Junior Dos Santos stopped Cain Velasquez just 1:04 into their UFC heavyweight title bout Saturday night, claiming Velasquez’s belt and bringing a swift end to the mixed martial arts promotion’s prime-time network debut.
Dos Santos hit Velasquez with an overhand right early in the first round, staggering the previously unbeaten champion to the canvas. The Brazilian challenger jumped onto Velasquez, who defended himself briefly before finally succumbing to Dos Santos’ relentless ground-and-pound blows.
The brief fight was the only event on a one-hour broadcast on Fox, which signed the UFC to a seven-year broadcast deal earlier this year.
The television in Canada and the U.S. audience got a taste of MMA’s violence, but not much else in the incredibly short fight. UFC president Dana White chose these two fearsome fighters for his network television debut because of the high potential for a stoppage victory — but White probably wasn’t thrilled with just how quickly that stoppage arrived.
Dos Santos (14-1) burst into tears in celebration, while Velasquez (9-1) apologized to his fans after the bout, saying the punch disrupted his equilibrium. The first minute before Dos Santos’ decisive blow included almost no action except a takedown attempt by Velasquez that was thwarted by Dos Santos.
Velasquez hadn’t fought since October 2010, when he claimed the belt from Brock Lesnar in the same octagon at Honda Center. After recovering from surgery on his torn rotator cuff, Velasquez knew he had a tough comeback fight against Dos Santos, the preternaturally strong boxing specialist who had won eight straight bouts.
Dos Santos earned the title shot with a victory over Shane Carwin in Vancouver in June. His next opponent is expected to be the winner of Lesnar’s bout against Alistair Overeem in Las Vegas on Dec. 30.
Exactly 18 years to the day after the UFC debuted with an eight-man tournament featuring no weight classes and one-round fights to the finish with almost no rules, MMA’s dominant promotional company kicked off its long-anticipated major television contract with its first live prime-time show. Most of the broadcast was taken up by a primer on MMA and the two fighters — along with more post-fight analysis than expected.
Velasquez and Dos Santos both are talented boxers who had ended nearly all of their fights by early stoppage. Velasquez was a star wrestler at Arizona State, while Dos Santos is fluent in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. They are the top two young heavyweights in MMA, quietly building toward this bout while Lesnar, the former pro wrestler, gets much of the casual fans’ attention.
Benson Henderson won a one-sided unanimous decision over Clay Guida in the final undercard fight at Honda Center, which has hosted several major MMA events in the sport’s relatively short history.