Begin the countdown for Cain Velasquez-Junior dos Santos III.
Both heavyweights prevailed with knockouts at UFC 160 — Velasquez over Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the main event, and dos Santos over Mark Hunt in the co-main —inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night.
White called the rematch “a no-brainer” and added he’d expect to happen before December.
“That makes sense, definitely,” Velasquez said.
Added dos Santos: “My next fight will be for the title and that’s what I want. I believe so much I can stay on top of the division for a long time.”
Velasquez — who reclaimed the title with a decision over dos Santos in December — needed all of 81 seconds to defend the belt for the first time in his career.
He set up a devastating, overhand right with a quick left jab. Silva crumpled and the referee stepped in to stop the bout shortly thereafter.
Silva --- who lost by a first-round TKO to Velasquez on the same holiday weekend last year --- felt referee Mario Yamasaki erred in two ways late in the short fight. First, he didn’t penalize Velasquez for what he said were multiple illegal blows to the back of the neck. Second, Yamasaki halted the fight too fast.
“The same thing that applies to athletes who do something wrong or illegal should also apply to referees,” Silva said through an interpreter. “They, too, should be penalized.”
Velasquez said he connected with Silva’s ear, so his punches were legal.
Dos Santos held up his end of the deal with a third-round KO of Hunt in a crowd-pleasing slugfest in the co-main event. The bout earned each a $50,000 the Fight of the Night bonus.
Most of the dos Santos-Hunt match was fought toe-to-toe and in a brief stretch went to the ground. Boos rattled around the arena.
“When the fans were booing I (wasn't) thinking (to) take it easy,” dos Santos said.
Dos Santos knocked down Hunt with an overhand right in the first round similar to what allowed him to claim the heavyweight belt the first time he fought Velasquez. But unlike in the Velasquez bout, Hunt bounced right back up.
“If there’s ever a trilogy, that’s it right there,” UFC president Dana White said. “If you look at the way both fights went: Junior destroys (Velasquez) in the first fight, Cain destroys him in the second fight. I can’t wait to see the third fight.”
Hunt had dos Santos in a bit of trouble in the second round against the cage after a left hook, but dos Santos persevered and entered the third round in the lead. Dos Santos didn’t coast as he leveled an overhand left to the face of Hunt, whose nose had already been bloodied by constant jabs.
Dos Santos finished Hunt with 42 seconds left in the third round with a spinning kick.
“I had never had the confidence to try a spinning kick like that before in a fight,” dos Santos said. “When I did it and it worked, it was amazing!"
Hunt was transported to an area hospital. White said he didn’t have an update on Hunt’s condition.
TJ Grant used one straight, right punch against Gray Maynard to vault him into a title shot against lightweight champ Benson Henderson. (White said the fight would happen afterward.) Grant stumbled Maynard with the first-round strike. Grant pounced and landed several more punches before the fight was stopped.
“This is like a dream come true, but the dream isn’t over yet,” said Grant, who earned the KO of the Night bonus. “There is still work to do. I knew if I left it all out there, the fans would love it. I wasn’t necessarily looking for the knockout. I was just looking to connect to the face."
White said last month that the winner of the bout would become the No. 1 contender.
There’s no guaranteed title shot for light heavyweight Glover Teixeira, but he remained unstoppable. He used a guillotine choke to submit James Te Huna in the first round as Teixeira ran his winning streak to 19 fights.
But it seemed that Teixeira --- who earned the Submission of the Night bonus --- was more excited about meeting boxing legend Mike Tyson, who was seated cageside.
“I saw him today and yesterday (at the weigh-in),” a beaming Teixeira said in the post-fight broadcast interview. “I watched all of his highlights before I came (out) here.”
Donald Cerrone dominated K.J. Noons — who was making his UFC debut — en route to a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26). One judge gave Cerrone a 10-8 advantage in the third round.
“I was kind of in a scramble mode at first and strayed away from my game plan,” Cerrone said. “(Coach) Greg (Jackson) got me back on track after that first round. I just hope I gave a good performance for the fans. That kid is tough.”
The final two fights on the undercard broadcast on FX were decided by close — if not controversial — decisions.
Dennis Bermudez, a 3-1 favorite in his featherweight fight against Max Holloway, won by split decision 29-28, 28-29, 29-28. Holloway pushed the action for much of the fight and was the more accurate striker, according to FightMetric.com.
“I feel sometimes I get lucky,” Bermudez said. “I don’t know why I have to take a punch sometimes to come alive in a fight. I’ve trained hard and my striking coach wants me to drop the guys I’m working with and not just let them up. I think that attitude came through in this fight.” Mike Pyle won by the same score in his welterweight bout against Rick Story.
Pyle appeared to be all but done as the clock ticked down in the first round. Story landed a left cross square to the chin of Pyle, who fell to the mat and managed to wait out the clock.
Pyle began his rally in the second round, using his elbows and fists to soften a tiring Story. Pyle also was solid on the ground, where a good portion of the rest of the match was fought.
“I should have never let it go to judges,” Pyle said. “I'm not happy with my performance. I got hit too much in the first round, but I feel I did get more technically sound as the fight went on. Can’t wait to get back out there.”
Also on the undercard, Khabib Nurmagomedov — who was fined 20 percent of his purse for missing weight on Friday — landed a record 21 takedowns in a unanimous victory (30-27 on all cards) over Abel Trujillo. Sean Sherk (16 in a five-found fight) previously had the overall record, while Luigi Fioravanti (13) had the three-round mark.
Ultimate Fighter Season 16 winner Colton Smith fell in his first fight since the TUF Finale as TUF Smashes winner Robert Whittaker earned a third-round TKO.
Bonuses of $50,000 each went to Junior dos Santos and Mark Hunt for Fight of the Night, Glover Teixeira for submission of the Night and T.J. Grant for Knockout of the Night. UFC president Dana White was going to award Knockout of the Night to dos Santos, but boxing legend Mike Tyson intervened and White decided not to argue.
At the post-fight press conference, White also announced the retirement of UFC stalwart Forrest Griffin. Griffin will stay with the UFC in a yet-to-be-determined capacity.
After getting his first two takedown attempts stuffed, Velasquez sent "Bigfoot" to the canvas with a massive right. The heavyweight champion jumped all over the Brazilian, firing off heavy punches from back side mount until referee Mario Yamasaki stepped in to save Silva 81 seconds into the fight.
Junior dos Santos def. Mark Hunt
JDS looked awesome at UFC 160, surprisingly electing to spend the majority of their bout trading blows with Hunt. He hurt the "Super Samoan" with an overhand right early in the first round, and he came close to ending the fight again in the second round when he decided to take Hunt down and work in some ground-n-pound.
Even though he had two rounds in the bag going into the third round, dos Santos continued to push the pace, finally putting Hunt away with a spinning back kick with only 42 seconds left in the fight.
With his victory against Hunt, Junior is now the number one contender in the UFC's heavyweight division.
Glover Teixeira def. James Te Huna
Teixeira made quick work out of Te Huna at UFC 160, softening the Australian up with strikes before putting him on his back. He locked in a guillotine choke as James tried to work his way back up, forcing the tap at 2:38 of round one.
T.J. Grant def. Gray Maynard
Maynard went headhunting early in their UFC 160 encounter and Grant made him pay for his reckless aggression. T.J. sent Maynard to the canvas with a straight right, and he followed up with a barrage of punches and knees until referee Chris Tognoni called an end to the contest at the 2:07 mark of the first round.
With the win, T.J is now the number one contender in the UFC's lightweight division.
Donald Cerrone def. K.J. Noons
As expected, Cerrone and K.J. came out swinging at UFC 160, with both men landing their share of decent strikes. However, Cerrone was able to connect a bit more as the fight progressed and he mixed in a few takedowns as well. "Cowboy" kept Noons on his back for the majority of the final round, turning the Strikeforce import's face into a bloody mess.
The Octagon-side judges scored the fight 30-27, 30-26, and 30-27, all in favor of Cerrone.
Mike Pyle def. Rick Story (split decision)
Dennis Bermudez def. Max Holloway (split decision)
Robert Whittaker def. Colton Smith (TKO, round three)
Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Abel Trujillo (unanimous decision)
Stephen Thompson def. Nah-Shon Burrell (unanimous decision)
George Roop def. Brian Bowles (TKO, round two)
Jeremy Stephens def. Estevan Payan (unanimous decision)
UFC 160 highlights
Junior Dos Santos Speaks On Knocking Hunt With Spinning Heel Kick
Velasquez Looks To Defend Title Against JDS In Mexico
Dana White: Cain vs JDS III "A No-Brainer"
UFC 160: Velasquez vs Bigfoot II Recap
Glover Teixeira Talks About Meeting Mike Tyson. Welcomes Fight With Jon Jones
Donald Cerrone's Grandma Inspires Him To UFC 160 Victory
TJ Grant Aims For Title Fight In Canada
Dana White and Fighters Talk About Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos UFC Trilogy