“I fought big guys,” said Belfort, who weighed in Friday at 186 pounds to Johnson’s 197. “I’m not scared of size. I’m ready to fight whoever. I cut 25 pounds in four days so I gotta be professional. You sacrifice to achieve glory.”
Johnson opened up with a front kick that missed, and after a wild ensuing exchange, “Rumble” muscled Belfort to the mat. Belfort kept his wits about him from the bottom, eventually earning himself a restart from referee Dan Miragliotta. Johnson shot in for another takedown, but Belfort made him work for it, landing punches as Johnson bulled him to the fence. Another restart gave Belfort some room, and he scored with some shots before Johnson got him back to the mat. When the action stalled, Miragliotta intervened, and though Belfort’s right eye was swelling, he was starting to take control. A failed takedown attempt by Johnson was disastrous, as Belfort fired off punches and took his back with under a minute left. As the seconds ticked away, Belfort worked and worked, eventually sinking in the rear naked choke that forced Johnson to tap out at 4:49 of the round.
“A loss is a loss," said Johnson. "My legs just got really tired. I didn’t get beat up in there and he really didn’t hurt me with what he hit me with. I just got tired. I’ve got to figure this thing out.”With the win, Belfort improves to 21-9; Johnson falls to 10-4.
PALHARES vs. MASSENZIO
The middleweight leg lock master, Rousimar Palhares, lived up to his reputation in devastating style, submitting New Jersey’s Mike Massenzio with a heel hook just 63 seconds into their bout. See post-fight interview
An inadvertent low kick from Palhares brought a quick halt to the action in the opening minute, but once it resumed, “Toquinho” went right to work, and as he shot for a takedown, he pulled guard and caught Massenzio’s right leg. The tap seconds later was inevitable, with the end via heel hook coming at the 1:03 of the round.
Palhares improves to 23-3 with the win; Massenzio falls to 13-6.
PRATER vs. SILVA
It looked like welterweight up and comer Erick Silva was about to score his second sub 40 second finish in a row when he took on veteran Carlo Prater, but a controversial call by referee Mario Yamasaki instead left him with a disqualification loss.
“I have great respect for the referee, and I see that most of them hit the side of the head,” said Silva while watching a post-fight replay. “I don’t see any that hit the back of the head.”
Silva missed a right hand to begin the bout, but a left knee to the chest nailed Prater and had him looking for a takedown. Silva responded with a series of hammerfists, bringing in Yamasaki to halt the bout at the 29 second mark. Most believed it was a TKO win for Silva, but it was ruled otherwise by Yamasaki.
“I was telling him don’t hit the back of the head,” said the referee. “I have to decide in the moment. He hit some in the back of the head, some he didn’t.”
Silva, who had knocked out Luis Ramos in 40 seconds last August, falls to 13-2 with 1 NC; Prater improves to 30-10-1.
“I’m not a judge. I didn’t stop the fight,” said Prater. “All I know is that he hit me and it sent a shock of pain through my body unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I don’t know if the shots were legal. I just know it was unlike anything I’ve ever felt.”
“Everyone here knows that wasn’t intentional,” said Silva. “I don’t know what else to say.” UFC officials later announced that they would award Silva a win bonus despite the official decision.
BARBOZA vs. ETIM
Rising lightweight star Edson Barboza may have already locked up the 2012 Knockout of the Year award with an unforgettable spinning heel kick finish of fellow prospect Terry Etim in the main card opener that not only electrified his hometown fans but the entire MMA world. See post-fight interview
“When you fight in Brazil, it’s unlike fighting in any other place in the world,” said Barboza. “In a fight, you try things and hope they work. Tonight, it (the kick) worked. It’s something I’ve practiced a lot and I finally was able to land it hard. I’m happy with this outcome and you can expect more of that soon.”
Etim ran out fast to open the bout, shooting out jabs before getting rebuffed on his first takedown attempt. Undeterred, Etim kept the pressure on and then secured the takedown on attempt number two, but Barboza swept his foe and got back to his feet immediately. Once standing, Barboza began working on Etim’s legs with kicks, occasionally going upstairs with looping overhand rights. In the process, Barboza slowed Etim’s offense considerably, landing with a spinning back kick just before the bell.
Barboza continued to peck away at Etim in round two, keeping the Liverpool native from getting into a rhythm. With a little over 90 seconds left, Etim scored his second takedown of the bout, but again, Barboza got back to his feet and stood in the pocket, looking to counter. Etim stayed busy, but the harder shots were undoubtedly landed by the Rio native.
The crowd got restless in the third, even though both fighters were staying busy, Etim stalking and Barboza countering. They erupted soon enough though, as Barboza planted his feet and drilled Etim with a spinning left wheel kick, stiffening and knocking Etim out immediately, with referee Dan Miragliotta halting the bout at the 2:02 mark.
With the win, Barboza improves to 10-0; Etim, who left the Octagon under his own power, falls to 15-4.