LAS VEGAS (AP) – Chris Weidman stopped Vitor Belfort in the first round with a relentless series of punches on the ground Saturday night, defending his middleweight title at UFC 187.
Weidman (13-0) survived an early scare from Belfort and quickly took control of his third title defense, taking down Belfort and battering his head against the canvas until referee Herb Dean stopped the bout with 2:07 left.
Weidman jumped up and walked around the cage with an American flag on his back, celebrating his latest dominant victory.
"Stop doubting me. It's enough," Weidman yelled to the crowd. "You'd better join the team now. This is the last invitation."
The 38-year-old Belfort (24-11) briefly appeared to get Weidman in trouble, backing him against the cage while Weidman covered up. But Weidman landed a takedown and took control, mounting Belfort and battering him.
"He hit me with some good shots, but I've been there in sparring," Weidman said. "I was just covering, covering, covering, and I was ready to come back."
Weidman hadn't fought since last July, when he won a decision over Lyoto Machida in his second defense of the title he took from Anderson Silva in 2013.
His bout with Belfort was postponed twice in the past year when Weidman got injured in training, but the Long Island native returned with a dominant performance.
"He got me in a bad position, and he got some strikes," Belfort said. "There's no excuse. He was a better man tonight."
Belfort hadn't fought since late 2013, waiting 18 months for his shot at a chance to become the third fighter in UFC history to win belts in two weight classes.
The former light heavyweight champion won three fights with spectacular head-kick knockouts in 2013 while fighting in his native Brazil.
But Belfort's late-career resurgence was colored by his enthusiastic embrace of testosterone replacement therapy, a medical loophole that allowed several UFC fighters to legally compete on steroids until the Nevada Athletic Commission and the UFC eliminated it last year.
Weidman was among Belfort's most vocal critics, suggesting the veteran couldn't have made such a surge without performance-enhancing help. Belfort returned to the cage Saturday with a notably different physique, but Weidman's all-around skill was too much.