All eyes of the mixed martial arts community were on Las Vegas this Memorial Day weekend as UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez defended his title against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. It was a rematch of a bout that happened last Memorial Day weekend, which saw Velasquez finish Bigfoot in the first-round and leave the giant a bloody mess. But, before the title bout took place there were four highly anticipated fights to take place on the pay-per-view portion of UFC 160.
Leading off the main card action was a lightweight bout between Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone and former Strikeforce contender K.J. Noons. The first-round of this bout went as well as anyone could have imagined. The two stood toe to toe and were throwing solid combinations. Noons seemed quite comfortable in the first round of his UFC debut, but that's as good as he would look on this night. As the fight went on Cerrone continued to get better and better, but Noons began to fade midway thru the second round. Cerrone is considered a top-5 lightweight in the UFC, but Noons was coming in with some well-deserved hype. The hype, however, did not match the effort. It wasn't clear if Noons was gassed or if he just wasn't showing any effort, but whatever the case may be it does not take away from the stellar performance of Cerrone. "Cowboy" seemed to be landing every shot he threw (he landed 51% of his significant strikes) and was taking Noons down at will. It was Cerrone's most complete performance since he's been in the UFC and proved, once again, why he's considered a top lightweight. This bout perfectly set the stage for the second lightweight bout of the main card, which had a little more at stake.
Following the performance of Cerrone would be a tough task for most, but Gray Maynard and T.J. Grant promised to put forth such an effort. UFC President Dana White had stated that the winner of this bout would be next to face UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson and both fighters came out like they were going for a title shot. Within the first 30 seconds it was evident that this was going to be a brawl. Both men are known for their wrestling, but there would be no time for that in this fight. There were a quick flurry of exchanges as both got rocked, but it was Grant that landed the deciding blow.
Coming into the fight, Grant was 4-0 as a lightweight but was unheralded amongst most MMA fans. Within mere minutes, he became a fan favorite. Grant stunned Maynard with a stiff right that dropped the former title contender and Grant pounced. He saw his opening to end the fight and took it. At 2:07 of the opening round, referee Chris Tognoni stopped the fight for a Grant TKO victory via punches. It put Grant at 5-0 in the division and set him up for a potential title shot with Henderson.
With the lighter weights done, it was time for the bigger fighters to take to the octagon. The third bout on the main card was a light-heavyweight bout between James Te Huna and Glover Teixeira. Both came in riding significant win streaks, but Teixeira's was of epic proportions. The Pit Crew fighter was on an 18-fight win streak as he headed into UFC 160. In a division run by the champion, Jon Jones, any sign of a potential challenger is a good sign. The winner of this bout could climb the ladder as potential contender.
Many envisioned this bout to be a brawl that would test Teixeira's knockout power and Te Huna's chin and for the first few minutes it seemed like it would go that way, but Glover showed he's just as dangerous on the mat as he is on his feet. Teixeira stunned Te Huna a few times, but would eventually sync in a standing guillotine choke. At first it seemed Te Huna would be able to fight out of it and potentially escape. That was until Teixeira left his feet and dragged him down while strengthening his grip on the submission attempt. It was an impressive submission as Teixeira, who's 6'2 and 205 pounds, wrapped his right leg over Te Huna's left arm while pulling back on his neck. It didn't take long for Te Huna to tap and set off one of the more memorable celebrations of the year. Sitting cage side all night was "Iron" Mike Tyson who came into the octagon to congratulate Teixeira, who is a big fan of the boxing icon.
So far on the main card there was a decisive victory, a highlight level knockout and an impressive submission victory. Only thing left to see was four of the top heavyweights in the world to go at it. And, that's what the headliners did.
First up in the co-main event was a bout that would likely decide the next challenger for the heavyweight title. It was former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos taking on the "Super Samoan" Mark Hunt. Hunt was a replacement for Alistair Overeem, but was a fan favorite entering this bout. This was expected to be one of those bouts that would end in a quick knockout and the expectation was rightfully placed as this bout included two of the top knockout artists in the heavyweight division.
Right from the get go, Hunt and JDS stood in the middle of the cage trading punches. Well, it was more one-sided. JDS landed several hard shots on Hunt, including one that dropped the former K-1 champ. It was a surprise to most that the fight got out of the first round, but JDS was in full-control as the bout went on. It was more of the same in the second round as JDS kept Hunt at a distance while landing key shots. Near the end of the round, JDS took Hunt down to end the round. Heading into the third round, Hunt needed to get a KO finish or lose the bout.
There was hope that this bout would end in a knockout and it did, but to Hunt's dismay it wasn't for him. In one of the more impressive knockouts ever seen in the heavyweight division, dos Santos threw a spinning leg kick that clipped Hunt on the forehead and dropped him. It was followed by a dropping right hand, a la Dan Henderson's H-Bomb on Michael Bisping at UFC 100. During the post fight press conference, White stated that JDS is likely to get the next title shot. There was still one fight left and it would reveal who JDS would fight for the title.
This time last year, Velasquez and Silva met in the octagon for the first time on a card filled with heavyweights. This Memorial Day weekend they met again, this time for the UFC heavyweight title. Cain was defending his title after defeating JDS in December to get back the title he lost in October of 2011. Silva left that bout last year as a bloody mess and in defeat, but he was riding a two-fight win streak that included knockout wins over Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem.
Many expected this bout to be deja vu and end exactly like last year's fight. Lo and behold, it nearly did. Cain looked like a lion stalking his pray as he chased Bigfoot around the cage, while the Brazilian backpedaled away. Cain shot for a few takedown attempts, but each was blocked by Silva. It was when Silva got close that Cain threw a 1-2 combination to drop the big man. The champ barely missed with a left hand, but caught Silva with a solid right cross to drop the challenger. Cain then pounced and landed several shots as referee Mario Yamasaki stood close by. There were warnings for both fighters during this quick exchange. One to Cain to watch shots to the back of the head and to Silva to defend himself.
Within moments of the warning, Yamasaki stepped in and stopped the fight. The TKO victory for Cain was his third straight win and insured him a longer title reign than his first time as champion. It also set up a trilogy with JDS, that Dana White says will likely happen before December. For now, the UFC heavyweight champion resides in San Jose and trains at American Kickboxing Academy. Cain Velasquez proved, in front of Mike Tyson and the world, that he is the baddest man on the planet.
Nitesh Dutt is a Productions Assistant at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @NiteshDutt.