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Vitor Belfort head-kicks his way to title shot at UFC Fight Night 32

Dana White sees ‘no reason’ why Belfort couldn’t fight in America

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Brazilian fighter Vitor Belfort trains during the UFC Sao Paulo open workouts as people watch in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013.

Note: Full results from UFC Fight Night 32 available at the bottom of the page.

From head-kicked to head-kicker, Vitor Belfort has turned the method of defeat in his most significant bout into his greatest weapon.

At UFC 126, Anderson Silva booted Belfort’s UFC middleweight championship dreams with a first-round front-kick to the face. Two and a half years later, it’s Belfort who’s used similar techniques to work his way into position to avenge the defeat.

Belfort knocked out his third straight opponent this year, Dan Henderson, with a head kick at 1:17 of the first round in the main event of UFC Fight Night 32 in Goiania, Brazil. The 36-year-old will now meet the winner of UFC 168’s title fight between Silva and Chris Weidman.

“I reinvented myself,” Belfort said at the event’s post-fight press conference. “It was dedication. It takes a lot of dedication to do something no one has ever done before.”

Belfort became the first person to ever knock out Henderson throughout the mixed martial arts legend’s 16-year career. “Hendo” charged forward flinging his right hand early in the fight when Belfort dropped him with a left hook.

Henderson appeared to recover, but that’s when Belfort sent him to the canvas again with a head kick. The finish came one round earlier than Belfort’s knockout of Michael Bisping and 1:15 faster than his last victory, against Luke Rockhold.

“I’m blown away by what he’s done,” UFC President Dana White said. “He’s a thousand times the fighter he used to be — not only physically but mentally.”

Belfort’s run has also coincided with his controversial usage of testosterone replacement therapy. He’s had no problem securing licensing in Brazil, where the UFC has held his last three fights, but some have expressed doubt that he’d be able to secure an exemption in the United States.

Not White, who says Belfort’s impending title shot could take place anywhere in the world.

“People who want to see him fight in the United States talk a lot of (stuff),” White said. “There’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to fight in Las Vegas no matter what (Nevada Athletic Commission Director) Keith Kizer says.”

Check below for the rest of the results from UFC Fight Night 32.

Cezar Ferreira won a split-decision victory (30-27, 30-28, 28-29) over Daniel Sarafian in a middleweight bout. Sarafian won exchanges on the feet, but Ferreira used his wrestling to earn the judges’ favor.

Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante rebounded from a loss in his UFC debut emphatically. The second of two fights in a row to feature the rare finish by submission due to strikes, Cavalcante stopped Pokrajac with a combination of punches at 1:18 of the first round.

One of the UFC’s top welterweight prospects kept the level of hype high by winning via first-round stoppage for the 11th time in 12 career fights. Brandon Thatch forced Paulo Thiago to tap out due to strikes at 2:10 of the first round after landing a knee.

New York native Ryan LaFlare stayed perfect in his mixed martial arts career, winning his second straight UFC fight since debuting in the organization. LaFlare took a unanimous decision victory (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) over Santiago Ponzinibbio, and nearly finished the Brazilian with strikes in the final round.

Jeremy Stephens further removed himself from a three-fight losing streak at lightweight last year by winning his second straight at his new weight class. Stephens pulled off an upset by knocking out Rony Jason 40 seconds in their featherweight bout with a head kick.

Sam Sicilia knocked out Godofredo Pepey at 1:42 of the first round in a featherweight bout.

Omari Akhmedov knocked out Thiago Perpetuo at 3:31 of the first round in a middleweight fight.

Thiago Tavares defeated Justin Salas by submission at 2:38 of the first round, forcing a tapout with a rear-naked choke in their lightweight bout.

Adriano Martins submitted Darron Cruickshank with a kimura at 2:49 of the second round in a lightweight bout.

Dustin Ortiz defeated Jose Maria Tome by TKO at 3:19 of the third round in a flyweight bout.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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