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Gian Villante wins by TKO at UFC 167

Mixed martial artist Gian Villante poses for a

Mixed martial artist Gian Villante poses for a portrait after a strength and conditioning workout at the Professional Athletic Performance Center in Garden City. (Sept. 14, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

Split-seconds matter in mixed martial arts, as they do in every other sport.

Just ask Gian Villante.

His opponent, Cody Donovan, launched his right leg toward the exposed head of Villante.

At the same time, Villante flung his right arm toward to left jaw of Donovan.

Villante got there first.

He connected on the hook, dropped Donovan, then forced the technical knockout in the opening bout at UFC 167 in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

"I got lucky," Levittown's Villante said. "Not lucky, but I hit a good shot, that's about it. I took that from right field."

The TKO came at the 1:22 mark of the second round.

It was the first win in the UFC for Villante (11-4, 1-1), who trains at Bellmore Kickboxing Academy.  He took the fight on 19 days' notice as a replacement for Robert Drysdale, who failed a test during training camp for elevated levels of testosterone.

“After the way my last fight ended with the eye poke, it felt so great to get out there and perform even on short notice," Villante said. "You don’t want to be that guy that looks back at his career 20 years from now and says that he never got a win in the UFC. I feel like that pressure is off my shoulders now."

Villante absorbed that kick from Donovan, which wound up landing near his left shoulder after Donovan got sent backward from the force of Villante's punch.

Donovan (8-4, 1-2) and Villante stood toe to toe for much of the first round, with Donovan getting the better of the striking. He mixed in left jabs and straight rights and a pair of kicks that Villante absorbed.

“That’s exactly the type of fight I wanted to have," Donovan said. "I thought that going out there and slugging was the best way to start out the UFC 20th anniversary. He’s very tough and he took a lot of good shots from me. It just didn’t go my way in the end.”

Donovan won the first round on two of the three judges' scorecards.

Still, he kept moving forward, something trainer Keith Trimble always stresses with Villante. UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, Villante's training partner, could also be heard from the corner emploring Villante to get off first in the exchanges.

“Thnink of the position he played in football," Trimble said last week. "Llinebacker. The first step is to go forward, not backward. If you want to go move backward, go play cornerback.”

There was no moving backward Saturday once Villante landed that big right hook. He rushed right in and landed a series of strikes before referee Kim Winslow stepped in to end the fight.

New York Sports