UFC Heavyweight Title: Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva
Velasquez, the UFC heavyweight champion, is a well rounded competitor with excellent wrestling, strong striking and likely the best cardiovascular conditioning in heavyweight MMA history. He has no unavenged losses. Silva is an enormous man who was born with acromegaly. His best wins are over Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem. He has knockout power and a solid ground game. He is gunning for revenge against Velasquez, who defeated him decisively a year ago.
Round 1. Velasquez lands a punch and ducks down for a takedown. Silva defends well. Velasquez looks for another takedown but Silva blocks it again. Silva's frame is so much bigger than Velasquez's. Velasquez drops Silva with a left punch and a straight right hand. He follows with additional punches on the ground until the referee calls the bout off.
Winner: Cain Velasquez, TKO, round 1.
Junior Dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt
Dos Santos, one of the most affable and likeable individuals in the sport, is looking to rebound following his first UFC loss. Dos Santos is an excellent striker who trains submissions under the legendary Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Dos Santos was UFC heavyweight champion but lost the title in his last bout to Cain Velasquez. In his way is former K-1 Grand Prix kickboxing champion Mark Hunt, a fighter with an iron chin and menacing punching power. Hunt has won his last four fights and is a crowd favorite. Overall, Dos Santos would seem the superior fighter. But stylistically, Hunt is a tricky matchup for Dos Santos.
Round 1. Hunt connects first with a leg kick that knocks Dos Santos back. Hunt connects with a jab and then a hook. Dos Santos drops Hunt with a massive right overhand. Hunt somehow is able to recover his senses as Dos Santos looks to finish. Dos Santos respects Hunt's chin and doesn't pursue recklessly. Dos Santos lands a left punch to the body and then a right punch to the chin. Dos Santos is bleeding around the right eye. Hunt throws a spinning back elbow but it doesn't land flush. Dos Santos connects with another powerful overhand right to the head late in the round. 10-9 Dos Santos.
Round 2. Hunt throws a left to close distance and then a big right punch near the cage that Dos Santos narrowly avoids. Dos Santos keeps throwing punches to the body. Hunt lands a solid left punch and looks to time Dos Santos. Dos Santos has the length advantage and does a good job of keeping the fight in his range. Dos Santos once again connects with his big overhand power right that he used to knock out Cain Velasquez. Mark Hunt takes it again. Dos Santos uses a few jabs to the chin. Hunt presses in with a hard left hook and then a hard right hook. Dos Santos manages to take both and is fine. They are landing some huge shots. Dos Santos takes Hunt down with 90 seconds left in the round. The crowd boos, given how exciting the standup has been. Dos Santos lands some elbows and passes into side control. He lands a few more elbows to close the round. 10-9 Dos Santos.
Round 3. Hunt looks tired. He loads up a big right punch but doesn't come close to landing as Dos Santos circles out of danger. They exchange jabs and Hunt tries to back Dos Santos up against the cage. The pace has slowed considerably in the final stanza. Dos Santos throws a couple jabs that Hunt doesn't really defend so Dos Santos picks it up with even more jabs. Hunt keeps trying to load up a big haymaker to change the course of the fight but he can't land it. Dos Santos connects with a hard left hook and a hard right punch moments later on Hunt. But Hunt just keeps coming. Finally, with 45 seconds left in the fight, Dos Santos connects with a spinning kick to the side of the skull. He follows with a hard right on the ground and knocks Hunt out. That was one heck of a performance by Dos Santos.
Winner: Junior Dos Santos, KO, round 3.
Glover Teixeira vs. James Te Huna
Teixeira for years was one of the most highly regarded fighters on the planet not signed to a major organization. His visa issues finally cleared up, he signed with UFC and is a contender at 3-0. He hasn't lost since 2005. Te Huna is a tough Australian striker who has won four straight and now faces the toughest challenge of his career.
Round 1. Teixeira grabs a leg quickly but then lets it go and throws a hard hook to the chin. The now customary traveling Brazilian contingent chants for Teixeira. Teixeira takes the fight to the ground and works from half guard position. Te Huna works to get Teixeira into full guard. Teixeira lands a few punches and tries to move into side control. Te Huna uses that movement as an opportunity to stand up but Teixeira grabs a guillotine choke for the tap out.
Winner: Glover Teixeira, submission, round 1.
Gray Maynard vs. T.J. Grant
Maynard, the longtime lightweight contender, returns following a nearly one year hiatus due to injury. His only MMA loss came at the hands of Frank Edgar and almost all of his MMA wins are high quality. He is matched with the surging Grant, who has won four straight fights in impressive fashion. His most recent wins over Matt Wiman and Evan Dunham in particular turned heads. The winner of this contest could receive the next title shot at UFC lightweight champ Ben Henderson.
Round 1. Maynard comes out swinging with hard hooks. He connects with an uppercut and looks very comfortable with his hands. Maynard lands a nice short hook. Grant stuns Maynard with a straight right punch right up the midle. He then drops Maynard with the same punch moments later. He swarms on Maynard with a relentless attack until the fight is finally stopped.
Winner: T.J. Grant, TKO, round 1.
Donald Cerrone vs. K.J. Noons
The popular Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone is an exciting fighter to watch, with excellent striking and a tricky submission game. He needs a win after losing two of his last four including a knockout loss to Anthony Pettis. K.J. Noons is a boxing specialist who is making his UFC debut after years of fighting in EliteXC and Strikeforce. He has technically lost four of five, but his last loss to Ryan Couture was a terrible judges' decision.
Round 1. They exchange leg kicks and Cerrone hits a big knee to the head. Cerrone throws a head kick that grazes the head of Noons while Noons keeps working away with low kicks. Cerrone throws back some kicks to the leg and body of Noons. As the round progresses, Cerrone becomes a little more active with the leg kicks and Noons becomes a little less active. Cerrone throws a beautiful combination culminating in an excellent head kick that lands solidly on Noons. He lands another head kick late. 10-9 Cerrone.
Round 2. Cerrone gets Noons down and briefly looks for a choke. Noons escapes and returns to his feet. Noons lands a solid looping right punch to the chin of Cerrone. He lands a nice hook moments later. Noons has an issue with his eye and repeatedly wipes it. Noons connects with a quality hook but Cerrone answers back quickly with punches of his own. Noons runs in with a big knee to the body but Cerrone uses the opportunity to take Noons right down. Cerrone is in Noons' guard control but quickly moves into half guard. Cerrone drops down some punches and looks to pass into side control. Cerrone keeps working as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Cerrone.
Round 3. The pace is fast to start the third round, with Noons firing in a few leg kicks and hooks. Cerrone pulls Noons' head in and lands a hard knee. Noons starts walking down Cerrone and Cerrone switches levels and takes the fight to the ground. Cerrone is content to work from inside Noons' guard, throwing down punches. Noons answers with elbows from the bottom but doesn't have the leverage. Noons is bleeding badly. Noons tries to work his way back up but Cerrone keeps him down. Cerrone finally passes into side control in the final minute. Cerrone lands some hard punches from that position and the fight comes to an end. 10-9 Cerrone, 30-27 Cerrone.
Winner: Donald Cerrone, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26).
Mike Pyle vs. Rick Story
Pyle was a fighter who always was known to be tough and dangerous by his peers, but who didn't pick up the big wins on the big stage that would make him known to most fans. He is finally surging late in his career with wins in 6 of his last 7 over the likes of Ricardo Almeida, John Hathaway and Josh Neer. Story is a tough wrestler with wins over Thiago Alves, Johny Hendricks and Dustin Hazelett. However, he is looking to recover from 3 losses in his last 5 fights.
Round 1. Story very quickly takes Pyle to the mat. Pyle goes for an armbar but Story is able to get himself out of trouble and regain top position. Story uses some light punches and opens up when Pyle gets back up to his feet. Story hammers Pyle with some stiff overhands. Story throws some big punches and drops Pyle again. Story lands some more punches from the top looking to close the fight. Pyle is able to hang on and last the round. 10-9 Story.
Round 2. Story takes Pyle down again but Pyle grabs the arm and looks for a kimura submission. Story is able to get out of danger and prevent Pyle from extending his arm. Story then goes to work with ground and pound. Story isn't terribly active with strikes from the top but he maintains control and works over Pyle for the rest of the round. 10-9 Story.
Round 3. Pyle is more aggressive with his striking early, landing punches as well as throwing some kicks and knees from different angle. Story clinches but isn't able to get a takedown. Pyle opens up a cut near the eye of Story. He throws some nice elbows to the face of Story and Story clinches again. Story eats some elbows in the process. Story can't get a takedown and is hit with some hard knees from the clinch. They separate and Pyle takes over with punches that have Story really struggling. Story gets a desperately needed takedown with 45 seconds left in the round. Pyle looks for an armbar and rolls Story over. He looks to get a rear naked choke as the round comes to a close. 10-8 Pyle, 28-28 draw.
Winner: Mike Pyle, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Dennis Bermudez vs. Max Holloway
This is a clash of styles. Bermudez is a thick but diminutive wrestler while Holloway is a tall and lanky striker. Both are young fighters and Holloway is the youngest in the UFC.
Round 1. Bermudez looks to close the distance, employing a lot of movement and throwing punches from different angles. Holloway by contrast looks to tee off from range. Despite Holloway's reach advantage, Bermudez is able to connect more in the early going. Bermudez goes for a takedown with two minutes left in the round but it is defended. Holloway rocks Bermudez with a heavy spinning back kick to the head. Bermudez has to go to defense mode and clinches with Holloway. Bermudez regains his composure but eats a spinning back kick to the body. He lands another spinning kick to the head late. 10-9 Holloway.
Round 2. Bermudez goes for a takedown but Holloway takes his back and looks for a rear naked choke. Bermudez gets out but eats a kick to the head. Bermudez throws a few superman punches but has difficult getting in proper range. Bermudez knocks Holloway down with a leg kick and goes for a takedown but can't get it. Bermudez finally gets a takedown at the close of the round. 10-9 Holloway.
Round 3. Bermudez takes Holloway down. Holloway quickly gets back up. Bermudez lands a leg kick and punch to the body. Bermudez gets another takedown midway through the round but Holloway stands back up immediately. Holloway goes for a takedown of his own but cannot get it. Bermudez clinches and gets another takedown. Bermudez effectively lands a series of elbows for the remainder of the round. But he didn't make nearly enough of an effort to get the fight to the ground early and it cost him. 10-9 Bermudez, 29-28 Holloway.
Winner: Dennis Bermudez, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Colton Smith vs. Robert Whittaker
This is a battle between two of the least heralded tournament winners in Ultimate Fighter history. Smith is a rather dull wrestler who won the US version of the show and sports a 3-1 MMA record. Whittaker won the UK vs. Australia version of the show and is 10-2 for his career.
Round 1. Smith shoots for a takedown but Whittaker blocks it nicely. Smith lands a solid right punch. Whittaker shows little respect for Smith's standup, holding his lead hand down at his waist. Whittaker generally gets the best of the punching exchanges and punishes Smith when he goes in for a takedown. Smith pushes forward with punches trying to set up a takedown and he drops Whittaker with a right punch. Smith looks for a kimura but can't get it and they return to their feet to close the round. 10-9 Smith.
Round 2. Smith looks for a takedown and gets stunned with a counter hook. Smith charges forward desperately and eats a few more heavy punches. Smith again looks for a takedown but Whittaker is barely able to wiggle out of Smith's grip. Smith opens up with a few kicks but doesn't look as comfortable standing as Whittaker. Smith's eye is in bad shape from the accumulation of punches. Whittaker dazes Smith with a nice cross and Smith is bleeding badly. Whittaker lands a series of heavy uppercuts on the inside and really takes over in the closing minutes of the round. First round was close. The second was not. 10-9 Whittaker.
Round 3. As Smith recklessly charges in again, he gets caught with another counter hook that drops him. Whittaker follows with punches on the ground and the fight is stopped. That stoppage appeared to be a little premature but Smith was wobbly getting up.
Winner: Robert Whittaker, TKO, round 3.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Abel Trujillo
The 19-0 Nurmagomedov has looked good in his first three UFC wins and could be a threat in the deep UFC lightweight division. Trujillo looked impressive in his UFC debut, a victory over Marcus LeVesseur in December.
Round 1. Trujillo charges forward with straight punches on Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov is able to defend. Trujillo then charges forward in a similar manner but ducks down and takes Khabib down. Nurmagomedov looks for an armbar and secures top position. Trujillo stands up but is slammed back down. Trujillo stands up again and is slammed back down again. This process repeats itself another six or seven times, with Nurmagomedov taking Trujillo down over and over again. Finally in a scramble Trujillo takes top position but Nurmagomedov immediately looks to lock up a triangle choke submission. Nurmagomedov rolls over into a mounted triangle, choking Trujillo from top position. Nurmagomedov looks for an armbar but can't secure it. He retains the triangle while rolling over and the time in the round expires. 10-8 Nurmagomedov.
Round 2. Nurmagomedov looks to take the fight to the ground but Trujillo stops it and swings for the fences with a few powerful hooks. One lands and does some serious damage but most miss. Nurmagomedov fires back and looks to take the fight back down to the ground. Nurmagomedov pulls Trujillo down and takes his back with a body triangle. Nurmagomedov can't quite lock it up and Trujillo gets free from the potentially hazardous position. Trujillo tries to stand up but is taken back down. In a scramble, Trujillo briefly gets the advantageous mount position but Nurmagomedov immediately gets out and takes top position. Nurmagomedov continues riding Trujillo for the remainder of the round. Trujillo is game but he can't deal with Nurmagomedov's control. 10-9 Nurmagomedov.
Round 3. Trujillo lunges forward with a hook but Nurmagomedov grabs a clinch and takes Trujillo back down to the mat. Trujillo tries to get back up but Nurmagomedov just holds onto his back and won't let him up. Finally, Trujillo rolls around and just allows Nurmagomedov to take top position inside Trujillo's guard. Trujillo stands up again and the process from the first round repeats itself, with Trujillo repeatedly standing up and then getting slammed right back down by Nurmagomedov. The fight mercifully comes to an end. 10-9 Nurmagomedov, 30-26 Nurmagomedov.
Winner: Khabib Nurmagomedov, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
In preliminary action, Jeremy Stephens scored a unanimous decision victory in a bloody contest against Estevan Payan. George Roop recovered from a tough first round to score a TKO win in the second over Brian Bowles. And Stephen Thompson used his unique karate style to pick up a judges' decision over Nah-Shon Burrell.