Vitor Belfort continued his incredible 2013 on Saturday, becoming the first man to knock out Dan Henderson, doing so in spectacular fashion. With three consecutive knockout wins this year, "The Phenom" is knocking on the door of a title shot once again.
In the co-main event, Belfort’s protege Cezar "Mutante" Ferreira scored a wrestling-heavy unanimous decision win over TUF: Brazil rival Daniel Sarafian.
On a night full of knockouts and impressive finishes, Belfort capped the night in spectacular and fitting fashion.
Vitor Belfort (23-10) vs. Dan Henderson (29-10)
Dan Miragliotta with the main event assignment.
Southpaw for Belfort as always. Henderson with the right hand loaded next to his cheek, as always, coming forward. Belfort circling into the power hand, but in space. Zero strikes thrown through the first minute. Henderson comes in, and Belfort puts him on the floor. Not sure if it was a slip, but Belfort pounces right away, unloading shots. Henderson tries to stand and Belfort blasts him with kick, and Miragliotta dives in for the stoppage! Vitor Belfort is obliterating people, and becomes the first man to stop Dan Henderson.
Official Result: Vitor Belfort defeats Dan Henderson by Knockout (Kick) at 1:17 of Round 1.
Analysis: Another devastating finish from Belfort, and against a veteran who had not been stopped by strikes in 39 previous fights. With three consecutive knockout wins, Belfort should be in line for a title shot now, unless Anderson Silva regains the middleweight title to set up a trilogy bout with Chris Weidman next month.
Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira (6-2) vs. Daniel Sarafian (8-3)
Mario Yamasaki handles the officiating responsibilities in this middleweight affair.
They touch and Sarafian comes forward quickly. Mutante dwarfs his opponent here, but it’s Sarafian into the clinch along the fence. Sarafian trying to get the takedown, but Mutante keeps it vertical. Lacing the leg, Sarafian still can’t complete. Tries again on the other side, but Yamasaki breaks them before he can work to complete. Right hand lands coming in for Sarafian. Mutante times his entry, looking for the takedown, but he can’t complete either. Backed into the cage at the halfway point. Sarafian looking for the guillotine, drops to the ground with it, but he’s on the wrong side and against the cage. Mutante out, Sarafian up, two minutes left. Mutante backs out the center, fires off a body kick, then one low, then tries high, the first two landing. Left hand for Mutante stepping in. Clinched along the cage again, knee to the body for Mutante. Short elbow from Mutante, just misses with the uppercut. Body kick from Sarafian coming in, just misses with the right. Right hand lands for Sarafian, follows in, get hit with a left. High kick for Mutante at the horn.
10-9 Mutante – Sarafian was coming forward, but Mutante landed the better blows of the opening round.
Inside kick for Sarafian, twice. Spinning attack from Mutante, but Sarafian closes the distance. Powerful double leg from Mutante 30 seconds in, landing in half guard. Sarafian looking to power out with a half guard sweep, but shut down. Not a lot of activity from Mutante here, Sarafian looking for space. Call for action from Yamasaki. Full guard. Mutante postures up, Sarafian follows him to the feet off a back roll. Right hand from Sarafian lands clean. Big left hook connects as well. Takedown again for Mutante, and the fans boo. Half guard. Two minutes left. Elbows to the thigh from Mutante. Warning from Yamasaki. Sarafian looking to sweep his way up to his feet, can’t. Mutante looking for the arm triangle, but he’s on the wrong side. Yamasaki stands them up. Not sure why. Sarafian coming forward. Left hand glances for Mutante with Sarafian coming in, looking for the takedown. 10 seconds. Horn!
10-9 Mutante, 20-18 Mutante through Round 2 – Sarafian landed the biggest single shot of the frame, but the two takedowns and control on the ground win the frame for Mutante, who was working towards something when Yamasaki stood them up.
Sarafian coming forward, blasts a right down the pipe. Left hand, left kick from Mutante. Spinning attempt again from Mutante, but Sarafian takes his back from him. Two-piece from Sarafian lands hard, but Mutante eats it. Mutante times a takedown well, completing into half guard, looking to mount. More activity here from Mutante, with short punches, shoulder strikes. Mutante pinning Sarafian against the corner, landing small punches. Sarafian trying to sit up, but Mutante puts him right back down. Warning from Yamasaki, boos from the crowd. Up they come. Mutante drives through another takedown right away. The crowd doesn’t like it, but it’s working. Mutante around to Sarafian’s back, one hook in. Sarafian trying to stand. One minute left, Mutante backpacking Sarafian here. Sarafian defending well, Mutante landing small punches. Now working on the rear naked choke, but it’s on the chin. 10 seconds. Sarafian survives, and the horn sounds.
10-9 Mutante, 30-27 Mutante overall for me.
Official Result: Cezar "Mutante" Ferreira defeats Daniel Sarafian by Split Decision (28-29, 30-27, 30-28)
Analysis: The crowd didn’t like it, but I really did – takedowns and wrestling are usually areas we see Brazilians struggle, and if Mutante is adding it to his repertoire, he’ll be even more dangerous going forward. He’s massive for the weight class, and has shown power in the past, so the threat of takedowns adds another wrinkle. That’s three straight for the Vitor Belfort protege, who should get a reasonable step up in competition next time out.
Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante (11-4) vs. Igor Pokrajac (25-10)
Kevin MacDonald joins the light heavyweights in the cage.
They touch and we’re started. Pokrajac forward hard out of the gate and these two are swinging heavy leather. Feijao backed into the fence. Inside knee from Feijao. Knees to the thigh from Pokrajac. Thai clinch knees from Feijao and Pokrajac is covering up and slowly falling to the canvas. Big rights and Pokjarac is finished.
Official Result: Rafael Cavalcante defeats Igor Pokrajac by TKO (Strikes) at 1:18 of Round 1.
Analysis: This is the best "Feijao" has looked in a long while and it couldn’t have come at a better time. After a bad showing in his UFC debut, this was the kind of powerful striking performance that made Cavalcante a champion in Strikeforce and a dangerous out earlier in this career. If he can reproduce this kind of performance consistently going forward, he could be a dark horse contender in 2014.
Paulo Thiago (15-5) vs. Brandon Thatch (10-1)
Dan Miragliotta is your referee for this welterweight contest.
Touch of hands and we’re started. Southpaw for Thatch, who offers a high kick. Uppercut coming in for Thatch glances. Thiago offers a right hand, blocked, but gets the takedown briefly along the cage. Thatch back up, knee to the body in the clinch. Thiago with the body lock, knee inside. High knee from Thatch, and it’s turning into the kind of clinch fight Thatch enjoys. Thiago defending and avoiding well, looking for the judo trip. Back in the clinch, Thatch blasts Thiago with a knee to the body, and the Brazilian drops to the ground, tapping right away.
Official Result: Brandon Thatch defeats Paulo Thiago by Submission (Strikes) at 2:10 of Round 1.
Analysis: Another fight, another first-round finish for Brandon Thatch, this time with a brutal step knee to the body. With a second consecutive finish, this time against an experienced veteran, we should see "Rukus" facing Top 20 competition next time out.
Ryan LaFlare (8-0) vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio (18-1)
Mario Yamasaki has the assignment.
They touch and we’re under way. Southpaw for LaFlare, eats a kick to the body. Tried to catch and dump, but couldn’t. Superman punch lands for LaFlare. Body kick again for Ponzinibbio, caught, and LaFlare uses it for the takedown. Right into mount just a minute in. Left hand lands, Ponzinibbio scoots to guard, butterflies in. Elevates LaFlare and gets up, but LaFlare stays after him, and keeps it on the ground. Climbs through to mount again, this time along the cage. Ponzinibbio tries to buck, but not happening. Elbows from LaFlare, looking at the arm triangle. Ponzinibbio kicks off the cage, but still can’t shake LaFlare. LaFlare working for an armbar, Ponzinibbio escapes and now he’s on the offensive. Ponzinibbio takes the back, LaFlare spins, and lands in top position. 90 seconds left. Ponzinibbio kicks LaFlare off, eats a left. High kick offered by Ponzinibbio, but LaFlare runs through for another takedown. One minute. LaFlare postures, comes in behind hands that miss. Ponzinibbio kicks free and stands. 30 seconds. Uppercut lands for LaFlare.
10-9 LaFlare – had the potential to be a 10-8 round if he did more damage with the takedowns, but he clearly controlled from start to finish.
Body kick from LaFlare blocked. Again. Again. Outside leg kicks for each man. Ponzinibbio kicks up the middle, caught, and misses with the spinning attempt. LaFlare offers high with a kick that misses. Good level change for LaFlare on the takedown, working through to the back position. Ponzinibbio tries to stand, but LaFlare stays tight. Along the cage, they stand, and LaFlare lands two knees to the body. Body shot from the Long Islander. Ponzinibbio stuffs the takedown. Body kick from LaFlare blocked. Two down. Ponzinibbio looks tired, throwing just single shots. 1-2 lands for LaFlare. Again. Outside leg kick, left follows. Halfway home. Ponzinibbio missing with hands, LaFlare glancing with counters. Uppercut from Ponzinibbio lands, coming forward now with combinations, and LaFlare is retreating. LaFlare throwing in return, but Ponzinibbio still aggressive. Body kick from LaFlare as the pace slows again. 1-2 lands and allows LaFlare to circle to the center. Double leg from LaFlare, right into half guard. One minute. Looking for mount, ends up in half guard on the other side. Body shots from LaFlare through to the horn.
10-9 LaFlare, 20-18 LaFlare through Round 2 – Ponzinibbio had a short stretch of output, but LaFlare landed some solid counters in there, and controlled the rest of the frame. Riding out the end of the round on top, landing shots to the body works in his favor too.
LaFlare out quickly, looking fresh. Ponzinibbio not so much. Body kick for LaFlare. Eye poke stops things briefly, but we’re back. Body kick again for LaFlare. Inside leg kick for Ponzinibbio, who is back to throwing single shots. LaFlare offers high with a kick, blocked, but inside low lands. Body kick for Ponzinibbio. Again. Countered by LaFlare. Ponzinibbio attempts the spinning back kick, LaFlare catches him mid-spin and dumps him on the canvas, landing in side control. LaFlare with a knee to the body. Elbow from the top. Again. And one to the body. Ponzinibbio turns to give up his back, rolls through again, and LaFlare buries a knee into his chest along the cage. Ponzinibbio is gassed, LaFlare keeps putting it on him. Big knee drops Ponzinibbio as he’s coming forward, LaFlare pounces. Big shots from the top, knees to the body. Left elbow thuds home. Ponzinibbio gets back up, LaFlare stays on him. Back to the center with a minute left. Left hook from Ponzinibbio stagger LaFlare. Ponzinibbio comes in, LaFlare with the omoplata reversal into side control. Elbows to the body to finish, and the horn blows.
10-9 LaFlare, 30-27 LaFlare overall.
Official Result: Ryan LaFlare defeats Santiago Ponzinibbio by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Analysis: Relentless effort from Long Island’s LaFlare as he gets his second UFC win. Excellent level changes and timing on his takedowns, and the knee midway through the third was pretty/nasty. He took a couple big shots and need to tighten up on the defensive side, but on the whole, walking into hostile territory and sweeping the scorecards is impressive.
Rony Jason (13-3) vs. Jeremy Stephens (21-9)
Kevin MacDonald has the duties for the main card opener.
Stephens takes the center as they touch gloves. Flying knee entry from Jason, follows with an uppercut. Stephens stalking. Lead hook from Stephens, Jason misses the right hand. HUGE KICK FROM STEPHENS AND JASON IS OUT!
Official Result: Jeremy Stephens defeats Rony Jason by Knockout (Kick) at 0:40 of Round 1.
Analysis: Damn – that was an explosive and quick finish from Stephens, who how has a pair of very impressive performances since moving to the featherweight division. That is the kind of statement win that gets you noticed and moved up the divisional ranks in a hurry.
Godofredo Pepey (9-2) vs. Sam Sicilia (11-3)
Dan Miragliotta is the third man in the cage for this featherweight fight.
No touch for these two. High kick offered by Pepey to start. Overhand fastball from Pepey misses. Sicilian walking him down, Pepey in on a takedown. Sicilian defending, ends up on top along the cage. Elbow in tight lands for Sicilia. Stands out, pushing the legs away. Into the guard, big right lands for Sicilia. Upkicks from Pepey. Sicilia in on big right hand, and Pepey is hurt. Follow ups landing hard, and this one is done. Big win for Sam Sicilia.
Official Result: Sam Sicilia defeats Godofredo Pepey by TKO (Strikes) at 1:42 of Round 1.
Analysis: Important victory for Sicilia who levels his record at 2-2 in the UFC. He has legit power in the featherweight ranks, and showed a great ability to get to where he wanted to be in this fight and unload.
Thiago Perpetuo (9-1-1) vs. Omari Ahkmedov (11-0)
Referee Kevin MacDonad joins the middleweights in the cage.
Tentative touch to start. Right hand for Perpetuo lands early, Ahkmedov counters with an outside leg kick. Ahkmendov coming in, gets clipped and dropped. Perpetuo dropping heavy shots looking to finish, but Ahkmedov scrambling, looking to avoid the finish. Hits the takedown, but Perpetuo back up, back on the cage. Crazy start to this one. Inside knee, and Perpetuo complaining it was low, no stoppage. Breaking off the cage, Perpetuo lands another big shot, staggering Ahkmedov, who charges in for a takedown in defense. Gets the takedown, and takes Perpetuo’s back, hooks in, sinking in the rear naked choke. Perpetuo escapes, but Ahkmedov still on his back. Perpetuo spins out and stands, dumping Ahkmedov on the canvas. Into side control, Perpetuo stands looking for the headlock. Can get it, but Perpetuo lands another right coming off the fence. Perpetuo chasing Ahkmedov across the cage and eats a short right on the chin. Staggered, another big shot lands from Ahkmedov and Perpetuo is out! Crazy fight!
Official Result: Omari Ahkmedov defeats Thiago Perpetuo by Knockout (Uppercut) at 3:31 of Round 1.
Analysis: This was a gritty (albeit sloppy) performance from Ahkmedov, who ate a bunch of big shots, but managed to survive and get the finish. There are pieces that you certainly like – his chin, the takedown into back mount, the finish – and it will be interesting to see how much Ahkmedov can improve and clean up his game in the future.
Thiago Tavares (17-5-1) vs. Justin Salas (11-4)
Tavares and Salas share the cage with referee Dan Miragliotta.
Touch of gloves and we’re started. Southpaw for Salas. Body kick from Tavares to start. Tavares ducks in, sprawl from Salas. Tavares on his back, Salas standing over him, kicking the legs. Tavares is called up by the ref, and he’s looking to land heavy rights. Combo lands in close for the Brazilian. Collar ties, and both land inside. Takedown for Tavares along the cage, scooping Salas up, walking him to the center, and slamming him into the canvas. Half guard for Tavares, landing short punches from the top. Two down. Tavares trying to fish for a choke, back elbow inside lands for Salas. Tavares around to the back, both hooks in. Left hands to the head, Tavares slips the arm under the chin, and sinks in the choke. Salas taps, Tavares celebrates, and the crowd erupts!
Official Result: Thiago Tavares defeats Justin Salas by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:38 of Round 1.
Analysis: This was a very strong showing from Tavares, a fighter that has always had promise but struggled to find consistency in the UFC cage. He looked tremendous here, hitting the big takedown on the wrestler Salas, and quickly finding the finish. Now the key will be repeating this effort next time out.
Daron Cruickshank (13-3) vs. Adriano Martins (24-6)
Mario Yamasaki shares the Octagon with these lightweights.
Touch of gloves and we’re started. Southpaw for Martins. Inside leg kick for Cruickshank. Jab to the body backs up Martins. High kick from Cruickshank, followed to the body. Martins crashing forward with a left hand. Inside leg kick lands for the Brazilian. 90 seconds in. Martins stalking. Cruickshank offering high again, misses. Left hand down the pipe drops Cruickshank. Martins pounces, but Cruickshank recovers and gets up. Halfway point of the round. Body jab again from Cruickshank. Right hook followed by another solid left from Martins. Spinning backfist misses for Cruickshank. Left to the body for Martins. Another quick left lands for Martins, and Cruickshank drops to the ground, pulling Martins into guard. One minute. Martins threatening with the kimura, sits down to switch for an armbar. Cruickshank breaks the hold, escapes, and he’s back on bottom in half guard. Martins working the body, looks for the kimura again, loses it. 10 seconds. Body shots from the top for Martins at the horn.
10-9 Martins – he’s a massive lightweight, and his power has stunted everything Cruickshank has tried. Very good first five minutes in the UFC for the Brazilian.
Side kick from Cruickshank to start. Tries to go high, caught by Martins, who uses it to dump Cruickshank on the canvas, inside full guard along the cage. Elbow over the top from Martins glances. Cruickshank trying to tie Martins up, but the Brazilian steps through into half guard. Martins to the body, and once again to the kimura attempt. Cruickshank sits up against the cage to defend. Short rights inside from Martins. Turns Cruickshank off the fence, still looking for the kimura. Martins grabs it, straights out for the straight armbar, and Cruickshank taps.
Official Result: Adriano Martins defeats Daron Cruickshank by Submission (Kimura) at 2:49 of Round 2.
Analysis: Dominant performance for Martins in his debut, using his size and power advantage to control Cruickshank throughout, and get the submission midway through the second. With the number of events on tap for Brazil next year, you’re going to see plenty more of the veteran going forward, and he has the skill set to be a tough out in the middle tier of the lightweight division.
Jose Maria Tome (33-4) vs. Dustin Ortiz (11-2)
The flyweights are joined in the cage by referee Kevin MacDonald.
Touch of gloves and we’re underway. Tome just misses with a spinning backfist to start. Follows with a spinning back kick attempt. Inside leg kick lands for Tome. Overhand right misses, but Tome drives through a double leg, putting Ortiz on the canvas, slipping around to his back. Ortiz climbs back to his feet, and breaks wrist control along the cage, facing up with Tome. Body lock takedown for Tome, but Ortiz is back up quickly. Ortiz turns off the cage, lands a knee, and we’re back to the center. Two down, three to go. Inside leg kick for Ortiz. 1-2-1 lands for Ortiz, stopping Tome in his tracks momentarily. Inside knee from Ortiz lands low, and time is called. Tome adjusts his cup, shakes it off, and we’re back at it. Charging outside leg kicks from Tome land hard. Overhand left lands as well. Tome in on a single, stuffed by Ortiz. Underhooks for the newcomer, driving Tome into the fence. Awkward takedown attempt, and Ortiz moves around to Tome’s back with the Brazilian turtled defensively on the canvas. Tome tries to roll out, Ortiz into back control, but can’t get hooks. Tome turns into guard, and gets back to his feet. One minute. Outside leg kick for Tome. Ortiz with a level-change for the takedown, but leaves his neck out. Tome grabs the arm-in guillotine. In closed guard, trying to squeeze out the win. Horn goes, Ortiz survives, but that swings the round in Tome’s favor.
10-9 Tome – it was a fairly close frame as they traded takedowns, but the late submission attempt tilts the scores towards the Brazilian.
Another spinning backfist attempt to start Round 2 from Tome. Outside leg kick buckles Ortiz’ lead leg. Body kick for Ortiz. Tome looking for the bomb, lands a big leg kick inside. Ortiz keeping it technical, sticks a jab. Swinging right just misses, but the left clips him on the follow. Ortiz with a 1-2-1 that lands. Inside leg kick lands low and Tome is once again recovering from a shot in the pills. Time is called. Another warning from MacDonald for Ortiz. Tome ready to go, and we start up again. Inside leg kick from Tome. Again. Spinning back kick misses. Inside leg kick, and Ortiz shoots. Tome stuffs, they’re back up. Kicks inside and outside for Ortiz. Overhand right winging from Tome, misses. Outside leg kick lands heavy. Right hand for Ortiz in close. Kick from Tome, caught, but Ortiz slips on the takedown attempt. Along the cage, Tome kicks out Ortiz’ foot for the takedown, Ortiz switches, and Tome scurries to the center. Outside leg kick for Tome. Right hand for Ortiz coming in, hits the body lock takedown, landing in side control. Ortiz looking to pin the near arm. Knees to the body for the American. Tome shrimps out as Ortiz looks to mount, back up, eats a knee for his troubles. Tome stuffs a takedown and once again sinks in an arm-in guillotine. Horn sounds again, and we’re off to the third.
10-9 Ortiz, 19-19 through Round 2 – Ortiz landed the cleaner of the strikes in that round, and did more with his takedowns. Should be all square, but could very easily see that round being awarded to Tome.
Both out to the center quickly, inside knee in the clinch from Ortiz. Can’t hit the trip, and they’re trading knees in close. Double underhooks for Ortiz, who uses it to score the takedown into side control. Elbow from the top for Ortiz. Combos body-head from Ortiz. Tome gets back to guard with butterflies in. Ortiz climbs to side control on the other side. Half mount for Ortiz, landing punches. Elbow lands as well, Tome with nothing from the body here, clearly tired. Mount for Ortiz, and he’s dropping short elbows. Tome rolls to his side, and now to his back. Tries to roll through, but Ortiz stays with him, ending in side control. Two minutes left. Tome trying to escape, rolls to his side and now his knees. Ortiz unloading, MacDonald asks Tome to fight back, Ortiz continues pounding, and the ref steps in.
Official Result: Dustin Ortiz defeats Jose Maria Tome by Technical Knockout (Strikes) at 3:19 of Round 3.
Analysis: After a shaky start, Ortiz gets comfortable and scores a very good win in his UFC debut. He’s a talented, young addition to the flyweight ranks, and has a promising future going forward.