Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made a quick return trip to Brazil last night (Sat., May 18, 2013), serving up another healthy helping of mixed martial arts (MMA) action, this time from Arena Jaragua in Santa Catarina.
In the UFC on FX 8 main event of the evening, the self-appointed "old lion," Vitor Belfort, was tasked with introducing the last man to hold the Strikeforce 185-pound title, Luke Rockhold, to the Octagon for the first time ever.
Rockhold vowed to beat Belfort's ass in the build up to their clash, upset that the aging Brazilian, 36, was benefiting from an approved testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) treatment program. After his jaw-dropping performance in front of a raucous hometown crowd, however, Rockhold might want to consider a sip or two of his secret sauce.
Or maybe an intravenous drip.
Belfort, historically a ferocious finisher with an uncanny ability to separate grown men from consciousness in five minutes or less, came out cool and calm, letting Rockhold set the pace and bring the fight to him. He would then explode with a flurry, the crowd would erupt and Rockhold would reset.
This happened a handful of times before Belfort dropped a savage spinning heel kick that connected flush on Rockhold's jaw. His hallmark "fasted hands in the sport" then went to work, beeping and bopping Rockhold's semi-conscious noggin from side-to-side with alarming accuracy before the referee finally dove into save the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) standout from certain mental harm.
Incredible (watch video highlights here).
It's hard to remember a better recent knockout, which was similar to the one Edson Barboza pulled off against Terry Etim at UFC 142. Antonio Silva and his come-from-behind destruction of Alistair Overeem at UFC 156 was pretty sweet, but this one might take the cake.
Especially considering that Rockhold -- whose decision to keep the fight upright early was clearly a major blunder -- is a very durable, talented and long Middleweight fighter. Indeed, he's not that easy to touch, much less plant a backward fight-ending foot on his face.
It's insanely impressive. And like a fine wine, whether you agree with TRT or not, Belfort appears to get even better with age. He now has two consecutive knockout victories, Michael Bisping being the other, which were set up with his feet rather than his hands.
What he pulls off next, and against who, will be something worth looking forward to as the division contender picture seems wide open after Chris Weidman gets his crack at Anderson Silva at UFC 162 later this summer.
All-Brazil rematch, perhaps?
Earlier in the evening, in the co-featured fight of the night, another Strikeforce import -- and former champion -- Ronaldo Souza made his long-awaited promotional debut, too.
And "Jacare" made it look way too easy against Chris Camozzi, who was in the midst of a four-fight win streak and looking for his big break at the expense of the otherworldly Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace. It didn't come because he was outclassed early on the feet, getting rattled with a big punch in the opening minute, and then hung out on the ground for way too long against such a dangerous strangling machine.
Perhaps his eggs were scrambled, or maybe Camozzi -- who was originally booked to fight someone closer to his level, Rafael Natal -- was just lost in the moment, but the second his back hit the floor he should have tried to move Heaven and Earth to immediately return to his feet.
He didn't, and Souza locked up an air-tight arm-triangle choke that was set up courtesy of a slick omoplata that he somehow secured in a scramble.
Indeed, Souza turned in a cold and calculated alligator-like performance that undoubtedly has vaulted him up the 185-pound rankings with a quickness. He called out the winner of Vitor Belfort vs. Luke Rockhold in his post-fight speech, seemingly no longer interested in a bout with the scratched Constantinos Philippou.
Souza seems to think he's got bigger fish to fry. And it's hard to argue otherwise.
In televised main card Lightweight action, Evan Dunham got off to another slow start against Rafael dos Anjos, who headed into the match on a back-to-back-to-back win streak and a spot in the promotion's Top 10 rankings.
And it cost him in the end.
It was a close back-and-forth bout, with Dunham hitting his tenacious eat-two-punches-to-land-one stride in the second stanza. He was clearly the aggressor for much of the fight, with dos Anjos firing back and countering with modest success.
Dunham turned up the heat in the third and final round, securing a takedown and later ending with a flurry that appeared to seal a close decision victory. However, the judges disagreed, giving dos Anjos the nod as Dunham hung his head with purpose and stomped out of the cage in disgust.
UFC President Dana White agreed, announcing on Twitter.com immediately after the decision was read that Dunham got "fucking robbed." That's an unofficial opinion, and so is this one, meaning that dos Anjos keeps his impressive streak alive and Dunham's hard luck continues.
Sad, but true.
And in the not-so riveting opening match of the FX broadcast, Joao Zeferino and the aforementioned Natal went toe-to-toe in an anything but high-profile battle of Brazilians that had the crowd roaring early and snoring late.
Zeferino, making his Octagon debut on the heels of seven straight victories on the international circuit, was filling in on short notice because Camozzi got promoted to fight "Jacare" when "Costa" pulled up lame. He was familiar with Natal, apparently defeating him in a jiu-jitsu match earlier in their careers, according to the ringside announcer, but "Sapo" got the best of him when it mattered most.
Natal, a six-fight UFC veteran, weathered somewhat of an adrenaline-fueled early storm, avoiding the winging shots of Zeferino in the opening moments of the Middleweight showdown and holding his own in the grappling department to ultimately earn a unanimous decision. "The Brazilian Samurai" simply didn't have the energy to last 15 minutes, fading fast after a completive first round and completely running empty as Natal pounded him in the final seconds of the match.
It's far from a name-worthy "Who's Who" hit list, but Natal has won four of his list five appearances and is certainly deserving of a step up in competition moving forward.
That's enough from us. Now it's your turn to discuss UFC on FX 8: "Belfort vs. Rockhold" in the comments section below.
Is Belfort, gasp, suddenly the No. 1 division contender behind "All American?" Is "Jacare" UFC championship caliber? Is dos Anjos a legitimate 155-pound title contender? Can Natal pass a true test his next time out?
Let's hear it, Maniacs.
Be sure to also check out our complete UFC on FX 8 blow-by-blow coverage of the entire "Belfort vs. Rockhold" event right here. And for a detailed recap of the UFC on FX 8 "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX click here.