Ready for Velasquez-JDS III?
Begin the countdown for Cain Velasquez-Junior dos Santos III.
Both heavyweights prevailed with knockouts at UFC 160 — Velasquez over Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the main event, and dos Santos over Mark Hunt in the co-main —inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night.
“If there’s ever a trilogy, that’s it right there,” UFC president Dana White said. “If you look at the way both fights went: Junior destroys (Velasquez) in the first fight, Cain destroys him in the second fight. I can’t wait to see the third fight.”
White called the rematch “a no-brainer” and added he’d expect to happen before December.
“That makes sense, definitely,” Velasquez said.
Added dos Santos: “My next fight will be for the title and that’s what I want. I believe so much I can stay on top of the division for a long time.”
Velasquez — who reclaimed the title with a decision over dos Santos in December — needed all of 81 seconds to defend the belt for the first time in his career.
He set up a devastating, overhand right with a quick left jab. Silva crumpled and the referee stepped in to stop the bout shortly thereafter.
Silva — who lost by a first-round TKO to Velasquez on the same holiday weekend last year — felt referee Mario Yamasaki erred in two ways late in the short fight. First, he didn’t penalize Velasquez for what he said were multiple illegal blows to the back of the neck. Second, Yamasaki halted the fight too fast.
“The same thing that applies to athletes who do something wrong or illegal should also apply to referees,” Silva said through an interpreter. “They, too, should be penalized.”
Velasquez said he connected with Silva’s ear, so his punches were legal.
Dos Santos held up his end of the deal with a third-round KO of Hunt in a crowd-pleasing slugfest in the co-main event. The bout earned each a $50,000 the Fight of the Night bonus.
Most of the dos Santos-Hunt match was fought toe-to-toe and in a brief stretch went to the ground. Boos rattled around the arena.
“When the fans were booing I (wasn’t) thinking (to) take it easy,” dos Santos said.
Dos Santos knocked down Hunt with an overhand right in the first round similar to what allowed him to claim the heavyweight belt the first time he fought Velasquez. But unlike in the Velasquez bout, Hunt bounced right back up.
Hunt had dos Santos in a bit of trouble in the second round against the cage after a left hook, but dos Santos persevered and entered the third round in the lead. Dos Santos didn’t coast as he leveled an overhand left to the face of Hunt, whose nose had already been bloodied by constant jabs.
Dos Santos finished Hunt with 42 seconds left in the third round with a spinning kick.
“I had never had the confidence to try a spinning kick like that before in a fight,” dos Santos said. “When I did it and it worked, it was amazing!"
Hunt was transported to an area hospital. White said he didn’t have an update on Hunt’s condition.
TJ Grant used one straight, right punch against Gray Maynard to vault him into a title shot against lightweight champ Benson Henderson. (White said the fight would happen afterward.) Grant stumbled Maynard with the first-round strike. Grant pounced and landed several more punches before the fight was stopped.
“This is like a dream come true, but the dream isn’t over yet,” said Grant, who earned the KO of the Night bonus. “There is still work to do. I knew if I left it all out there, the fans would love it. I wasn’t necessarily looking for the knockout. I was just looking to connect to the face."
White said last month that the winner of the bout would become the No. 1 contender.
There’s no guaranteed title shot for light heavyweight Glover Teixeira, but he remained unstoppable. He used a guillotine choke to submit James Te Huna in the first round as Teixeira ran his winning streak to 19 fights.
But it seemed that Teixeira — who earned the Submission of the Night bonus — was more excited about meeting boxing legend Mike Tyson, who was seated cageside.
“I saw him today and yesterday (at the weigh-in),” a beaming Teixeira said in the post-fight broadcast interview. “I watched all of his highlights before I came (out) here.”
Donald Cerrone dominated K.J. Noons — who was making his UFC debut — en route to a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26). One judge gave Cerrone a 10-8 advantage in the third round.
“I was kind of in a scramble mode at first and strayed away from my game plan,” Cerrone said. “(Coach) Greg (Jackson) got me back on track after that first round. I just hope I gave a good performance for the fans. That kid is tough.”
The final two fights on the undercard broadcast on FX were decided by close — if not controversial — decisions.
Dennis Bermudez, a 3-1 favorite in his featherweight fight against Max Holloway, won by split decision 29-28, 28-29, 29-28. Holloway pushed the action for much of the fight and was the more accurate striker, according to FightMetric.com.
“I feel sometimes I get lucky,” Bermudez said. “I don’t know why I have to take a punch sometimes to come alive in a fight. I’ve trained hard and my striking coach wants me to drop the guys I’m working with and not just let them up. I think that attitude came through in this fight.”
Mike Pyle won by the same score in his welterweight bout against Rick Story.
Pyle appeared to be all but done as the clock ticked down in the first round. Story landed a left cross square to the chin of Pyle, who fell to the mat and managed to wait out the clock.
Pyle began his rally in the second round, using his elbows and fists to soften a tiring Story. Pyle also was solid on the ground, where a good portion of the rest of the match was fought.
“I should have never let it go to judges,” Pyle said. “I’m not happy with my performance. I got hit too much in the first round, but I feel I did get more technically sound as the fight went on. Can’t wait to get back out there.”
Also on the undercard, Khabib Nurmagomedov — who was fined 20 percent of his purse for missing weight on Friday — landed a record 21 takedowns in a unanimous victory (30-27 on all cards) over Abel Trujillo. Sean Sherk (16 in a five-found fight) previously had the overall record, while Luigi Fioravanti (13) had the three-round mark.
Ultimate Fighter Season 16 winner Colton Smith fell in his first fight since the TUF Finale as TUF Smashes winner Robert Whittaker earned a third-round TKO.
In the opening fight of the night, Jeremy Stephens brutalized Estevan Payan in ways that can only be explained by checking out the fight gallery.
Bonuses of $50,000 each went to Junior dos Santos and Mark Hunt for Fight of the Night, Glover Teixeira for submission of the Night and T.J. Grant for Knockout of the Night. UFC president Dana White was going to award Knockout of the Night to dos Santos, but boxing legend Mike Tyson intervened and White decided not to argue.
At the post-fight press conference, White also announced the retirement of UFC stalwart Forrest Griffin. Griffin will stay with the UFC in a yet-to-be-determined capacity.