Vitor Belfort smoked Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 32. | Photo: Gleidson Venga/Sherdog.com
Even Dan Henderson’s chin has its limits.
Vitor Belfort knocked out the former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder with a first-round head kick in the UFC Fight Night 32 “Belfort vs. Henderson” headliner on Saturday at the Goiania Arena in Goiania, Brazil. Henderson (29-11, 6-5 UFC), who had never before been stopped by strikes, met his end 77 seconds into round one.
A minute-long feeling-out period gave way to a furious flurry between the two MMA legends. A left uppercut from Belfort (24-10, 13-6 UFC) lifted the two-time Olympian off his feet and put him at the Brazilian’s mercy. The stunned Henderson weathered the initial onslaught but left himself exposed as he returned to his feet. Belfort then cracked him with the head kick, trailed him to the mat and brought it to a close.
Belfort, who has scored three highlight-reel head kick knockouts in a row, has recorded 10 wins in his past 12 appearances. The 36-year-old has made it known that he desires a middleweight title shot against the winner of the forthcoming UFC 168 rematch between current champion Chris Weidman and longtime 185-pound boss Anderson Silva.
“Believe in yourself,” Belfort said. “Whenever someone tells you that you can’t do something, God will give you another chance and give you the life to go out and do that. God only has one position in your life: first. Otherwise, there is no other place for him. For the support from my camp and my wife, I have to thank you guys. For my three kids, dad did this for you guys.”
Split Verdict Sends ‘Mutante’ Past Sarafian
“The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” Season 1 winner Cezar Ferreira utilized repeated takedowns and a stifling top game to capture a split verdict over Daniel Sarafian in the middleweight co-main event. Two of the three cageside judges scored it for Ferreira (7-2, 3-0 UFC) by 30-27 and 30-28 counts; a third cast a dissenting 29-28 nod in favor of Sarafian (8-4, 1-2 UFC).
Sarafian seemed to connect with more strikes of consequence -- a right hook in the second round was perhaps the most significant blow of the bout -- but failed to stay on his feet long enough to build any momentum.
Ferreira secured takedowns in all three rounds, short circuiting whatever advances his stocky adversary had made in the standup. “Mutante” spent the closing seconds of the match attached on a standing Sarafian’s back fishing for a rear-naked choke.
“I know this wasn’t what the crowd expected tonight, but he’s a very strong guy,” Ferreira said. “I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, so I had to do other things. Let me tell the crowd one thing: you can be sure that both he and I are going to make you very happy.”
‘Feijao’ Barrage Buries Pokrajac
Former Strikeforce champion Rafael Cavalcante struck Igor Pokrajac into submission in the first round of their light heavyweight encounter. Pokrajac (25-11, 4-6 UFC) wilted under the barrage 78 seconds into round one, as he lost for the second time in as many appearances.
Cavalcante (12-4, 1-1 UFC) weathered the Croatian’s initial onslaught and went to work. “Feijao” ensnared Pokrajac in the Thai plum, uncorking a punishing volley of knees to the head and body.
The 34-year-old Mirko Filipovic protégé retreated, ultimately cowering under a series of clubbing right hands from Cavalcante.
“I was worried about his clinch,” Cavalcante said, “but I also knew I had my clinch.”
Thatch Knee Forces Thiago Tapout
Elevation Fight Team standout Brandon Thatch struck Paulo Thiago into submission in the first round of their welterweight showcase. Folded by a wicked knee strike to the body, Thiago (15-6, 5-6 UFC tapped out 2:10 into round one.
Thatch (11-1, 2-0 UFC) -- who has finished his last 10 opponents inside one round -- showed no regard for the Brazilian’s punching power. After returning to his feet following a successful Thiago takedown, the promising 28-year-old Coloradan overwhelmed him with punches. Thatch backed the X-Gym representative into the cage and delivered the fight-ending knee.
His body racked by pain, Thiago collapsed immediately and waved the figurative white flag.
“The only place I really felt threatened by him was on the ground, and I didn’t want to be there,” Thatch said. “I know that’s where he wanted to get me. He landed some hard shots, and he’s a dangerous dude. It was an honor.”
Undefeated LaFlare Outduels Ponzinibbio
Repeated takedowns, ground-and-pound and a multi-pronged standup attack carried unbeaten former Ring of Combat champion Ryan LaFlare to a unanimous decision over Santiago Ponzinibbio in a featured welterweight clash. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for LaFlare (9-0, 2-0 UFC).
LaFlare pushed a relentless pace. He struck for takedowns in all three rounds, mounting Ponzinibbio (18-2, 0-1 UFC) twice in the first round. The Argentine mounted a brief comeback in round two but had no answer for the variety being thrown his way.
LaFlare punctuated his latest victory in the third round, where he nearly finished “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” Season 2 graduate with a knee strike and follow-up punches. Ponzinibbio survived, forcing the American to settle for the decision.
“Of course, I’m happy I got the win,” LaFlare said. “He was extremely tough and landed a couple of shots on me. I didn’t know where I was. I stuck with the game plan and kept going forward, but I got tired and took some shots I didn’t need to take. I’m always going to keep getting better.”
Stephens Head Kick KOs Bezerra
Alliance MMA export Jeremy Stephens knocked out “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” Season 1 winner Rony Mariano Bezerra with a vicious first-round head kick in a featherweight showcase. Bezerra (13-4, 3-1 UFC) met his violent end 40 seconds into round one, his eight-fight winning streak broken in a blink.
Stephens (22-9, 9-8 UFC) stalked the Brazilian from the start. He backed “Jason” into the cage and delivered the kick as the Team Nogueira representative ducked into an overhand right. Shin met face, and an unconscious Bezerra collapsed to the canvas, his head propped up by the fence. Stephens then landed a brutal standing-to-ground right hand before referee Kevin MacDonald could step in to prevent further damage.
“I saw that he ducks when he throws that wild right hand,” Stephens said. “I set it up with some feints and saw that he was leaning really hard, so I threw the rear leg. I just have to thank my coaches and everybody supporting me. It means a lot. Rony ‘Jason’ is someone I respect. He’s very humble, and he represents Brazil very well, but the ref told me not to stop until he pulled me off.
“It’s my job to come in here, and I have to do my job,” he added. “I have a family to feed, just like many of you do. I’d like to come back here and fight again.”
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