Vitor Belfort crushed Luke Rockhold. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Consider this Vitor Belfort’s contribution to the “Knockout of the Year” pool for 2013.
Belfort (23-10, 12-6 UFC) leveled Luke Rockhold with a spectacular spinning heel kick and polished off the former Strikeforce middleweight champion with a swarm of punches on the ground in the UFC on FX 8 headliner on Saturday at the Arena Jaragua in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil. “The Phenom” finished it 2:32 into round one.
Rockhold (10-2, 0-1 UFC) pecked away with punches and kicks but never had a chance to establish himself in the bout. Belfort measured his steps, let loose with the kick and delivered it with equal parts power and precision. Rockhold went down, and though he was still conscious, the American Kickboxing Academy standout could not withstand the follow-up barrage.
“I’ve got to take my hat off. It’s already off,” Rockhold said. “He landed a spinning heel kick to my head. I didn’t see that one coming. I thought I was finding my time, and what can I say? Kudos to him.”
The defeat snapped Rockhold’s streak of nine consecutive wins.
“I just want to get back in the gym and get another fight,” he said. “I felt good tonight. I felt capable of winning this fight. I don’t know. I’m speechless.”
The win, Belfort’s ninth in 11 bouts, could establish him as the No. 1 contender for the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight crown currently held by Anderson Silva. “The Spider,” the last man to beat Belfort at 185 pounds, will defend his title against the unbeaten Chris Weidman at UFC 162 in July.
“I’m here to fight,” Belfort said. “I don’t pick fights. I accept fights. The fans decide it. I’m very happy. I’m going to root for Anderson, because he’s doing a tremendous job.”
‘Jacare’ Chokes Camozzi Unconscious
In the co-main event, former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza dazzled in his promotional debut, as he rendered “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 alum Chris Camozzi unconscious with a first-round arm-triangle choke. The lights went out on Camozzi (19-6, 6-3 UFC) 3:37 into round one.
After a brief exchange on the feet, Souza (18-3, 1-0 UFC) struck for a trip takedown and brought the 26-year-old Alameda, Calif., native into his world. Elbows and punches softened Camozzi, who tried to defend against the Brazilian’s otherworldly grappling skills. Souza ultimately moved to mount, transitioned immediately to the arm-triangle choke and waited for it to overtake Camozzi.
“When I was about to make my debut, everyone was asking if I was going to get the jitters, but I didn’t because of the crowd,” Souza said through a translator. “The crowd is fantastic. “We were grappling, and I was waiting for him to give me the opportunity. I saw his neck out there, and I just went for it.”
Dos Anjos Edges Dunham on Scorecards
Rafael dos Anjos extended his winning streak to four fights, as he took a unanimous decision from Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts export Evan Dunham in a featured matchup at 155 pounds. Dos Anjos (19-6, 8-4 UFC) swept the scorecards by identical 29-28 counts.
Establishing himself as one of the world’s premier lightweights, dos Anjos beat Dunham to the punch in the early going, as he leaned on crisp combinations and leg kicks. The 31-year-old Oregonian seemed to find his rhythm in the second round, as he pressured dos Anjos from the outside and secured a late takedown. The Brazilian answered with more combinations, effective work in the clinch and slick counter punches.
Dunham (14-4, 7-4 UFC) turned up the heat in round three, where he fired away in combination, moved forward with fearless persistence and came out on the right side of the exchanges. His efforts, however, went for naught.
Natal Wears Down Newcomer Zeferino
Gracie Fusion’s Rafael Natal won for the fourth time in five outings, as he captured a unanimous verdict from Octagon newcomer Joao Zeferino in a middleweight showcase. All three cageside judges struck the decision for Natal (16-4-1, 4-2-1 UFC): 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
Fatigue was Zeferino’s biggest obstacle. The 27-year-old Nitrix Fight Team representative was effective in the first round, where he tagged Natal with overhand rights and threatened him with inverted heel hooks while the two Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts jockeyed for superiority on the canvas. By the time round two arrived, it became evident that Zeferino (13-5, 0-1 UFC) had run his gas tank dry.
Natal capitalized on his fading foe, as he moved into top position and unleashed ground-and-pound. He stepped up his assault in the third round, where he transitioned from mount to the back and appeared to be nearing a finish in the closing seconds.
More UFC on FX 8 »
• UFC on FX 8 Prelims: Surging Lentz Grinds Out Decision Over Dias
• UFC on FX 8 Play-by-Play