With five heavyweight bouts on the televised UFC 146 card for the first time in the promotion’s history, there was definite potential for a night of short but decisive fights Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Consider that promise fulfilled. UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos boxed his way to a second-round TKO of Frank Mir in the main event, ensuring that none of the bouts aired on pay-per-view even made it to the third round.
Conventional wisdom suggested that Dos Santos (15-1, 9-0 in the UFC) would be able to use his formidable boxing skills to control the action as long as the fight stayed standing. That turned out to be correct, as the champ had little trouble finding the target with head or body punches in Round 1.
Mir (16-6, 14-6 UFC) knew he was facing an uphill battle if he couldn’t get dos Santos of his feet. But his early takedown attempt was easily rebuffed, and by the end of the first five minutes, he already looked like he was in trouble.
The second round didn’t go any better for Mir, who got caught by a solid right hand about halfway in. The rest was just a formality for dos Santos, who officially sealed up his first title defense at the 3:04 mark.
He may be headed for a rematch with the man he defeated for the belt sooner rather than later. Cain Velasquez made an emphatic statement that he had recovered from his first pro loss with a brutal stoppage of Antonio Silva in one of the bloodiest fights ever to grace the octagon.
Velasquez (10-1, 8-1 UFC) almost leaped out of the gate, taking down Silva (16-4, 0-1 UFC) quickly and working him over while constantly changing position. A short elbow sliced open Silva’s face, beginning a steady flow of blood that ended up all over both fighters and the mat.
Action was briefly paused so a doctor could examine the damage to Silva’s face, but the fight was allowed to resume. Velasquez picked up right where he left off, battering Silva relentlessly on the mat. The referee gave “Bigfoot” every opportunity to defend himself before calling a halt to the bout 3:36 into the first round.
Roy “Big Country” Nelson needed even less time to dispose of Dave Herman. Though he claimed his plan was to wrestle, it was a huge right hand that ended the fight suddenly after just 51 seconds.
The plan for Herman (21-4, 1-2 UFC) seemed to be to keep Nelson (17-7, 4-3 UFC) at a distance with front kicks and jabs. It worked briefly, but only until a haymaker of a right smashed into his face and nearly spun him around. The fight was over seconds later, a much-needed victory for the affable and popular Nelson.
The best sustained action of the night came in the first round of the previous bout. Stipe Miocic and UFC newcomer Shane del Rosario each had their moments while exchanging strikes, but Miocic switched gears in the second round by using a devastating ground-and-pound attack to earn a TKO win.
Miocic (9-0, 3-0 UFC) had success right from the opening bell with straight right hands. Del Rosario (11-1, 0-1 UFC) fired back with a series of hard body kicks and leg kicks, and may have won the round once he was able to find the range with left hands from his southpaw stance.
The stalemate was broken in the second frame, when Miocic scored a takedown and started scoring with a variety of blows. His elbows eventually proved too much, bloodying del Rosario and bringing a stoppage from the ref at the 3:14 mark.
A clash of styles in the opener went the way of the submission specialist. Stefan Struve has been criticized in the past for his willingness to trade with more dangerous strikers, but he smartly maneuvered the heavy-handed Lavar Johnson into danger and earned a quick tapout with a painful-looking armbar.
Fighting for the second time in three weeks, Johnson (17-6, 2-1 UFC) connected with his first uppercut. Struve (24-5, 8-3 UFC) refused to take the bait, intentionally pulling guard to get his opponent out of his comfort zone. Johnson didn’t last long after that, though his tap at 1:05 of Round 1 may not have been quick enough to prevent his arm from receiving serious injury.