LAS VEGAS (AP) — Cain Velasquez reclaimed the UFC heavyweight championship Saturday night, battering Junior Dos Santos on the way to a lopsided unanimous decision in UFC 155.
Velasquez (11-1) took early control of the rematch of his only career loss, flooring the champion with a big right hand midway through the first round. Velasquez spent most of the match stalking and pounding on Dos Santos (15-2), who never fully recovered from the first-round shot that left him bruised and woozy.
"I was so tired, but I had to endure," Velasquez said. "My coaches and everybody helped me so much. He's tough, too. ... It feels so good to get this. This is my wife's Christmas present. I promised her I would do this."
Velasquez won every round on every judge's scorecard in the UFC's traditional year-end event in its hometown. The three judges scored the bout for Velasquez 50-45, 50-44 and 50-43. The Associated Press also favored Velasquez 50-44, giving a 10-8 advantage to Velasquez in the first round.
Dos Santos took the UFC belt away from Velasquez in November 2011 in just 64 seconds, earning a first-round stoppage victory with one vicious overhand right in Anaheim, Calif. Velasquez refused to a blame a knee injury for his only defeat, but in the rematch, he demonstrated exactly what he can do at full strength.
Velasquez immediately showed the rematch would be a different fight, pursuing Dos Santos from the opening bell and backing up the champion. Velasquez then floored Dos Santos with that huge right to the head midway through the round, and Dos Santos had to cover up in the corner while barely surviving an onslaught of strikes and ground-and-pound.
Velasquez went to work on the ground in the second round, and the former Arizona State wrestler repeatedly got the boxing specialist into bad positions. Dos Santos struggled to regain his rhythm after the early knockdown, and Velasquez managed another takedown early in the third round before repeatedly tagging the champion with shots that left his face swollen and puffy.
Dos Santos' Brazilian fans attempted to rally him with chants of his nickname, "Cigano," in the final rounds, but Velasquez was relentless. At the final bell, he collapsed on his back at the center of the cage, pointing skyward with both hands.
"His game was very effective, and tonight he was better than me," Dos Santos said. "It's not usual for me to take a punch, but he walks forward all the time. His takedowns, his grappler game is very effective, so congratulations for him."
Jim Miller won a narrow unanimous decision over Joe Lauzon in a sensationally bloody fight on the undercard at a packed MGM Grand Garden, and rising middleweight Costa Philippou stopped Tim Boetsch in the third rounds. Yushin Okami grappled his way past Alan Belcher, and Derek Brunson easily beat veteran Chris Leben.
Dos Santos' win over Velasquez last year in the UFC's first fight on American network television catapulted the hard-punching Brazilian heavyweight into an international spotlight and kept him unbeaten in his meteoric UFC career. Dos Santos defended his title against Frank Mir earlier this year and got a lucrative sponsorship deal with Nike while emerging as one of the promotion's most likable stars.
Both fighters injured their knees in the month leading up to their first fight, but stayed in the bout because of its importance. Both claimed they were in ideal health for the rematch, although Dos Santos will need a few months to get back to that state after this beating.