By Jaime C. Feal
Vitor Belfort defended his home turf by knocking out Michael Bisping, derailing Bisping’s title hopes in the process of delighting his Brazilian fans. Belfort, who has had recent title shots against both Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, is probably not in line for an immediate chance at a belt, but the win is huge for him nonetheless. In the co-main event, C.B. Dollaway scored an upset, come-from-behind victory over Daniel Sarafian by earning a split decision victory. In the opening fight of the night, Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov was absolutely dominant once again, running his record as a pro to 19-0 with 3 UFC victories.
Lightweight Division (155 lbs.):
Thiago Tavares (17-4-1) vs. Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov (18-0)
Tavares with the forward pressure, neither fighter landing anything for the first minute. Nurmagomedov with a good left hook and right hand combo. Leaping left uppercut from Nurmagomedov drops Tavares right on his back. Tavares is hurt and trying to scramble for a leg, but Nurmagomedov is having none of it, pounces into a dominant position, and starts unloading elbows from half guard. Elbow after brutal elbow in succession has Tavares all but unconscious; the ref is forced to step in and save Tavares from further abuse. Impressive performance from the undefeated Russian.
Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov wins by TKO at 1:55 of Round 1.
Heavyweight Division (265 lbs.):
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga vs. Ben Rothwell
Good combination from Rothwell with the hands, Gonzaga goes for a single leg. Gonzaga trying to control Rothwell but can’t quite do it. Gonzaga briefly gets him down, Rothwell gets up. A boring cage clinch match ensues, ref breaks for inactivity quite some time later. Three straight rights land for “Napao.” Gonzaga with a leg kick. Rothwell sprawls nicely to counter a Gonzaga takedown attempt. Good combination from Rothwell. 10-9 round for Gonzaga.
Good right hand from Gonzaga. Left straight lands for Rothwell. Gonzaga lands a hard straight right and then goes for a guillotine. Gonzaga pulls guard to lock up the choke, and Rothwell taps out after five seconds of resistance.
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga wins by submission (guillotine choke) at 1:01 of Round 2.
Middleweight Division (185 lbs.):
Daniel Sarafian (7-2) vs. C.B. “The Doberman” Dollaway (12-4)
Good counter left hook from Sarafian backs Dollaway off, who is the aggressor with forward pressure. Dollaway lands an outside leg kick. Good left hook from Dollaway. Excellent combination from Sarafian, punctuated by a head kick. Hard left body kick by “The Doberman.” Right hand from Sarafian clips Dollaway and drops him. Dollaway in survival mode, manages to threaten enough with a takedown to get back to his feet. Back in the center of the cage, Sarafian lands another hard combo. Big right hand from Sarafian finds the mark. Sarafian controlling the standup with well-timed explosions. Sarafian jabbing to the body now. 10-9 round for Sarafian.
Good jab from Sarafian. Dollaway misses with a haymaker. Left hook from CB partially lands. Good left body kick from Dollaway, Sarafian clinches up with him. The fighters break and exchange jabs in the center. Nice right hand from Sarafian. Dollaway with a leg kick, eats a big right hand, but pops up after getting dropped. Dollaway with another body kick. Sarafian with a good left head kick. Nice left hook, right hook from Dollaway. Another nice left hook from Dollaway. Jabs from Sarafian land well. Dollaway with another body kick, then a vicious right uppercut that lands flush on Sarafian. Dollaway pounces on his fallen foe, spinning to his back, and begins to pound with unanswered shots. Sarafian is big time hurt, but gets saved by the bell to end the round. 10-9 round for Dollaway.
Good jab from Dollaway. Sarafian misses with a head kick, looking sluggish. Sarafian lands a good left, Dollaway connects with an even harder counter right. Jabs from Dollaway miss, but another body kick lands. Dollaway gets a takedown, and immediately passes to mount. Sarafian is gassed, Dollaway takes his back. Sarafian manages to get back up. Dollaway gets a double leg on the cage, and again takes Sarafian’s back. Dollaway landing light ground and pound, also tired. Dollaway back into mount, misses with a huge elbow. Sarafian gets the half-guard sweep, and reverses. Sarafian now in Dollaway’s half guard. Sarafian passing to mount. Dollaway gives up his back. Sarafian looking for a rear-naked choke, crowd roaring in approval. Not much time left, however, and both fighters are tired. Dollaway is able to reverse himself, and the fight ends with Sarafian landing some shots, defending a takedown from Dollaway. 10-10 round.
The judges score the fight 29-28 Dollaway, 29-28 Sarafian, and 29-28 for the winner by split decision, C.B. “The Doberman” Dollaway.
Middleweight Division (185 lbs.):
Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (21-10) vs. Michael “The Count” Bisping (23-4)
Leg kick from Bisping partially connects. Not much action for the first minute. Bisping lands a nice inside leg kick. Good jab from Bisping. Spinning back kick from Belfort misses. Left hand from Belfort lands. Bisping charges forward but misses with an overhand right. Belfort with a good counter punch. Vitor misses with a left haymaker. Left body kick from Belfort. Stiff jab from Bisping. More jabs from Bisping, as he is using them to control the cage. Belfort lands a good body kick. Belfort lands a big head kick that staggers Bisping. “The Phenom” rushes forward with left punches, looking for the finish. Bisping doing nothing but covering up, round ends. 10-9 round for Belfort.
Leg kicks from Bisping, who is bleeding from his nose. Nice one-two from Belfort. Outside leg kick from “The Count.” Belfort lands a HUGE left head kick that drops Bisping badly. Belfort pounces with follow up left hands and hammerfists: The ref steps in to stop the fight. Big win for Belfort.
Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort wins by TKO at 2:37 of Round 2.