Cain Velasquez, right, throws a punch against Antonio Silva in the first… (Julie Jacobson / Associated…)
LAS VEGAS — Cain Velasquez successfully defended his Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight belt against Antonio Silva on Saturday night with a performance even more impressive than his previous first-round disposal of "Bigfoot" last year.
The 30-year-old San Jose fighter needed just 1 minute 21 seconds to drop his Brazilian opponent with a big right hand.
Velasquez, an accomplished wrestler, then moved in with a right-armed chokehold and proceeded to unleash seven right-handed punches to Silva's head before referee Mario Yamasaki moved in to stop the UFC 160 main event at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Velasquez had said his intention was to "never stand in front of" the big-punching Silva (18-5), who knocked out Alistair Overeem in December.
Instead, Velasquez found an opening in the striking game to retain the belt he claimed last May, when he took Silva to the canvas and bloodied him with fists and elbows to the head, winning in 3:36.
Based in large measure on the one-sided nature of that bout, Velasquez entered the octagon Saturday as more than a 9-1 betting favorite at MGM Resorts' sports books.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission reported Velasquez earned a guaranteed $400,000 purse while Silva got $75,000.
The victory will create a third match between Velasquez and former champion Junior Dos Santos of Brazil. UFC President Dana White called the trilogy a "no-brainer." Velasquez said the fight "makes sense," and Dos Santos added, "I want to be champion again, for a long time."
On Saturday, Dos Santos delivered a hard spinning reverse back-kick to the top of heavier opponent Mark Hunt's head late in the third round, knocking Hunt to the canvas, and then pounced to deliver a right-handed punch to the face, forcing a technical-knockout stoppage with 42 seconds left in the fight.
The Brazilian had also knocked down the 39-year-old Hunt (9-8) with an overhand right in the first round.
Last May, Velasquez beat the bigger Silva after losing the belt months earlier to Dos Santos by first-round knockout. Velasquez returned Dec. 29 to beat Dos Santos by unanimous decision.
The heavy-hitting Dos Santos came back Saturday displaying more attention to head movement and defense, a stronger jab and even the desire to try a takedown and fight on the canvas.
"He's tough, has always been tough," Velasquez said of Dos Santos.
"Tonight, everything was right and I won," Dos Santos (16-2) said in the octagon afterward, adding it was the first time he'd ever attempted the spinning kick in a fight.
"That's what I most want," Dos Santos said of the belt. "I truly believe I can be the champion again."
Earlier in Saturday's program, Canadian lightweight TJ Grant had a surprisingly easy time disposing of former title fighter Gray Maynard at the 2:07 mark of the first round.