After months of leadup, after weeks of trash talk, and a pushing match on the day of weigh-ins, there were still raw feelings as the UFC on FX 8 main event began. Combatants Vitor Belfort and Luke Rockhold refused to touch gloves prior to their match, and then as the fight transpired, Rockhold chose to taunt Belfort, inviting him in for exchanges.
It would prove to be an ill-advised move. Belfort took him up on the offer, unleashing a striking series that is likely to be replayed for months to come, and certainly around December when the year's best are compiled.
Belfort crushed Rockhold with a spinning heel kick and then followed with a few thunderous punches from the top, earning a knockout stoppage at 2:32 of the first round.
"I didn't see that one coming," Rockhold said afterward. "I thought I was finding my timing. What can I say? He caught me with a spinning heel kick to the head."
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Belfort, a 16-year veteran who has mostly been known for his hands throughout his illustrious career, scored his second straight KO that stemmed from a kick. In January, he beat Michael Bisping after a head kick and punches.
Against Rockhold, Belfort had thrown the same spinning kick earlier in the fight and missed, but went back to the well about 90 seconds later and found pay dirt.
The victory will certainly put Belfort in the discussion for the division's No. 1 contender, after champ Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman fight on Fourth of July weekend.
Belfort, who has won four of his last five, wouldn't go out and ask for the bout, but said he was open to anything, including a rematch with Silva.
"I'm here to fight. I don't pick fights, I accept fights," he said. "The fans are excited. I'm very happy. I'm going to root for Anderson. He's doing a tremendous job."
The win was the 11th first-round finish in his UFC career, and he's now 23-10 overall. Rockhold, who was making his UFC debut after coming over as the Strikeforce champion, is now 10-2.