by Kevin Iole
LAS VEGAS – Cain Velasquez put on a dominant performance reminiscent of his title-winning effort in 2010 over Brock Lesnar, routing Junior dos Santos Saturday to regain the UFC heavyweight title before a raucous crowd in the MGM Grand Garden.
Dos Santos won the title 13 months ago by knocking out Velasquez in just 64 seconds. But in the rematch at UFC 155 on Saturday, it was never close. Velasquez won by scores of 50-45, 50-44 and 50-43, delivering what he said was a late Christmas present for his wife, Michelle.
Velasquez repeatedly took dos Santos down and hurt him early with a massive right hand. Velasquez tore into him.
Cain Velasquez kicks Junior dos Santos in the face. (Courtesy: Tracy Lee for Y! Sports)
Dos Santos staggered back from a right hand early in the first round and never really got back into the fight. His right eye was mangled from the constant punishment he was taking.
Velasquez, who insisted that the outcome would be different in the rematch, showed his legendary cardiovascular ability. He pushed dos Santos farther than the Brazilian was able to go.
To his credit, dos Santos hung on. He was almost stopped in the first round, but never gave up and made it to the finish.
Velasquez, who is now 11-1 overall and 9-1 in the UFC, was never in jeopardy. He turned dos Santos’ face into mush while largely avoiding the kind of big shots that led dos Santos to six knockouts in his previous nine UFC fights.
Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon
As good as the main event was, however, it was upstaged by the co-main. Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon didn’t just put on the Fight of the Night in their three-round lightweight battle. They may have put on the Fight of the Year.
Miller won a unanimous decision, winning 29-28 on all three cards, in a fight fought from start to finish at a frenetic pace. Miller was raking Lauzon was elbows and opened a massive gash that was several inches long on the middle of Lauzon’s forehead.
Lauzon was covered in blood, and the fight was briefly halted so the doctor could check it. He allowed it to continue, and they went on to put on a classic.
Joe Lauzon took plenty of punishment. (Courtesy: Tracy Lee for Y! Sports)
In the final 30 seconds, Lauzon went for a leg lock and a choke as he desperately tried to pull out a last-second victory.
It was an epic battle, but Miller’s elbows ultimately were the difference. He not only opened Lauzon up with it, but he landed them repeatedly from the standup.
Tim Boetsch vs. Costa Philippou
Tim Boetsch had a rough night. He got a finger poke in the eye, suffered a cut on the forehead and may have broken his right hand in his match with Costa Philippou.
By the middle of the third round, he could barely pull himself to his feet. Referee Kim Winslow mercifully stopped it as Philippou was throwing punches from the top at 2:11 of the final round of the middleweight bout.
Boetsch tried to keep taking Philippou down, but he never was able to get fully into the fight offensively because of his various injuries.
“I expected to win this fight, but not like this,” Philippou said. “I made a few rookie mistakes in letting him take me down, but once we started trading blows back and forth later in the fight, I had him. I was eventually able to get the better of him in the striking game and have the fight stopped.”
Alan Belcher vs. Yushin Okami
Alan Belcher’s four-fight winning streak and the momentum he carried for a potential middleweight title shot came screeching to a halt at the hands of Yushin Okami.
Okami repeatedly took Belcher down and held him on the mat in a fight that was neither exciting or pleasing to the crowd. Fans booed throughout the event and let their displeasure be known when the match ended.
Judges had it 30-27 twice and 29-28 for Okami, who repeated a 2006 victory over Belcher. Belcher had little to offer and never got off track in a very uncharacteristically slow performance.
“The wrestling, striking and the clinch game were all successfully implemented in this fight to defeat Belcher,” Okami said. “Belcher is a very tough opponent, and I feel that a win over Belcher should allow me to keep challenging more of the top guys in the middleweight division.”
Tim Boetsch kicks Costa Philippou in the face. (Credit: Tracy Lee for Y! Sports)
Derek Brunson vs. Chris Leben
The most notable thing to come out of the middleweight fight between Derek Brunson and Chris Leben is how tired both men were by the middle of the second round.
Brunson at least had an excuse, as he took the fight on short notice after Karlos Vermola pulled out, but it was a hard to watch fight.
Brunson’s takedowns were the difference in a unanimous decision. All three judges had it 29-28 for Brunson, who was making his UFC debut after moving over from Strikeforce.
“I knew the type of fight I was getting myself into when I agreed to the bout,” Brunson said. “Leben is an all-out slugger. I wanted to prove to myself that I could fight this guy and not just wrestle him for the victory. I wanted to go at it with him, but maintain my game plan and fight my fight.
Eddie Wineland vs. Brad Pickett
Eddie Wineland used hard punches and solid movement to cruise to a victory over Brad Pickett in an important bantamweight fight.
Glenn Trowbridge and Tony Weeks both had it 30-27 for Wineland, but surprisingly, Mark Smith had it 29-28 for Pickett. Wineland did most of the damage and seemed in control of the fight throughout.
“That was a fun fight for me,” Wineland said. “I’m used to being pretty banged up, but this isn’t any worse than any of my previous fights. Brad hit me harder than anyone ever has, and I feel the same about how I hit him. My right hand seems to do the most damage, and it worked out well for me tonight. I go in there with confidence and after dropping my first two in the UFC, I’ve won two great fights since, and I plan to keep that momentum going.”
Erik Perez vs. Byron Bloodworth
Erik Perez cracked Byron Bloodworth with a knee to the midsection, spelling the beginning of the end for Bloodworth in their bantamweight fight.
Perez, who came to the cage wearing a lucha libre mask, immediately pounced on Bloodworth. He landed a series of elbows and punches and forced referee Kim Winslow to stop it at 3:50 of the first.
It was the third consecutive first-round stoppage by Perez.
“It feels awesome to get my third UFC win in six months,” Perez said. “It just makes me want to get back in the gym and keep training. 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. I would love to make a run at the title this year, but I am happy to do whatever the UFC asks for my next fight.”
Jamie Varner vs. Melvin Guillard
Jamie Varner and Melvin Guillard were supposed to fight at “The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale” two weeks ago, but it was postponed because Varner was ill.
It was worth the wait, as they put on a fast-paced back-and-forth fight. The scoring turned out unique, as Varner pulled out a split decision win. Cecil Peoples and Smith had it 30-27 for Varner while Adalaide Byrd had it 30-27 for Guillard. Yahoo! Sports had it 29-28 for Varner.
Jamie Varner punches Melvin Guillard. (Courtesy: Tracy Lee for Y! Sports)
“This was a very emotional fight for both of us,” Varner said.”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. I’m happy about my performance. I feel that I was able to dominate the fight wherever we ended up, and I’m glad I got the win.”
Myles Jury vs. Michael Johnson
In a one-sided lightweight bout, Myles Jury ruined Michael Johnson’s hopes for a perfect 2012, dominating him from start to finish and pulling out a one-sided unanimous decision victory.
Jury, who nearly finished Johnson in the first, took Johnson down and kept him there for much of the fight. He won by scores of 30-27 on all three judges’ cards.
Jury landed a number of shots from the guard in the first and referee Herb Dean seemed on the verge of stepping in. Johnson survived, but he never got untracked.
Jury improved to 11-0 overall and 2-0 in the UFC with the impressive victory.
“I’ve sacrificed and trained hard for this fight, and it paid off,” Jury said. “A lot of people didn’t give me a chance against someone like Michael, so I came out here with nothing to lose. It felt great to get the win, but to also get so much time in the Octagon, which is something that I haven’t gotten a lot of up to this point in my career. Everything about this fight is going to help me become a much better fighter overall.”
Todd Duffee vs. Phil De Fries
Heavyweight Todd Duffee’s first UFC fight in more than two years was somewhat reminiscent of his first, as he blitzed Phil De Fries and stopped him at 2:04 of the first round.
Duffee debuted in the UFC at UFC 102, knocking out Tim Hague in seven seconds in what was then a record for fastest knockout.
On Saturday, he caught De Fries with a big right uppercut that badly hurt him. He landed several right hands as they were fighting against the cage, and then finished it with a crushing left hook.
As De Fries slumped to the mat, referee Yves Lavigne jumped in to stop it.
“It feels good to be back in the UFC,” Duffee said. “I knew I had to win, but I wasn’t too worried about how, though. I like the actual fight aspect of this sport, so I know I can deliver when I’m in there. I missed the fight feeling that you get when you’re standing across from your opponent, and it felt awesome to get back in the Octagon.”
Leonard Garcia vs. Max Holloway
Leonard Garcia didn’t disappoint in his return to the Octagon, putting on a good show in his three-round featherweight bout with Max Holloway.
Unfortunately for Garcia and many in the crowd at the MGM, the judges saw it for Holloway and he took a split decision. Marcos Rosales and Peoples had Holloway 29-28, while Smith had Garcia by the same score. The crowd booed when the verdict was announced, believing Garcia had done enough to get the win.
Rosales gave Holloway Rounds 1 and 2, while Peoples gave him Rounds 1 and 3. Smith gave Garcia Rounds 2 and 3.
There were long periods of sustained action, where the men stood and traded blows. Garcia had several takedowns, but Holloway was able to hop up. He said he felt that could have been a difference.
“I definitely believe I won the fight,” Holloway said. “I’m tired of wrestlers getting victories that way. They get takedowns and do nothing with it, and somehow they still get points for that, so I feel very vindicated with this win. Leonard is a tough guy, though.
“No doubt about that. He hits hard and he shot in on me quite a bit in this fight, but we had a good game plan and I was able to leave with the win.”
John Moraga vs. Chris Cariaso
Flyweight John Moraga got the night off to a good start, winning his second UFC fight in as many outings by finishing Chris Cariaso at 1:11 of the third round with a standing guillotine choke.
Moraga, now 12-1 in MMA and 2-0 in the UFC, got Cariaso as they came out of a scramble and managed to get the finish. He needed a big third round as the judges had it even on two cards and he trailed 20-18 on the third.
“That’s one of my stronger positions to put my opponents in, so I knew I could surprise him with it and lock it in,” Moraga said. “Any win in the UFC is good, but I like to win impressively and I feel like I kind of did that.”