UFC 126 live updates: Silva vs. Belfort
UFC returns to the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas with one of the biggest MMA cards of early 2011. Vitor Belfort challenges Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight Title in the main event. The loaded event also features Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin, Jon Jones vs. Ryan Bader and the UFC debuts of bantamweight stars Miguel Torres and Kid Yamamoto. Coverage of the show will begin around 4:20PM Pacific and continue throughout the evening.
Mike Pierce vs. Kenny Robertson
Pierce is a Team Quest product with a 3-1 UFC record. His only loss came against welterweight standout Jon Fitch. Robertson is an undefeated fighter making his UFC debut.
Round 1. The two fighters feel each other in the standout. Pierce lands a few jabs and pushes Robertson against the cage. Pierce looks for the takedown but is unable to keep Robertson grounded. They clinch against the cage and trade knees to the body. Robertson separates and lands a couple nice uppercuts but Pierce clinches again and takes Robertson down as the round comes to a close. Very close, uneventful round. 10-9 Pierce.
Round 2. Pierce and Robertson trade hooks to start the round. Pierce lands a big left hook that drops Robertson. He follows with punches on the ground until the referee steps in and calls an end to the fight.
Winner: Mike Pierce, TKO, round 2.
Ricardo Romero vs. Kyle Kingsbury
Romero is an 11-1 ground oriented prospect who struggled in his UFC debut against Seth Petruzelli before pulling off a come from behind submission win. Kingsbury is an Ultimate Fighter alumnus and has a rabid cheering section for tonight's fight.
Round 1. Romero lands a big overhand right to start the fight. Kingsbury answers with a heavy knee to the body and pounces on Romero. He drops Romero with a left punch and follows with additional punches until the referee stops the fight 21 seconds in.
Paul Taylor vs. Gabe Ruediger
Taylor is a British UFC veteran who has faced a host of quality opponents. UFC president once vowed that Ruediger would never fight in the UFC again when he failed to make weight on the Ultimate Fighter. He returned to the Octagon with a one-sided loss to Joe Lauzon in Boston.
Round 1. Taylor opens up with some rapid fire punch combinations as Ruediger moves in. They clinch against the cage and upon separation Taylor lands a left high kick. They clinch. Taylor muscles Ruediger down but Ruediger gets back up. After a separation Taylor lands a pair of jabs. Ruediger catches a Taylor kick and looks for the takedown but Taylor defends. Taylor lands a high kick and a few more punches to close the round. Clearly Taylor's round. 10-9 Taylor.
Round 2. Taylor fires off a series of punches to open the round. Ruediger drops to the ground on his own but Taylor has him stand back up. Taylor lands a series of flush punches from close range and follows with a left kick to the head that drops Ruediger. He follows with a few punches and the fight is stopped. The kick was reminiscent of Chuck Liddell's second victory over Renato "Babalu" Sobral.
Winner: Paul Taylor, TKO, round 2.
Kid Yamamoto vs. Demetrious Johnson
Kid Yamamoto is one of the top MMA drawing cards in Japan but moves to the UFC because MMA is in bad shape in Japan. There is a large Japanese press contingent here covering his UFC debut. He was once considered the best sub-155 pound fighter in the world but has struggled since suffering an injury attempting to make the Japanese Olympic wrestling team. Johnson is a small 135 pound fighter known for his quickness, something Yamamoto also has in abundance.
Round 1. Yamamoto lands the first quality punch of the fight, a hard right to the jaw. Johnson throws a right high kick that is blocked and shoots for a takedown. Yamamoto defends easily. Yamamoto lunges with an uppercut and Johnson drops down for a takedown. He gets it but Yamamoto stands right back up. Yamamoto lands a nice straight left. As Yamamoto moves in for a punch Johnson takes him down again. Yamamoto stands back up but is caught with a hard knee on the way up. Johnson senses he has Yamamoto in trouble and moves in with big haymakers but Yamamoto recovers. Johnson scores a nice double leg takedown. The story of that round was Johnson's surprising ability to get the excellent wrestler Yamamoto to the ground repeatedly. 10-9 Johnson.
Round 2. Johnson lands a few leg kicks at the start of the round. Johnson goes for a takedown but Yamamoto reverses and almost takes down Johnson. Johnson avoids the takedown but is dropped by a Yamamoto punch. He isn't hurt and gets right back up. Johnson goes for a takedown but Yamamoto rolls through nicely right back to his feet. Johnson shoots again but Yamamoto avoids it. They trade wild punches with neither man landing much but Yamamoto getting the better blows in. Yamamoto lands a nice pair of uppercuts as Johnson comes in. Johnson goes for another takedown. Yamamoto looks for a guillotine, doesn't get it, and stands back up. Johnson gets a clean takedown with a minute left in the round. Yamamoto stands up 10 seconds later. Johnson goes for another takedown but Yamamoto immediately gets up again. They scramble for position with Yamamoto landing what might have been an illegal knee to a grounded opponent. Johnson got a number of takedowns but did absolutely nothing with them and barely kept Yamamoto down. Yamamoto gets the round on the basis of doing more damage. 10-9 Yamamoto.
Round 3. Johnson goes for a takedown and Yamamoto pushes him away. Johnson shoots for the takedown again and gets him down. He looks to pass guard and Yamamoto stands back up again. This may be the lowest ratio of takedowns scored to punches landed on the ground in UFC history. Johnson shoots for another takedown and doesn't get it but scores a nice knee as Yamamoto is getting back up. Johnson goes for another takedown and it's the same story with Yamamoto going down but getting back up in no time flat. They trade punches with neither landing much and Johnson again scores a takedown. Yamamoto gets back up. Johnson scores a final takedown with 25 seconds left and holds Yamamoto down for the remainder of the fight. 10-9 Johnson, 29-28 Johnson.
Winner: Demetrious Johnson, unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27).
Chad Mendes vs. Michihiro Omigawa
Omigawa fought in UFC previously but struggled at 155 pounds. He returned to Japan and defeated many of the world's best fighters at 145 pounds. Now he returns to UFC to take on one of America's best featherweights. Mendes, a wrestling standout, trains out of Team Alpha Male with Urijah Faber and has an undefeated MMA record.
Round 1. Mendes lands a couple nice overhand lefts early in the fight. Mendes goes for a takedown but Omigawa defends beautifully. Mendes goes for another takedown and it is again defended easily. Omigawa hasn't been able to do much damage in the standup, however. Omigawa mostly pushes forward while Mendes lunges forward with power punches that mostly miss. Mendes changes levels nicely and scores the takedown. Omigawa looks for a shoulder/armlock kind of reminiscent of Frank Mir vs. Petey Williams. Mendes avoids that. Both men stand up. Neither man lands anything prior to the close of the round. 10-9 Mendes.
Round 2. Mendes drops Omigawa with a straight left at the onset of the round and immediately goes to work with hard ground and pound. Omigawa just holds on and looks to regain his composure. Mendes postures up and drops down some punches. He nearly gets caught with a heel hook in the process and Omigawa stands back up. Omigawa is bleeding from the nose. Omigawa moves forward with a left/right combination and Mendes tries to catch him off balance with a takedown. Omigawa struggles to remain standing and successfully fends off the takedown attempt. Mendes shoots for a takedown but Omigawa just throws a bunch of punches to the body and Mendes gives it up. Omigawa is now moving forward with greater confidence and throwing straight punching combinations. With 20 seconds left in the round Mendes scores a strong takedown. 10-9 Mendes.
Round 3. Omigawa again aggressively moves forward with punches while Mendes looks a little tired. Mendes shoots for a takedown but almost gets caught in a guillotine choke. Mendes spins out and gains top position on the ground. Omigawa is more active throwing punches from the bottom. Mendes drops down a hard elbow. As Mendes postures up to gain more power behind his punches, Omigawa scrambles to his feet. They trade punches standing and Mendes takes Omigawa back down in the final minute of the bout. Mendes lands some big punches at the close of the fight. 10-9 Mendes, 30-27 Mendes.
Winner: Chad Mendes, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Paul Kelly vs. Donald Cerrone
Kelly, a Liverpool native, is a tough veteran of the UFC. The charismatic Cerrone is a popular star from the now defunct WEC. The big question is how the WEC's top lightweights compare to the UFC's deep and talented 155 pound roster.
Round 1. Cerrone shoots for a takedown immediately. Kelly grabs a guillotine from half guard but doesn't have anything. Cerrone looks to mount but Kelly stands back up. Cerrone looks for another takedown but gets caught with big knees in the process. Kelly follows with power punches and Cerrone smiles back at Kelly. Kelly follows with additional punches that land well. Cerrone answers with a nice kick to the body. Kelly follows with a nice straight right punch and isn't having too much trouble with Cerrone's reach. Kelly looks for a superman punch but Cerrone uses the opportunity to take Kelly down. Kelly ties up Cerrone's arms. Cerrone breaks free and lands a few elbows at the close of the round. Kelly is bleeding from the right side of his face near the eye. Very close round. Cerrone had success at the end on the ground but Kelly controlled the standup. 10-9 Kelly.
Round 2. Kelly lands a nice left hook and Cerrone answers with a knee to the body. Kelly and Cerrone continue to exchange punches and kicks but neither man is able to land anything solidly. Cerrone shoots for a takedown. Kelly grabs a guillotine but doesn't have Cerrone's body secured. Cerrone mounts and drops down some big punches. Kelly is forced to give up his back. Cerrone wraps up a body triangle and looks to secure the rear naked choke. He cranks it and gets the submission. Very nice finish by Cerrone.
Winner: Donald Cerrone, submission, round 2.
The sellout crowd is all filled up at the start of the pay-per-view portion of the card. There are Brazilian flags all over the building and Belfort appears the substantial crowd favorite over Silva.
Miguel Torres vs. Antonio Banuelos
Torres is one of the 135 pound division's top stars and former WEC bantamweight champion. Banuelos is a longtime training partner of Chuck Liddell and veteran of WEC. Both are making their UFC debuts.
Round 1. Both fighters start out hesitant and try to find their range. Torres sticks out a few jabs but doesn't land anything of note. A Banuelos left hook is the first quality shot of the bout. The crowd begins to boo with nothing really transpiring over the first three minutes. Torres lands a nice straight right. He follows with a stiff left jab. He catches Banuelos with a few more jabs. Banuelos retaliates with a head kick and strong right hook. Uneventful round. It was hard to imagine these two were capable of that dull a round. Torres' jab was the difference. 10-9 Torres.
Round 2. Torres again measures Banuelos with the jab. Banuelos fires a variety of shots back but can't get inside Torres' range. Torres just throws out his jab repeatedly with little else and backs up when Banuelos goes for anything. Torres lands a nice left/right combination. He lands a pair of right hand shots as Banuelos moves in. Banuelos is really struggling to land anything but it isn't as if Torres is lighting him up by any means. Many felt that the influx of bantamweight and featherweight fighters from WEC was going to lead to more exciting UFC cards, but that certainly hasn't been the case with tonight's lighter weight bouts. 10-9 Torres.
Round 3. The third round starts similarly, with Torres landing a nice jab and Banuelos charging forward with punches that don't connect. Miguel Torres is training in Montreal with Georges St. Pierre's trainer and he is implementing basically the same strategy that GSP did in his last fight against Josh Koscheck. He's winning with the jab. Torres lands a nice combination of a straight left punch, straight right punch and head kick. Torres connects with some straight rights while Banuelos continues to swing and miss. Banuelos charges forward with wild strikes to close the fight while Torres just backs off and throws jabs in response. The crowd did not like this fight and it's hard to blame them. 10-9 Torres, 30-27 Torres.
Winner: Miguel Torres, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Jake Ellenberger vs. Carlos Eduardo Rocha
Ellenberger is an experienced fighter both inside and outside the UFC. Rocha is a submission specialist who won his first UFC fight in the first round.
Round 1. Rocha looks for a takedown to start the round. Ellenberger defends and then throws Rocha down. They stand back up in quick order. Rocha shoots again and this time ends up in side control. He rotates back and forth between side control and North/South. He briefly gains Ellenberger's back but Ellenberger gets out. Rocha briefly looks for a kimura but gives it up. He then tries for a knee bar but Ellenberger defends well. Ellenberger stands up. Rocha shoots but gets caught with a knee to the body. Rocha throws a wild kick that misses. Rocha shoots again and ends up trying for an Americana at the close of the round. Dominant round for Rocha. Borderline 10-8 but I don't think he came close enough on any of the submissions. 10-9 Rocha.
Round 2. Ellenberger moves forward with punches and then throws a series of knees to the head. Rocha defends most and doesn't take much damage. Ellenberger pursues Rocha around the Octagon but he isn't throwing a lot of shots. Rocha isn't either. Ellenberger connects with a jab. Rocha catches an Ellenberger kick but doesn't do anything with it. Ellenberger takes Rocha down with 30 seconds left in the round. 10-9 Ellenberger.
Round 3. Rocha lands a solid left punch. He follows with a pair of leg kicks and Ellenberger answers back with a leg kick of his own. Ellenberger moves forward with punches. Rocha looks to get the fight to the ground but Ellenberger just backs off. Ellenberger connects with a nice straight right and Rocha throws a leg kick at the same time. Neither man is landing a lot in the standup. Ellenberger shoots for a takedown with two minutes left but doesn't get it. Rocha throws a head kick and Ellenberger just pushes him down. Ellenberger takes down Rocha with 40 seconds left in the fight. Ellenberger drops a couple elbows and that's it. 10-9 Ellenberger, 29-28 Ellenberger.
Winner: Jake Ellenberger, split decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28).
Jon Jones vs. Ryan Bader
This is a rare showdown between elite, essentially undefeated prospects and the winner will be in line for some big upcoming fights. Bader is an Ultimate Fighter winner with heavy hands and strong wrestling. Jones, meanwhile, is a phenom with speed, power, wrestling and transcendent natural instincts for fighting.
Round 1. Bader has a big cheering section. It's the same group cheering Kyle Kingsbury earlier and both went to Arizona State. Jones takes Bader down. Bader holds a guillotine but Jones is in side control. Jones looks for a North/South choke but Bader defends. Bader stands back up. Jones lands a big head kick. Bader shoots for a takedown but Jones stuffs it and ends up on top. Jones drops down a few elbows. They scramble and Jones ends up on top again. He throws some punches down and follows with elbows to the body. 10-9 Jones.
Round 2. Jones connects with a looping left punch. He throws a leaping head kick that doesn't really land. As he moves in he gets caught with a nice Bader counter. Bader throws a few overhand bombs but they don't come close to landing. Jones throws some nice leg kicks and brushes off a Bader takedown attempt. Jones takes down Bader with a minute and a half remaining in the round. Jones cranks a guillotine choke from the top and Bader taps out.
Winner: Jon Jones, submission, round 2.
They just announced after the fight that Rashad Evans was injured in training for his title fight next month with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Jon Jones has been offered the fight. Jones accepted so it is Jones vs. Rua for the light heavyweight title March in New Jersey. Jones will have the opportunity to prove where he stands against the elite of the division a lot quicker than anticipated. That's a bombshell of an announcement as many members of the media were not even aware of the Evans injury until it was announced in the Octagon.
Rich Franklin vs. Forrest Griffin
Franklin and Griffin are two of the most well-known stars in the UFC. Franklin was the longtime UFC middleweight champion and is coming off a knockout of Chuck Liddell. Griffin is the former UFC light heavyweight champion and has wins over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Tito Ortiz and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Griffin hasn't fought in over a year.
Round 1. Franklin throws a leg kick at the start of the fight. Griffin fires off a high kick that bounces off Franklin's hand. Griffin then takes Franklin to the ground. He throws punches and looks to pass guard. Franklin maintains guard so Griffin continues to work from inside the guard with punches and elbows. Griffin isn't landing any big punches but he's very active working constantly with the punches. Franklin hasn't made any attempt at a submission. Griffin continues to work until the close of the round. Very one-sided round. Arguable 10-8 on the basis of domination but there just wasn't all that much damage. 10-9 Griffin.
Round 2. They exchange big punches from close range but neither man is able to connect with a difference maker. Franklin lands a nice left cross. He connects with a knee in the next exchange and is generally landing the better blows. As Franklin throws a leg kick Griffin catches the leg and pulls him to the ground. Griffin looks to take Franklin's back but doesn't have his hooks in. He throws a few punches as Franklin stands back up. Griffin pulls Franklin back down but Franklin stands up. They separate. Griffin lands a nice left hook in an exchange but Franklin retaliates moments later with a stiff jab. Griffin connects with a hook on Franklin and thinks he may have Franklin in trouble as he charges forward. But Franklin is fine and counters the charge. Griffin hits a head kick late in the round. Very close round. Narrowly Griffin. 10-9 Griffin, 20-18 Griffin.
Round 3. Franklin connects with more punches in the early exchanges. Griffin shoots down but Franklin blocks the takedown attempt and lands a knee. They jockey for position with neither man getting the other to the ground. Franklin uses a nice left high kick and hits a jab that pushes Griffin backwards. Griffin connects with a straight right that is his best punch of the round. Griffin gets a takedown with a minute and 20 seconds left in the fight. Franklin stands back up and takes Griffin down. Griffin stands back up and takes Franklin down. Franklin then stands back up himself. They trade punches to close the round. Griffin deserves to win the fight because of the first round but the second and third rounds were very close. 10-9 Franklin, 29-28 Griffin.
Winner: Forrest Griffin, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort
Anderson Silva, the UFC middleweight champion, is one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world and one of the most dominant fighters in UFC history. He has held his title since 2006 and is a devastating striker. Vitor Belfort is a fighter with explosive handspeed but who throughout his career has been unable to come through in his biggest fights. For Silva, it's really just another fight. For Belfort, it's a potentially career altering moment. Belfort and Silva had a heated staredown at the weigh-ins yesterday.
Round 1. They circle for the first minute and a half with both men faking punches but neither man throwing any. Belfort uses a single leg kick at the 90 second mark and they go back to circling. Silva begins posing midway through the round but isn't doing anything. Belfort throws a punch. Belfort throws a high kick and moves in with punches. They go to the ground and Silva gets right back up. Belfort fires a pair of looping punches that miss. Silva then connects with a left front kick to the head and follows with a few punches on the ground to finish Belfort. You rarely, if ever, see a front kick do so much damage.
Winner: Anderson Silva, TKO, round 1.
After Silva is announced as the winner, chants of "GSP" commence. A long discussed bout between Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva could come later this year.
Post show notes:
-Dana White announced that Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre will take place next if St. Pierre defeats Jake Shields in Toronto. The site for the bout has yet to be determined, with Toronto and Dallas being mentioned as possibilities.
-The UFC received confirmation from their doctors of Rashad Evans' injury only this afternoon and reached an agreement with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua during the show to accept Jon Jones as the replacement opponent provided he defeated Ryan Bader. Jones was not approached about this until after the fight in the Octagon, so as to not distract him from the fight.
Internet was out at the Mandalay Bay all night. Deepest apologies.
Photo: Anderson Silva lands the decisive kick that put Vitor Belfort on the mat in the first round of their UFC middleweight title fight. Credit: Julie Jacobson / Associated Press