Belfort stops Rockhold in the first round
(BDCi) – There was no love lost between mddleweights Vitor Belfort and Luke Rockhold.
The tension between the Brazilian and the American was evident heading into their showdown Saturday night in Jaragua do Sul, Santa Catarina, Brazil.
The hostility carried over into fight night, as neither man extended a hand after receiving final instructions from the referee which is a normal show of respect toward the opponent.
There was no respect on this night. However, when the fighting began, Belfort was the guy who unleashed his fury. A spinning kick caught Rockhold on the chin and sent him to the canvas.
Belfort (23-10) immediately jumped on his fallen opponent and delivered punches to Rockhold’s chin, forcing referee Leon Roberts quickly to get between the fighter to end the devastating assault.
“I’m stronger than ever,” said Belfort, whose knockout came at 2:32 of the first round. “I’m stronger than I was before. I have a great team in [the Boca Raton, Fla.-based] Blackzilians.”
It was the manner in which Belfort was allowed to build up his strength that got under the skin of Rockhold. The former UFC light heavyweight champion received approval for testosterone replacement therapy before the fight.
The issue was a major source of hostility between the fighters. But while they showed no respect toward one another before the fight, Belfort spoke briefly to Rockhold afterward. It was the only sign of respect the two shared throughout the entire fight ordeal.
The strategy for Rockhold was clear entering this fight: Be patient early and don’t allow Belfort to lure him into a slugfest. If Rockhold could survive Belfort’s early attack he’d be in position to step up his attack in the latter rounds, he thought.
But Rockhold never got a chance to apply his fight plan.
“I take my hat off,” Rockhold said after falling to 10-2 and watching his win streak stopped at nine.
“He landed a spinning heel kick to my head. I didn’t see that one coming. What can I say? He caught me with a spinning heel kick to the head. I felt good tonight. I felt capable of winning this fight.”