After weeks of build-up, an hour long "UFC Primetime" special and 40 full minutes of build-up, Ultimate Fighting Championship's network debut on FOX barely lasted one full minute last night (November 12, 2011).
But boy, oh boy, was it a wild minute.
Despite apparently suffering from a torn meniscus ligament in his knee, Junior dos Santos cracked champion Cain Velasquez with an overhand right and finished the American Kickboxing Academy fighter with swarming ground and pound.
With the victory, "Cigano," one of the nicest fighters in the sport, proved true his recent talking point in the lead-up to the fight that, "good things happen to good people." His emotional post-fight reaction combined with his dominant stoppage hopefully put him over with mainstream America and he instantly became superstar in Brazil.
So how did dos Santos pull it off? And where do both talented heavyweights go from here?
Perhaps knowing about the knee injury or simply looking to wear down his opponent's lead leg, Velasquez attacked dos Santos with repeated leg kicks early. "Cigano" countered with a nasty overhand right, setting it up with a lead left hand to the chest to catch Cain by surprise. It worked, but the shot wasn't at full force, although we'd be seeing that exact same strike very shortly.
The most important part of the bout was nearly 30 seconds in. Dos Santos threw a push kick that was caught by the champion. As Velasquez pushed forward looking for a takedown, the Brazilian challenger pulled his leg back and spun away from danger. He'd never be threatened by a takedown attempt again.
Velasquez landed a nice left hook during an exchange and this was probably a bad thing for the champion. Giving him some confidence in his stand-up, he put himself in the perfect position for the fight-ending sequence from dos Santos.
Watch how Velasquez is flat on his feet, and simply not in a good position to get out of the way of the incoming assault from the challenger.
Just like he did 18 seconds in, dos Santos stepped forward deep with his lead left leg put his left hand on the champion's chest and came over the top with a HUGE overhand right that clipped Velasquez behind the year.
Just like previous title bouts featuring Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio Rua 2, Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Couture and Matt Serra vs. Georges St. Pierre, the punch behind the ear completely destroyed the champion's equilibrium.
Velasquez dropped and unlike his fight with Cheick Kongo, there was no escaping danger by using his wrestling. He was simply hurt too much and dos Santos swarmed him with heavy punches on the ground that forced him to turn away from danger. Once "Big" John McCarthy stepped in and put a halt to the onslaught, Junior dos Santos was the new UFC heavyweight champion of the world.
For Cain Velasquez, he's obviously devastated. The UFC's marketing campaign had worked and he'd been put over with the budding latino MMA fanbase. A quick glance at the pro-Velasquez crowd in Anaheim last night was a testament to that. While the dreams of creating a similar buzz with Mexican fans in MMA as they have in boxing isn't dead, it was definitely delayed last night.
Those who jumped all over the champion for his performance last night need to give it a rest. Velasquez attempted a takedown and it's not like he'd have been a tremendous success if he'd gone in diving at dos Santos' legs from the opening bell. He needed to stand a bit to make his takedowns more believable, he just didn't get enough time to do it properly before he got caught. There are a few options for his next fight. A rematch against recently resurrected Cheick Kongo would make sense, as that was the toughest fight Velasquez had before dos Santos. Other options include recent Strikeforce Grand Prix losers Antonio Silva or Fabricio Werdum.
For Junior dos Santos, what more can be said about his stellar showing? While we wish we could have seen him work a little longer, there's no complaints about what he accomplished. He finished a man who seemed potentially unstoppable in 64 seconds, and he did it with a torn ligament in his knee. Hopefully the UFC seizes this opportunity and begins marketing him as one of the most dangerous men in the world, capable of knocking anyone out in a minute if he can connect.
There's no big secret who he'll face next. "Cigano" will square off with the upcoming UFC 141 main event winner of Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem. With a season of The Ultimate Fighter previously building up the Lesnar match-up and an Overeem fight that would feature the two best heavyweight strikers on the planet, prospects are definitely good for another thrilling heavyweight title fight. Hopefully dos Santos won't be sidelined too long while recovering from the torn ligament.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Were you blown away by dos Santos' stunning knockout of the previously undefeated Velasquez? Or did you see it coming all along? How do you like his chances against the Lesnar vs. Overeem winner?
For complete UFC on FOX 1: "Velasquez vs. dos Santos" results, including blow-by-blow, fight-by-fight coverage of the entire pay-per-view (PPV) event as well as immediate post-fight reaction click here, here and here.
All gifs by Zombie Prophet via IronForgesIron.com.