By Thomas Gerbasi
BROOMFIELD, March 21 – This is starting to become a habit. Brazilian bomber Junior Dos Santos added another high-profile name to his resume Sunday night, as he knocked out former world title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga in the first round of their UFC Live on VERSUS co-main event at 1st Bank Center.
Dos Santos vs. Gonzaga
“If you guys like to watch good knockouts, I’m here to do that,” said a jubilant Dos Santos, who has finished off Fabricio Werdum, Mirko Cro Cop, Gilbert Yvel, and Stefan Struve in his 17-month UFC career. Now he has even bigger game in his sights. Watch post-fight interview
“I want to fight with the best,” he said. “I'm ready for the title shot. If the UFC wants it, I'm ready.”
Both fighters tentatively circled each other in the opening minute, with Gonzaga making the first move via a quick takedown. Dos Santos got up immediately, opting to keep the fight standing. Midway through the round, Gonzaga tried to end things with a kick to the head, but missed. Dos Santos returned fire, but just missed the mark.
With less than 90 seconds to go though, he was on target with a left hook to the jaw that dropped Gonzaga. Dos Santos moved in for the finish and his relentless follow-up barrage got the job done, forcing referee Josh Rosenthal to stop the fight at 3:53 of the first round.
With the win, Dos Santos ups his record to 11-1; Gonzaga falls to 11-5.
Kongo vs. Buentello
In a battle of heavyweight strikers, France’s Cheick Kongo threw a wrench into the works, using a ground and pound strategy to take Paul Buentello out of his element and score a third round victory over ‘The Headunter.’ Watch post-fight interview
As the bell rang, Buentello’s strategy was simple – stand and trade. But after a couple of shots flew Kongo’s way, he immediately sought the takedown and got it. Buentello tried to get back up, but was sent back to the mat by Kongo, who began to fire off strikes at close range. That was the opening Buentello needed to get up, but in the process he appeared to either hurt his finger or get it caught in his glove, forcing a stoppage to the action.
The Octagonside doctor’s visit got Buentello back in the fight, but after a brief exchange, Kongo took his foe back to the canvas. After a brief stall, referee Herb Dean stood the fighters up and Kongo showed off his striking as he dropped Buentello just before the bell.
Kongo opened up round two with his kicks, and then moved upstairs with punches before picking Buentello up and dropping him to the mat. A barrage of ground strikes followed, but Buentello wouldn’t give in under the assault, and he eventually earned a break after Kongo landed an illegal knee to the head while he was still on the mat, costing the Frenchman a point. When the action resumed, Kongo used his strikes to set up another takedown. Buentello got up again, but Kongo continued to dominate the action until the bell.
Kongo’s ground attack continued to pay dividends in round three, with Buentello simply unable to stop the takedown or get his offense in gear. Finally, after a series of unanswered elbows to the body while the two were on the mat, Buentello decided that he had enough, and he tapped out due to strikes at the 1:16 mark.
With the win, Kongo improves to 25-6-1; Buentello falls to 25-12.
Sakara vs. Irvin
Italy’s Alessio Sakara spoiled James Irvin’s middleweight debut in the televised opener, showing off his boxing skills in scoring a first round TKO over ‘The Sandman’. Watch post-fight interview
Sakara opened up the fight with a quick 1-2, and his striking was certainly on point in the early stages of the fight as he peppered Irvin – a former heavyweight and light heavyweight - upstairs. Irvin fired off kicks downstairs to keep the Italian honest, but Sakara continued to have success, particularly with his right hand.
It was a left hook that ended the bout though, as Irvin caught a shot to the eye that dropped him to a knee. Referee Josh Rosenthal halted the action and brought in the Octagonside physicians to check Irvin’s eye. After the doctors conversed, the bout was halted, with Sakara being awarded the win via TKO at the 3:01 mark
With the win, Sakara improves to 19-7 with 1 NC; Irvin falls to 14-6 with 1 NC.