappling with lots of reversals capped off with a crazy head spike of Guilllard by Varner countered immediately by a head-scissors by Melvin. More please.
- Myles Jury put the domination on Michael Johnson
For about a minute there it looked like Johnson would do well in this fight then Jury took it to the ground. From there it was a Jon Fitch-esque display of dominance on the ground. Jury got the take downs, sat in half guard, got wrist control, punched Johnson in the face. Rinse, repeat and score it 30-27 on every card.
- TODDDUFFEE!!!!! IS BACK
Todd Duffee had been exiled from the UFC for over two years when he got the chance to face Philip De Fries as a late substitute for Matt Mitrione (who was called up to face Roy Nelson in the Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale two weeks ago). The Duffster seized the opportunity and blasted De Fries with a series of thunderous right hands and capped it off with a left hand uppercut to finish the Brit at 2:04 of the first round. UFC Heavyweights, you're on notice, Todd Duffee is back and he's looking to KTFO you in the first round.
- For once Leonard Garcia was on the wrong end of a controversial decision
Leonard Garcia put on his usual sloppy but enthusiastic performance against Max Holloway but this time he seemed to earn the win. He out-landed Holloway by a significant margin but lost the split decision. Some will say it's karma for Garcia's unearned decision wins over Nam Phan and Chan Sung Jung aka The Korean Zombie. Either way it's Garcia's fourth straight UFC loss and possibly the end of the road for the popular brawler.
- John Moraga redeemed a lackluster fight with a 3rd round sub
Flyweights really have no excuse for not bringing fast-paced action into the Octagon. Moraga and opponent Chris Cariaso did anything but for most of three rounds before Moraga finally got the guillotine choke and put everyone out of their misery.