UFC

Belfort KO's Henderson

Vitor Belfort reacts after knocking out Dan Henderson
Vitor Belfort stole the show and became the first man to ever knock out Dan Henderson.
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Mike Chiappetta

Mike Chiappetta has documented the fast-growing sport of mixed martial arts since 2006 for news organizations including SB Nation, NBCSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, AOL and ESPN. He appears regularly as an analyst on countless television shows and radio programs, including CBS Radio and MMA Beat. Follow him on Twitter.

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Another fight, another head-kick knockout from Vitor Belfort. After pulling the trick against Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping, he scored another notable one for his considerable highlight reel, becoming the first man ever to finish Dan Henderson on strikes.

The finish took just 77 seconds, sending the crowd of 10,565 in Goiania, Brazil into hysterics. The crowd serenaded the Brazilian Belfort with the Portuguese chant of “The champ is back” as he reveled in their adulation.

Afterward, UFC president Dana White told FOX Sports that Belfort, who fought Henderson at light heavyweight Saturday night, is likely to next fight for the UFC middleweight championship, although he acknowledged there are other possibilities with the division boasting talents including champ Chris Weidman, all-time great Anderson Silva, and new arrival Lyoto Machida, who is moving down from light heavyweight.

“Holy f---ing s---,” White said just moments after the KO. “I kept looking at Lorenzo going ‘Wow!’ There are big things coming for Vitor Belfort for sure.”

“Silva vs. Weidman is going to be huge, and whoever wins is going to fight Belfort unless something crazy happens or someone gets hurt,” he continued.

After a short feeling-out process in the UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson main event, the American Henderson came forward with three overhand rights which all missed the target. As he uncorked the last one, Belfort countered with a precisely timed left uppercut that appeared to lift Henderson off his feet before dropping him to his back.

That alone was a stunning visual, but what followed was even more shocking.

Belfort pounced, looking for the finish on the ground. Henderson tried to slow him by throwing up an armbar attempt but Belfort continued the assault until Henderson managed to scramble to his feet.

As Henderson attempted to cover up, Belfort unleashed a left high kick that found its mark, knocking Henderson out for the first time in his long and great career. It is the first time in UFC history a fighter has had three straight head kick knockouts, and netted Belfort another $50,000 Knockout of the Night bonus, his third straight award.

“It’s a great feeling,” Belfort said. “The times that we train, the things that we do, the sacrifices. You guys don’t imagine the things we go through, especially me, 36 years old. I’m a new man. I reinvented myself with dedication. It’s a lot of dedication to do something like that. I did something nobody ever did. Of course, my coaches and my team are very happy with the performance. I’m very thankful with my age, to have the capabilities of doing it with this intensity.”

Belfort, who’s won five of his last six, is now 24-10.

An uncertain future awaits Henderson, who has lost three straight fights for the first time in his career and just completed the last bout on his current UFC contract. The veteran is 29-11.

Henderson went to the hospital for precautionary reasons after the fight, although he walked out of the arena on his own power. Before he left, he took the opportunity to speak with White backstage and told him he would like to remain with the company and continue competing. At 43 years old and with a losing streak, he is in a tough negotiating position, something he noted earlier this week when the prospect of an extension was brought up.

“He still wants to fight here,” White told FOX Sports. “We’ll see what’s up. We have to sit down and talk. I like Dan. We’ll have to see where he’s at and we’re at.”

Meanwhile, at 36, Belfort is rejuvenated, and looking at a possible title fight with either Weidman or Silva. If it’s the latter, White said the UFC would consider hosting it at a soccer stadium in Brazil.

“First of all, as a fighter we can’t have preferences. We have to fight whoever is the champ. That’s my purpose,” Belfort said. “This is something I was able to get through a lot of hard work from my team and myself. Now I have to wait for the champion and stick to my diet.”

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