In hindsight, Andrei Arlovski’s 15-second destruction of Paul Buentello at UFC 55 on Oct. 7, 2005, is noteworthy not only for its shocking brevity and the perfection of the fight-ending strike itself—though we’ll get to that.
Arlovski’s title defense that night at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, is historically significant for another reason. Arlovski was not the first interim champion in UFC history, but he was the first to be promoted to undisputed champion without a unification bout against the lineal champ. Tim Sylvia’s failed drug test two years before, followed by Frank Mir’s catastrophic motorcycle wreck, had thrown the division into chaos. Arlovski had won the interim title by blitzing Sylvia, then defended it against Justin Eilers, all while Mir convalesced. Finally in August 2005, with Mir’s return timeline still in doubt, the UFC had stripped him of the title and given it to Arlovski; Buentello would be his first title defense.
The fight itself leaves little to talk about. Buentello, a perennial fringe contender whose résumé is historically underrated, was simply no match for the Belarusian. After a couple of tentative exchanges, Arlovski caught Buentello with a short right to the jaw that was so fast and clean that UFC color commentator Joe Rogan at first mistook the action for a takedown when Buentello collapsed in a heap and Arlovski landed on top of him, then yelled, “What happened? What happened!”
Only when referee “Big” John McCarthy rushed in—McCarthy’s spot-on stoppage was the true performance of the night—and Arlovski sprang up to celebrate did the UFC booth understand that they needed to look at the replay. Despite the boos and chanting from the crowd, that replay revealed just how devastating the punch had been, and how justified the stoppage, which was further vindicated when Buentello stood up to try and protest, only to go stumbling around the Octagon.
Arlovski would face Sylvia twice more—and would have his long-delayed meeting with Mir a decade later—but for the moment he was the UFC’s undisputed heavyweight champion, having defended his newly upgraded title in the most definitive way imaginable.