It felt as if the MMA world’s collective jaw hit the floor all at once.
Middleweight champion Anderson Silva retained his crown in spectacular fashion, as he knocked out Vitor Belfortwith a front kick to the face in the UFC 126 main event on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Two punches on the crumpled Belfort polished off “The Phenom” 3:25 into round one.
“I want to start by thanking all my trainers who have helped me with all the different disciplines,” Silva said. “Thanks to my coach for teaching me that kick. Everybody should respect Vitor. Before I even started fighting, he was a champion, so he deserves your respect.”
Silva, staking his claim as the greatest fighter of all time, has won 14 consecutive fights, a record 13 of them inside the Octagon, where he has dominated like no other man in history.
A lengthy feeling-out process between the two middleweights ended with a pair of leg kicks and a right-left combination from Belfort. It was but a small victory for the former light heavyweight king. With the two men standing face to face, Silva fired the front kick up through his defenses and dropped him where he stood. Belfort looked like he had been cut down by a sniper. A right and a left, as Silva passed his foe’s foggy guard, finished it.
“That’s just one of the strikes I was working on,” Silva said. “I was focusing on many different types of strikes and attacks.”
Belfort entered the cage on a five-fight winning streak. He left it humbled and beaten. Never before in his 14-year career had Belfort been finished so quickly.
“Anderson is a very good fighter,” Belfort said. “I was waiting and doing my thing, but I got caught. That’s why [he’s a champion]. He faked to the body and kicked to the head. He’s a great fighter. I promise I will be back, and I will bring the fire again.”
Griffin Outpoints Franklin in Co-Headliner
In his first appearance in more than a year, former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin outstruck, outwrestled and out-grappled Rich Franklin en route to a unanimous decision in the co-main event. All three judges scored it 29-28 for Griffin, a winner in five of his past seven bouts.
“[I felt] rusty,” Griffin said. “It’s great to be back, obviously. I wanted to win, and I was so nervous. My camp didn’t go right, but I feel good now.”
Griffin set the tone with a strong first round, as he took down Franklin inside the first 30 seconds and kept the one-time middleweight king on his back the entire round. The Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts representative delivered another takedown in round two and wobbled Franklin with a looping left hand.
Ahead on the scorecards, Griffin took a more conservative approach in the third round, content to trade blows with Franklin from the outside. Franklin — taken down twice in the final 90 seconds — scored with crisp kicks to the body and occasional punches, but the sporadic strikes were not enough to sway the judges to his side.
“It’s hard to come back after a year without people going game speed, let alone [against] a southpaw who’s quicker than me,” Griffin said. “Fortunately, I was able to get him down in the first round and grind him down a little bit, so I felt like I had built up a little lead.”
Jones Guillotine Taps Bader, Earns Title Shot
Jon Jones earned a title shot.
Jon Jones submitted “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 winner Ryan Bader with a second-round guillotine choke, as he passed the most significant test of his career. The tapout came 4:20 into round two.
The victory, Jones’ third in as many appearances, earned the fast-rising superstar a shot at light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in theRashad Evans.
Jones had no trouble with Bader, as he scored with a takedown in the first round and set up briefly for a North-South choke. The previously unbeaten Bader looked baffled throughout the one-sided encounter, short-circuited by his foe’s otherworldly athleticism and 10.5-inch reach advantage. The decorated collegiate wrestler pulled guard in the second round but did not improve his luck from his back. Jones worked first for the brabo choke and then transitioned to the guillotine for the finish.
“I feel so confident every time I get in here,” Jones said, who improved to 5-1 in the UFC. “I feel it’s my time, and I’m hungry. I’m going for it.”
Ellenberger Survives Rocha, Takes Split Nod
Rising contender Jake Ellenberger survived a serious scare against the previously unbeaten Carlos Eduardo Rocha, as he carried a split decision in their welterweight showcase. Two of three cage-side judges scored it for Ellenberger, 29-28; a third saw it 30-27 for Rocha.
Ellenberger clipped the Brazilian submission specialist with a quick left hand to start and took it to the ground. There, Rocha went to work, as he scrambled into side control from the bottom, took his opponent’s back and moved to mount. Ellenberger eventually escaped, only to be nearly submitted with a kimura later in round one.
Over the final 10 minutes, Ellenberger elected to keep the fight standing, and it worked to his benefit. The Omaha, Neb., native scored with strategic takedowns at the end of rounds two and three, escaping with his third straight victory.
Torres Jab Breaks Down Banuelos
Former World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion Miguel Torres followed his game plan to near perfection in his promotional debut, as he cruised to a unanimous decision over Antonio Banuelos in a featured matchup at 135 pounds. All three judges scored it 30-27 for Torres.
Torres lit up Banuelos with a stiff left jab and popped the inside and outside of his lead leg with kicks throughout the three-round encounter. A longtime training partner of UFC hall of famer Chuck Liddell, Banuelos never got inside the Torres reach advantage, measured at a ridiculous 13 inches.
“I did what my coach wanted me to do,” Torres said. “Antonio is dangerous on the inside, so I wanted to fight him on the outside.”
The 30-year-old Torres, now training under Firas Zahabi in Montreal, picked up his pace in round three, as he kept his textbook jab in Banuelos’ bloodied face and scored with well-timed combinations from the outside. He has won 19 of his last 21 bouts.
“He’s real tough,” Torres said. “He took a lot of punches. I knew I broke his nose. I heard it crunch a couple of times.”
Matches to Make After UFC 126
Anderson Silva | Sherdog.com
Foot met face in a violent intersection, and the mixed martial arts world quaked with excitement.
Middleweight champion Anderson Silva defended his crown for the record eighth consecutive time, as he laid waste to Vitor Belfort with a perfectly timed and placed front kick in the UFC 126 main event on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The blow dropped Belfort where he stood, and a pair of follow-up punches from “The Spider” polished him off 3:25 into the first round.
Nearly 1,600 days into his reign as the UFC’s middleweight king, Silva clearly has no equal at 185 pounds. Yushin Okami has long clamored for a rematch, though few give him better than a remote shot of capitalizing on such an opportunity. The last man to defeat Silva, he did so by disqualification five years ago in Honolulu. Silva has since rattled off 14 consecutive victories — 12 of them finishes — and has thrown his name into the middle of the greatest fighter of all-time debate.
A closer look at five matches we want to see after UFC 126 follows:
Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre: The time has come to make it happen. Some will support the Silva-Okami rematch, but with Silva and St. Pierre so clearly established at the top of their divisions, provided the French Canadian gets past Jake Shields in April, this fruit will never be riper for the picking. With his front kick knockout of Vitor Belfort at UFC 126, Silva went a long way towards hushing his critics, who point to doubts regarding his age and diminishing skills. He has won 14 consecutive fights, 13 of them inside the UFC. Nothing more needs to be said.
St. Pierre, with his impossible-to-stop takedown attack, seems a perfect foil. Silva turns 36 in April, and though he remains as potent as ever, time waits for no man. UFC President Dana White believes it would be hard not to have the Silva-St. Pierre mega fight play out in Canada. Why not let it carry the marquee at the promotion’s August return to Brazil?
Forrest Griffin vs. Phil Davis: Griffin rarely gets the credit he deserves as a world-class light heavyweight. Sometimes, it appears as if his detractors gloss over the fact that he holds two high-profile wins over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and current UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. The man has skills and the heart to match them. Griffin returned to the cage for the first time in more than a year at UFC 126 and showed no ill effects from the layoff. A monstrous light heavyweight, he controlled one-time middleweight titleholder Rich Franklin on the ground, wobbled him standing and more than held his own when the two exchanged.
Davis finds himself on the same career track as Jon Jones — the fast one. Provided Davis passes his test against Matt Hamill, a man he dwarfs from an athletic standpoint, at UFC 129 in April, the time will have come to throw him in against one of the division’s elite. There can be no better litmus test than Griffin. Prospects have to pay their way at some point.
Miguel Torres vs. Demetrious Johnson: Doubters continue to label Johnson an overblown flyweight. However, after his rousing unanimous decision victory over Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto at UFC 126, it has become clear that the Matt Hume protégé can thrive in two weight classes. Johnson’s blinding speed and tenacity make him a handful for anyone at 125 or 135 pounds. In sports, speed has long been known as the great equalizer, and few can match Johnson in that department. Until the UFC institutes a 125-pound division, he will be forced to ply his trade against bigger, stronger opponents.
Enter Torres. The former WEC bantamweight champion, back climbing the ladder at 135 pounds, was impressive if unspectacular in dispatching Antonio Banuelos in his Octagon debut. Wrestling remains his Achilles’ heel. Put him in the cage with Johnson and see how he handles it.
Chad Mendes vs. Diego Nunes: What could be more fitting than two young featherweights pushing themselves into title contention by going after one another? Mendes has shown sharp improvement and has already established himself as a top fighter 145 pounds. The Urijah Faber protégé fought brilliantly against the resurgentMichihiro Omigawa at UFC 126, outstriking the judoka on the feet and scoring with some determined takedowns.
Nunes, another fighter in his prime, has put together an impressive three-fight winning streak since tasting defeat for the first time, displaying the kind of resilience one hopes to see in a martial artist of his caliber. The 28-year-old Brazilian bested former WEC champion Mike Thomas Brown on New Year’s Day, cementing his place near the top of the featherweight division. Like Mendes, his stock has never been higher.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Mike Pierce: This one seems like a no-brainer. Two of the welterweight division’s most unheralded standouts, Ellenberger and Pierce deserve a prime spot at a forthcoming UFC event. More importantly, a new world-ranked contender at 170 pounds could emerge from a meeting between them. Ellenberger won ugly againstCarlos Eduardo Rocha at UFC 126, but he won nonetheless and passed a significant test in his young career. Exceptional fighters are defined by their ability to win without their best “stuff.” In outdueling Rocha, Ellenberger proved he could.
Pierce has adapted well inside the Octagon, winning four of his five fights. His lone setback came in a unanimous decision to one-time welterweight title contender Jon Fitch, and he had the American Kickboxing Academy star on his heels in the third round. A stout wrestler with heavy punches, he used those skills masterfully in dispatching the previously unbeaten Kenny Robertson at UFC 126.
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