LAS VEGAS - Vitor Belfort on Saturday night at UFC 187 represented the third straight Brazilian legend standing in the way of Chris Weidman's dreams and goals in mixed martial arts.
Weidman took Anderson Silva's middleweight title in July 2013, defended it against him five months later, then beat former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida in July 2014.
And here, on May 23, 2015, inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the same arena as his three previous fights, Weidman continued beating Brazilian legends.
Weidman defeated Belfort, a former light heavyweight champion, via first-round technical knockout at the 2:53 mark. Weidman finished Belfort from the mount position by raining down a series of massive blows before referee Herb Dean stopped the bout. It is the third straight title defense for Weidman (13-0, 9-0 UFC).
Weidman, from Baldwin, opened the fight with a right leg kick. Shortly thereafter, he slipped on a takedown attempt and got caught in a series of flurries with the explosive Belfort. Belfort opened a cut on Weidman's left eyebrow, but the champion withstood the onslaught.
"All I was thinking was you're tiring yourself out," Weidman said.
Weidman managed to get to the center of the cage and eventually got the takedown 1:45 into the round. Weidman, a four-time All-American wrestler in college, controlled Belfort and quickly went from side control to the top mount. From there, it was just a matter of time before Weidman finished Belfort (24-11, 12-8).
"You might be able to hit me, but I'm going to keep moving forward," Weidman said. "You're not going to break me, I'm going to break you long before I ever break. I don't care who's next -- [Luke] Rockhold, Jacare [Souza] -- it's cool with me. I just want to sit and chill for a while, but it would be a dream come true to headline a card at Madison Square Garden."
New York is the only state left with a ban on professional mixed martial arts, and the bill to legalize it rests in the State Assembly right now. The UFC did reserve the Garden for Dec. 5 in the hopes that the bill passes before the legislative session ends in mid-June.
Weidman vs. Belfort was postponed three times since the end of 2013, first when Belfort was removed from the fight after the Nevada State Athletic Commission banned the granting of therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone replacement therapy. Belfort was a known TRT user at the time. (The other two postponements stemmed from injuries to Weidman.)
TRT became a controversial issue in MMA until the NSAC ruling and the UFC's support of it. But performance-enhancing drugs remain a problem and the UFC is set to announce its new drug-testing policies later this summer under the watch of Jeff Novitzky, the former federal agent who took down BALCO and Barry Bonds.
"Vitor's been on my mind for a long time and to finally have the opportunity of getting here and fighting him is a long time coming," Weidman said. "I am looking forward to fighting a non-Brazilian, but it will be bittersweet because it's been a big part of my life. It's been fun to fight these guys."
At Friday's weigh-ins, Weidman, 30, was agitated about a report that the 38-year-old Belfort's testosterone levels were more than twice as high as his. Weidman jawed at Belfort during their staredown.
All during fight week, Weidman expressed supreme confidence in his ability to "dominate" Belfort through "hard work" and a superior mental game. From the open workouts to media day to the weigh-ins, Weidman never once wavered in his belief. Not that you'd expect a world champion to show doubt.
"Weidman is the real champion, there is no excuse," Belfort said. "I tried to stand up for five rounds, but I didn't have it."
Weidman didn't even let Belfort get out of the first round, let alone a fifth round.
"Stop doubting me, it's enough," Weidman said. "Stop doubting me. Join the team. This is my last invitation."