GOIANIA, Brazil - Brazilian slugger Vitor Belfort became the first man to ever knock out Dan Henderson, and he may have earned himself a shot at the UFC's light heavyweight title in the process.
Belfort (24-10) needed just 77 seconds to down Henderson in the headlining bout of Saturday's "UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson" event at Goiania Arena in Goiania, Brazil. The fight served as a rematch of the pair's 2006 meeting, which Henderson won by decision.
Belfort opened patiently, staying at distance to avoid Henderson's powerful right hand. Henderson was equally calm to start, but when he did finally load up on a strike, Belfort slipped the effort and countered with a left uppercut that sent his opponent crashing to the floor. To his credit, Henderson climbed back to his feet, but Belfort was there to deliver a crushing high kick that again sent his opponent to the floor, where referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in to call off the fight.
Rather than take his time on the mic to call for a title shot, Belfort chose instead to thank his support system.
"Without the support of everyone in my camp, the Blackzilians, and without the support of my wife and kids, I have to thank them," Belfort said.
Still, UFC President Dana White said in the build-up to the fight an impressive win would likely mean a shot at the winner of December's middleweight title fight between champ Chris Weidman and former title holder Anderson Silva.
A Daniel Sarafian injury prevented him from facing Cezar "Mutante" Ferreira in the finals of 2012's "The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil" tournament, but the middleweights faced off in the co-main event of Saturday's card. It was Ferreira who would walk away as the winner of the tournament finale that never was.
The larger Ferreira looked to keep his opponent at distance and use his range to strike with powerful kicks and flashy spinning strikes. However, Sarafian did a fine job of pressing forward and keeping things in tight. Stymied by his opponent's approach, Sarafian turned to his wrestling, instead. While it didn't please the crowd, who voraciously booed, the three successful takedowns helped earn points from the judges, and Ferreira was awarded a split-decision victory, with scores of 28-29, 30-27 and 30-28.
"He's a very tough guy, a very strong guy, and I tried to do some moves, and I couldn't do what I had to do," Ferreira admitted after the fight.
Former Strikeforce light-heavyweight Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante (12-4) earned his first UFC win, downing Croatian Igor Pokrajac (25-11) in rapid fashion.
The two men engaged early, teeing off in the pocket with heavy punches. Pokrajac pushed his opponent to the cage, but Cavalacante grabbed a Thai clinch and blasted away with knees. Pokrajac wobbled from the blows, and Cavalcante turned to punches to seal the result, earning a tap from his battered foe at the 1:18 mark of the first round.
"I was very well prepared," Cavalcante said. "I think I was lacking dedication, and I fixed it."
Welterweight Brandon Thatch (11-1) continues to impress, this time dispatching of veteran Paulo Thiago (15-6) with relative ease.
Concerned with Thiago's strong submission skills, Thatch looked to keep the fight on the feet, where he could use his range and power. The strategy paid off, as a vicious knee to the body saw Thiago crumple to the floor. As Thatch prepared to follow with strikes, Thiago tapped out, ending the fight at the 2:10 mark of the first round.
In a welterweight contest, undefeated prospect Ryan LaFlare (9-0) kept his perfect record intact with a one-sided decision win over "The Ultimate Figher: Brazil 2" finalist Santiago Ponzinibbio (18-2).
LaFlare was the stronger man throughout the fight, scoring five takedowns in the three-round fighter and outstriking his opponent 109-32. In the end, he was awarded a unanimous-decision victory with 30-27 scores on all three cards.
"I'm happy to get the win," LaFlare said. "I like to punch, and I like to get punched. It's not a fight unless you got punched. I wanted to show I could strike. I got hit a few times, but I got to hit him too, so that was fun."
The night's first main-card contest saw Jeremy Stephens (22-9) move to 2-0 as a featherweight with a spectacular knockout of "The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil" winner Rony Jason (13-4).
Stephens stalked from the opening bell, and as Jason circled right, the former lightweight unleashed a right high kick that landed flush and sent his opponent toppling to the canvas. A hard right hand followed, and Jason was out just 40 seconds into the matchup.
"I didn't expect it to end like that, but I'm excited it did," Stephens said. "I was able to use faints to set him up, so I was able to time my kick perfectly."