The man long known as "The Underground King" has taken over the mainstream.
Philadelphia's Eddie Alvarez dominated Rafael dos Anjos in a jaw-dropping performance in the main event of UFC Fight Night 90 on Thursday night, winning the UFC lightweight title via first-round TKO at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The time of the stoppage was 3:49.
"Rafael dos Anjos was top five pound for pound and I took him out," said a teary-eyed Alvarez (28-4), who won his third straight fight.
The bout was competitive in the early going as both fighters felt one another out and tried to figure out their range. Alvarez did so first, as he wobbled dos Anjos and followed up with a pit bull's ruthlessness.
Dos Anjos managed to briefly scamper to safety, but Alvarez wasn't going to be denied. He continued to pursue dos Anjos and landed again. Dos Anjos somehow managed to stay on his feet as Alvarez rocked him with shot after shot, but it was clear he was out on his feet, and referee Herb Dean called off the bout, ending Dos Anjos' five-fight win streak.
"Rafael is resilient," Alvarez said. "I had him hurt and I let it go, I knew I had to bring it."
In his past three fights, Alvarez, who left Bellator two years ago as lightweight champion, has scored consecutive wins over fighters who held world titles in Gilbert Melendez (Strikeforce), Anthony Pettis (UFC and WEC) and now Dos Anjos (UFC).
In a highly anticipated heavyweight co-main event, Derrick Lewis pushed through fatigue to gut out a split decision victory over the ever durable Roy Nelson.
Lewis (16-4, 1 no-contest) peppered Nelson over the course of the opening round with a variety of strikes, from big meat-hook fists to a wicked body kick which left a huge welt.
Nelson (21-13), however, took advantage of Lewis' lack of wrestling skill and took him down six times over the course of the fight. He shut Lewis down entirely in the second round and got off to a good start in the third.
But Lewis dug down late in the round, and may have finally swung the fight in his favor with a giant wrecking ball of a right hand that would have knocked out most fighters. Nelson absorbed the blow and made it to the horn. But Lewis got the nod via split decision, taking two out of three 29-28 scores for his fourth straight win.
"It is what it is," Lewis said. "The Black Beast in the house. S--t,that's what I'm talking about. I don't care how tired I'm going to get, I'm going to keep swinging."
The welterweight matchup between Los Angeles' Alan Jouban and the debuting Belal Muhammad was an absolute barnburner.
Jouban (14-4) got a 10-8 round in the opening round, dropping him once with a big left hand and a second time with a head kick as he absolutely dominated the round. But Muhammad (9-1) survived, and survived his continued onslaught in the second round.
Then, in the third, Muhammad went for it, as he poured it on the tiring Jouban right up until the final horn. But Jouban, with two rounds in the bank, held on for the unanimous decision victory on scores of 28-27, 29-28, and 29-27.
"What can I say, he's a really tough guy and it was tough fight," Jouban said. "He came out in the third round strong and showed he was undefeated for a reason. I didn't underestimate his abilities coming into this fight — I knew what to expect. He hasn't been finished in his career and I gave him all I could."
Joseph Duffy shook off his one-sided loss to Dustin Poirier in spectacular fashion. The native of Donegal, Ireland made Mitch Clarke (11-4) face plant with a big right hand, swarmed him, then finished him with a rear-naked choke at just 25 seconds of their lightweight, main-card opener.
"It's just good to be back fighting in front of all these fans in Vegas and put this right," said the TriStar-based Duffy (15-2), who won for the third time in four UFC fights. "Strategy same as always, I'm confident in my game, just let him have it. Whatever he throws I'm confident I have the answer."
The 13th win of undefeated Alberto Mina's career was also his most impressive. The Brazilian welterweight took on crafty veteran Mike Pyle and finished him early in the second round with a perfectly timed flying knee. Mina poured on punches to the grounded Pyle until the fight was waved off at the 1:17 mark.
Mina improved to 3-0 in the UFC, while the 40-year-old Pyle (27-12-1) lost for the third time in his past four fights.
"This victory is the tipping point of my career," Mina said. "I have been under the radar and now this puts me back out there where I want to be. I am very excited and looking forward to what comes next in my career."
Lightweight John Makdessi got back in the win column after getting the nod in a spirited scrap against France's Mehdi Baghdad (11-5). The two went for broke over the course of 15 minutes, and turned up the heat in a back-and-forth final round. Makdessi had more left in the tank in a final flurry late in the fight, which might have made the difference as the Montrealer got a split decision. Makdessi (14-5) took two of three 29-28 scores and snapped a two-fight losing streak.
"The key for me in this fight was to stay calm under pressure," Makdessi said. "My opponent switched things up and became more patient. I went into survival mode, but knew I could win trusting my training and the decisions I would make under pressure."
In a bantamweight bout, Tucon's Anthony Birchak improved to 13-3 with a split decision win over Brazil's Dileno Lopes. Birchak overcame a broken thumb suffered in the first round, then outstruck Lopes in the second and third rounds to take his second victory in his past three fights. The judges scores were a weird 30-27 in favor of Lopes and a pair of 29-28s for Birchak.
"I always wanted to have one of those Gilbert Melendez vs Diego Sanchez type fights," Birchak said. "Now that it's been and gone, I'm telling my coaches backstage that it was a tough 15 minutes! But it delivered a win and I take that away with me."
The event was kicked off in spectacular manner with a string of five consecutive fights ending in submissions, the longest such streak to open a card in the modern era UFC.
Welterweight Vicente Luque got both the card and three straight nights of fighting with a second-round D'Arce finish of Alvaro Herrera for his fifth career submission win. Then Marcos Beltran finished Reginaldo Vieira via rear-naked choke at 3:04 of round 2 of their bantamweight fight. Lightweight Gilbert Burns made improved to 12-1 by making Łukasz Sajewski tap to a straight armbar with just three seconds left in the opening round of their bout. Felipe Arantes made Jerrod Sanders verbally tap to an armbar in the second round of their bantamweight matchup for his third win in his past four fights, and then Pedro Munhoz forced Russell Doane to tap to a guillotine in a bantamweight fight for his seventh career submission victory.