LAS VEGAS — Cain Velasquez needed more than 64 seconds.
The end result was just as impressive.
Velasquez pounded Junior dos Santos throughout a five-round bout and reclaimed the heavyweight title with a unanimous decision victory (50-45, 50-43, 50-44) at UFC 155 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday.
“I knew I was going to come back stronger,” Velasquez said in the post-fight broadcast interview.
Dos Santos wrested the belt from Velasquez 13 months ago at UFC on FOX 1 in a bout that lasted only a little more than a minute. It was later made public later that Velasquez entered that bout with a knee injury that limited his mobility.
A healthy Velasquez was the aggressor, shooting for dos Santos’ leg repeatedly early in the bout. But it was his punching power — something that dos Santos is more known for — that did the damage, starting with an overhand right that stumbled dos Santos in the first round.
“He’s a tough dude,” Velasquez said. “I knew that Junior was a tough striker and he was able to end our last fight that way, so I was prepared for him this time. I was able to effectively use my striking and my grappling to control him throughout the fight and get the title back.”
Velasquez continued combinations and even a timely kick to batter dos Santos’s face, which was fully swollen by the end of the fight. Dos Santos was wobbly at times, but persevered. “Velasquez is a tough opponent,” said dos Santos. “His grappling is great and tonight his striking was great as well. Congratulations to him on his victory.”
And if you listen to the now former champ, this rivalry will become a trilogy.
“Cain Velasquez, like you said, I’m going to come back and take my belt again,” dos Santos said.
It’s not clear how long it will be before there is a rematch. Dos Santos was transported to an area hospital following the fight, but his stay was short. He was released with no serious injuries, UFC spokesman Dave Sholler told FOXSports.com.
Besides dos Santos’ health, another factor will be how the top of the division will be viewed if Alistair Overeem impresses against Antonio Silva at UFC 156 in February.
In other action, Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller put on arguably one of the better — and inarguably the bloodiest — fights of the night, with Miller winning the bout by decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28). Miller gained a huge advantage when one of his punches opened a circular cut above Lauzon’s right eye in the first round.
Blood began to pour into his eye and then onto Miller and the mat.
Lauzon, however, began to rally late in the second round and had Miller in a leglock, a hold Lauzon was unable to fully secure. The comeback continued in the third round with the crowd on Lauzon’s side as his face sustained more cuts.
“Joe Lauzon is a tough kid,” Miller said. “I knew I was going to have to bring my best effort to put him away and I was never able to. That’s how good he is on the ground.”
Middleweight Costa Philippou proved to be an apt replacement fighter as he beat Tim Boetsch with a third-round TKO. Boetsch seemed to have the advantage until he took a poke to the eye in the second round, which led to a stoppage as the ringside doctor evaluated Boetsch.
Once cleared, Boetsch’s vision problems continued as three cuts to his face spewed blood into his eyes before the stoppage, 2:11 into the third round, as Philippou pounded away en route to his fifth UFC victory in a row. Philippou was tapped last month to replace teammate Chris Weidman, who injured his shoulder in training.
In a largely listless opening to the main card, Derek Brunson earned a unanimous decision victory over Chris Leben (29-28, 29-28, 29-28). Brunson, a former Strikeforce fighter, appeared gassed after an active second round and basically ran the clock out in the third to win his UFC debut.
The middleweight fight between Yushin Okami and Alan Belcher was similarly light on action and the fighters had to be brought back to the center of the Octagon twice after it turned into a stalemated wrestling match. Okami, who didn’t have Belcher in trouble until he pounded Belcher in the head from the mount during the closing seconds, won the bout in a unanimous decision, 30-27, 30-27, 29-28.
Mexican Erik Perez had the lone stoppage of the preliminaries that aired live on FX, adding to his impressive — albeit young — UFC career. He floored Byron Bloodworth early in the first round with a knee and continued to pound Bloodworth with fists and elbows before the fight was stopped with 1:10 left.
With that TKO victory, the bantamweight has won his three UFC bouts with first-round stoppages. Adding to his impressive run was his showmanship as he entered and exited the Octagon in a luchador mask. He even conducted the post-fight interview with the Mexican wrestling mask on, a first for UFC commentator Joe Rogan.
“It made me proud to hear all the Mexican fans and all the other UFC fans cheering for me when I walked out, and then especially when I won,” Perez said. “I would love to make a run at the title (next) year, but I am happy to do whatever the UFC asks for my next fight.”
In a bout delayed two weeks because Jamie Varner was not cleared to fight because of an illness at “The Ultimate Fighter” finale, Varner earned a split decision win over Melvin Guillard (30-27, 30-27, 27-30). Varner closed the fight out with a reverse piledriver, although Guillard recovered and nearly choked out Varner before the fight ended.
“After what happened a few weeks ago at the TUF Finale event, we were both ready to compete. I knew we would eventually get in the Octagon and squash our beef and I definitely feel that we did,” said Varner, who had words with Guillard at Friday’s weigh-in.
Eddie Wineland, in a fight which went the distance, beat Brad Pickett, also by a split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-27). And in the first prelim on FX, Myles Jury eased to a unanimous decision over Michael Johnson (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).