Junior dos Santos put an emphatic stamp to end his match against Mark Hunt. | Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
So much for second chances.
Almost a year to the day after he was bludgeoned and bloodied in his first encounter with Cain Velasquez, Antonio Silva took another swipe at the American Kickboxing Academy ace, this time with the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight crown hanging in the balance. The rematch did not unfold as “Bigfoot” and his supporters had hoped.
Velasquez retained the heavyweight championship and barely broke a sweat in doing so, as he shut down Silva with first-round punches in the UFC 160 main event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Brazilian wilted under the blows 1:21 into round one, having never before been dispatched so quickly.
To his credit, the monstrous Silva denied two takedown attempts from Velasquez, a two-time All-American wrestler at Arizona State University. Unfortunately for the American Top Team export, he found himself every bit as overmatched on the feet. Silva led with an ill-advised right uppercut, only to be countered by a left jab-straight right combination from the champion. The challenger collapsed to a knee and Velasquez wheeled around behind him, closing him out with unanswered punches on the ground.
Minutes prior, the only man to defeat Velasquez -- Junior dos Santos -- likely did enough to set the stage for a third showdown between the two heavyweights.
Dos Santos knocked out 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix winner Mark Hunt with a jaw-dropping spinning hook kick and a follow-up standing-to-ground punch 4:18 into the third round of their co-headliner. The kick blindsided the weary Hunt and sent him crashing to the canvas. Dos Santos then drove his right hand straight into his fallen counterpart’s face, briefly separating him from consciousness.
Velasquez and the Brazilian know one another well. Dos Santos felled him with an overhand right 61 seconds into their first encounter in November 2011, which marked the UFC’s debut on network television. Thirteen months later, Velasquez offered his retort, as he dominated dos Santos -- he scored with 11 takedowns and landed more than 200 strikes -- en route to a surprisingly one-sided unanimous decision at UFC 155. The two of them now appear poised to forge perhaps the greatest heavyweight rivalry in UFC history.
In the wake of UFC 160 “Velasquez vs. Bigfoot 2,” here are six other matchups that ought to be made:
T.J. Grant vs. Benson Henderson: Those who questioned Grant’s legitimacy as a title contender at 155 pounds were hushed, as the Canadian blasted through Gray Maynard. Grant buried the American Kickboxing Academy representative with a volley of power punches a little more than two minutes into their lightweight showcase, improving to 5-0 since downshifting from 170 pounds. Next up for the 29-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt: a coveted shot at lightweight champion Benson Henderson, a man who has won 17 of his last 18 fights and emerged as one of the sport’s pound-for-pound best.
Glover Teixeira vs. Phil Davis: Teixeira needs a challenge. The 33-year-old Brazilian brute extended his winning streak to 19 fights by submitting James Te Huna with a first-round guillotine choke. A perfect 4-0 since entering the UFC in 2012, Teixeira has not lost in more than eight years. The once-beaten Davis, meanwhile, was a four-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Penn State University and won a national championship in 2008.
Anchored at the Alliance MMA camp, “Mr. Wonderful” last appeared at UFC 159 in April, when he defeated Vinny Magalhaes by unanimous decision at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Antonio Silva vs. Josh Barnett: “Bigfoot” was simply overmatched in both of his encounters with Velasquez. Even so, the heavy-handed Brazilian remains one of MMA’s top 10 heavyweights and figures to be a factor in the division for the foreseeable future. Silva and Barnett engaged in a war of words while the two competed under the Strikeforce banner, and the latter’s recent decision to sign with the UFC renews hope in a potential matchup between them.
Mark Hunt vs. Roy Nelson-Stipe Miocic loser: Hunt went out on his shield against dos Santos, cut down by a spinning hook kick in the third round. It was just the second knockout loss of the 39-year-old kiwi’s career and first since Melvin Manhoef did the honors on New Year’s Eve in 2008. How much longer Hunt’s improbable Cinderella run will last remains anyone’s guess. Nelson and Miocic will do battle at UFC 161 on June 15 in Canada.
Gray Maynard vs. Gilbert Melendez: Maynard failed to capitalize on his opportunity to reclaim the mantle as the No. 1 contender at 155 pounds, as Grant buried him under an avalanche of punches. The 33-year-old “Ultimate Fighter” graduate has dropped two of his past three bouts by knockout and has not posted consecutive wins since he outpointed Nate Diaz and Kenny Florian in 2010. Melendez fell short in his bid to unseat Henderson, losing a narrow split decision in his promotional debut at UFC on Fox 7 in April.
Donald Cerrone vs. Josh Thomson: Cerrone was superb in beating former EliteXC champion K.J. Noons. The 30-year-old Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts standout mixed his diverse striking attack with a series of well-timed takedowns and carved up Noons with elbows once he had him corralled on the ground. Cerrone has compiled a 7-2 mark since joining the UFC as part of the World Extreme Cagefighting merger in 2010. Thomson returned to the Octagon for the first time in almost nine years in April, when he became the first man to stop Diaz with strikes in a scintillating performance at UFC on Fox 7.