If there was any doubt that 2013 has been the year of Vitor Belfort, those doubts were removed at the Goiania Arena in Goiania, Brazil, on Saturday night as the former light heavyweight champ scored his third knockout win of the year – all with head kicks – defeating Dan Henderson in the UFC Fight Night main event.
see event photos
The win evened the score between the light heavyweights, as the two fought in a 2006 PRIDE bout won by Henderson via decision, and it also marked the first time Henderson has been knocked out in his 40 fight MMA career.
Neither fighter threw anything in the opening minute, warily circling each other. But in the second minute, everything exploded, with Henderson moving in for the kill and Belfort equally as ambitious, as he dropped Henderson with a left to the jaw. Henderson tried to recover and even looked for an armbar, but as he got up, Belfort closed the show with a left kick to the jaw that brought in referee Dan Miragliotta to end the bout at the 1:17 mark.
With the win, the 36-year-old Belfort - a 2013 victor over Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold - ups his record to 24-10; the 43-year-old Henderson, who has now lost three straight, falls to 29-11.
Hear Belfort's post-fight thank-you list
FERREIRA vs. SARAFIAN
The Ultimate Fighter Brazil
final that never was finally took place in the co-main event, with the
winner of the show, Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira, winning a three round
split decision over Daniel Sarafian, who never competed against his rival in the 2012 series finale due to injury.
Scores were 30-27, 30-28 and 28-29 for Ferreira.
Sarafian went on the attack at the bell, chasing Ferreira around the Octagon in order to close the distance on his taller foe. Sarafian did just that, locking his opponent up against the fence. After a stalemate, referee Mario Yamasaki broke the two, with Sarafian scoring with a nice right before Ferreira sought a takedown. Sarafian responded with a guillotine choke attempt but came up short, and the two rose and broke away from each other. Both had their moments while standing in the closing moments of the round, drawing a positive response from the crowd.
Ferreira took the bout to the mat early in round two, but the two battled to a stalemate before rising once again. Sarafian went on to score with a nice right hand that staggered his foe, but Ferreira took control once more with another takedown, and this time he tried to finish with an arm triangle. Surprisingly, Yamasaki restarted the action, but Sarafian was unable to capitalize on his good fortune.
Adding to his lead in the opening minute of the last round, Ferreira scored with a takedown and pushed Sarafian to the fence, keeping him pinned there as the crowd booed. With 1:50 left, Yamasaki stood the fighters back up, but Ferreira brought it right back down, scoring points and exhausting Sarafian in the process. Sarafian rose, but he had Ferreira on his back, making matters no better for himself. In the final 30 seconds, Ferreira went for the rear naked choke, but it was not to be, as the bell intervened.
With the win, Belo Horizonte’s Ferreira improves to 8-2; Sao Paulo’s Sarafian falls to 9-4.
Watch Mutante's post-fight interview
CAVALCANTE vs. POKRAJAC
Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante earned his first UFC victory in his second try, halting Igor Pokrajac via tap out due to strikes in just 78 seconds.
It was bombs away for both fighters as the bout commenced, with some hard shots being thrown until Pokrajac (25-11, 1 NC) bulled Cavalcante (12-4, 1 NC) into the fence. “Feijao” was unbothered though, and after a series of knees to the body and head, Pokrajac was in deep trouble. As the two broke, Pokrajac covered up and Cavalcante unleashed punch after punch until Pokrajac tapped out and referee Kevin MacDonald halted the bout. The time was 1:18 of the first round.
Hear from Feijao after the fight
THATCH vs. THIAGO
The hype over welterweight Brandon Thatch isn’t likely to cool anytime soon, as the Denver product scored another first round stoppage, finishing veteran Paulo Thiago via submission due to strikes.
Thatch (11-1) aggressively stalked Thiago (15-6) from the outset, and while the Brazilian got an early takedown, the Colorado product got back to his feet almost immediately. When the two broke, Thatch fired off close range strikes, with a left knee to the body, sending Thiago down to the mat. As Thatch moved in with a follow-up attack, Thiago tapped out, bringing in referee Dan Miragliotta to stop the fight at 2:10 of the opening stanza.
Watch Thatch's post-fight interview
LaFLARE vs. PONZINIBBIO
Unbeaten Ryan LaFlare kept his perfect record intact in welterweight action, spoiling the UFC debut of TUF Brazil 2 finalist Santiago Ponzinibbio via unanimous decision.
Scores were 30-27 across the board.
LaFlare drew first blood, taking Ponzinibbio down to the mat in the opening minute and quickly moving into the mount position. The Brazil-based Argentinean got out of immediate trouble, but LaFlare kept the pressure on and got back into the mount, where he worked his strikes and tried to sink in an arm triangle. After that came up short, LaFlare attempted an armbar, but Ponzinibbio escaped and briefly had control before the two rose to their feet. Another takedown by the New Yorker soon followed, but the fight resumed in a standing position moments later.
Continuing to push the pace in the second, LaFlare got another takedown in the early going and even when standing he was controlling the action as Ponzinibbio appeared to have lost some steam off his strikes. With two minutes left though, Ponzinibbio got a second wind and he let his hands go, immediately putting LaFlare on the defensive as the crowd roared. LaFlare cooled his foe’s momentum with a takedown in the final minute, and he kept him grounded until the bell.
After picking up the pace once again in the third, LaFlare appeared to be heading toward a decision win when a knee dropped Ponzinibbio with less than two minutes to go. The courageous Argentinean survived a follow-up ground assault and got back to his feet and to the final bell, but this night belonged to the New Yorker, now 9-0. Ponzinibbio falls to 19-2.
STEPHENS vs. JASON
Former lightweight standout Jeremy Stephens made it two for two at featherweight, knocking out TUF Brazil 1 winner Rony Jason in the opening minute of the first round.
Jason came out relaxed at the bell, maybe too relaxed, and as he threw a looping right hand, he ducked into a right kick to the head, sending him hard to the canvas. A follow-up right brought an official end to the bout with referee Kevin MacDonald stepping in at the 40 second mark.
With the win, Stephens improves to 22-9; Ceara’s Jason falls to 14-4.
See Stephens' in-Octagon interview