Vitor Belfort. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Vitor Belfort’s return to the UFC was a successful one as the former UFC light heavyweight champion decked former UFC middleweight king Rich Franklin with a series of punches that resulted in a first-round TKO win for the heavy-handed Brazilian in the main event of UFC 103 on Saturday night in Dallas, Texas.
Up until the ending sequence, the bout didn’t feature much action. Belfort (19-8) and Franklin (25-5) exchanged leg kicks and short jabs, but neither put together any offense of note that landed. Things completely changed however after Belfort clipped Franklin with an overhand left during an exchange.
The shot put Franklin down on the mat. As he tried to rise to his knees, Franklin ate another left from Belfort that flattened him. “The Phenom” followed up with a few more unanswered shots to a defenseless Franklin before referee Yves Lavigne stepped in and saved him.
With the win, Belfort immediately becomes one of the contenders for Anderson Silva’s UFC middleweight title. It’s a matchup that could be somewhat difficult to prepare for due to his ties with Silva, but certainly one he wouldn’t turn down.
“I’m here to work,” Belfort said after the fight. “Anderson is my friend. I like him and he’s a great fighter, but if Dana [White] and Frank [Fertitta] decide that I’m an employee and I’m here to fight him then I’ll step into the ring.”
In the co-main event, Junior Dos Santos improved his stock in the UFC’s heavyweight division with a victory over PRIDE Fighting Championships standout Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic via third-round submission after an eye injury left Cro Cop unable to continue.
Despite coming into the fight as an underdog in some circles, Cro Cop stayed competitive throughout the bout. Dos Santos (9-1) was awarded the first two rounds based on points earned by being the more active fighter, but Cro Cop (25-7-2) got in his share of offense as well, lighting Dos Santos up on many occasions with straight left hands that continually found their mark.
However in the middle of the third round, Dos Santos hurt Cro Cop with flurries of knees and punches. The end came when Dos Santos connected with a short uppercut that hit Cro Cop directly on his left eye socket. The Croatian immediately covered his eye and looked to referee Dan Miragliotta. Dos Santos immediately began to celebrate and Cro Cop informed Miragliotta that he was unable to see, handing Dos Santos his third UFC win.
“I feel very good,” Dos Santos said about the win. “I trained very hard and tonight I got one more victory for my career. I hope everyone enjoyed my fight. Now, it’s up to the UFC. Whatever they want me to do.”
While Anderson Silva might have a list of contenders ready for a shot at his middleweight belt, UFC welterweight title holder Georges St. Pierre now has exactly the opposite as Martin Kampmann’s title aspirations were cut short courtesy of Paul Daley, who shocked Kampmann with a first-round TKO win in his UFC debut.
Daley’s left hand seemingly landed at will throughout the course of the fight. A game Kampmann hung in there and landed punches and knees of his own on a few occasions, but Daley’s constant pressure proved to be too much.
Daley (22-8-2) hurt Kampmann (15-3) with one of many left hooks flush to the jaw and then followed up with a flurry of shots that forced referee Yves Lavigne to step in and save Kampmann from being completely knocked out just 2:31 into the first round. Kampmann and the fans protested the stoppage afterwards since the Xtreme Couture member was still on his feet.
Another questionable stoppage, although a bit more justified, took place during Frank Trigg’s UFC return bout against Josh Koscheck. The two standout collegiate wrestlers pawed away at each other during the opening minutes of their welterweight bout until Koscheck clipped Trigg on the back of the head with a right hand.
Trigg momentarily went down to his knees but stood back up, albeit in somewhat of a daze. Koscheck (13-4) quickly attacked, flooring Trigg (19-7) with a right hand. Koscheck followed Trigg to the mat and punched away with unanswered shots until on a downed Trigg until referee Leon Roberts waved off the proceedings.
In the first pay-per-view bout of the night, Tyson Griffin snapped a likely unwanted seven-fight decision streak, scoring a second-round KO of Hermes Franca in Griffin’s most impressive showing to date.
Griffin (14-2) battered Franca (19-8) with a non-stop barrage of leg kicks and punches during a first round that saw little to no offense at all from the Brazilian. The two fighters started off the second round with a flurry, much to the delight of fans who booed the first five-minute stanza.
While it looked as if Franca would be able to take Griffin’s power shots without a problem, Griffin eventually cracked Franca with a right hand that sent him stumbling to the floor. An aggressive Griffin pounced on his opponent and pounded away at Franca until a series of right hands put him to sleep.
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