DALLAS - The UFC leaves Dallas with a new middleweight contender in Vitor Belfort but some worrying questions about the welterweight ranks.
Both weight classes are ruled by dominant champions in search of a challenger.
In knocking out Rich Franklin at UFC 103, Belfort showed he deserves to be near the top of the 185-pound mixed martial arts line to take on champion Anderson Silva. But the search remains for someone to threaten Canadian Georges St. Pierre's welterweight reign.
Martin (The Hitman) Kampmann had been slated to take on Texas native Mike (Quick) Swick in Big D, with the winner taking on GSP. But that plan fell apart when Swick was injured in training. English newcomer Paul (Semtex) Daley moved up the card to take on Kampmann, complicating the 170-pound picture further by upsetting Kampmann.
"This kid put himself on the map tonight," UFC president Dana White said of Daley.
Daley can give Kampmann an assist for that. The Brit is a good standup fighter with a lesser ground game. For some reason Kampmann elected to keep the fight standing and got caught.
Swick, who was one of the 17,428 watching Saturday at the American Airlines Center, probably moves into the No. 1 contender spot by default. Josh Koscheck, already beaten by St. Pierre, also moved up the ladder by spoiling veteran Frank Trigg's return to the UFC with an 85-second knockout.
As White noted in the post-fight news conference, the good news is the UFC has time to sort it out. St. Pierre, still recovering from an injury suffered in his UFC 100 win over Thiago Alves in July, is not expected to fight until February.
"Who knows. I've got to figure it out," White said of the welterweight picture.
White again downplayed the idea of moving the Montrealer up to middleweight to find a more challenging opponent.
"I like St. Pierre at 170. He's a good, dominant champion at 170 pounds and I don't see any reason to move him up yet to 185 pounds," he said. "And he hasn't come to me and said he wants to move up."
As for the middleweight ranks, White also has time in that Silva is due to have minor elbow surgery that will probably keep him out of action the rest of the year.
Dan Henderson, coming off a highlight-reel knockout of Michael Bisping, feels he has earned the next title shot. But White wants Henderson to fight Nate Marquardt first to see who meets the champion, reasoning Silva has already beaten both of them.
And if that doesn't work. White reckons Belfort is ready for a title shot.
UFC 103 featured 13 bouts and hit high gear midway through. The last seven fights, which were featured either live on TV or on pay-per-view all ended in stoppages with impressive KO finishes from Daley, Tyson Griffin and Efrain Escudero.
On an evening when the UFC was taking on boxing and Floyd Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez for the pay-per-view audience, UFC 103 delivered plenty of hits.
Brazilian young gun Junior Dos Santos battered Pride veteran Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic into verbally submitting two minutes into the final round - after taking one too many power shots to the head.
And on the undercard, lightweights Rick (The Horror) Story and Brian Foster put on a six-minute war before Story submitted Foster via arm triangle. Story was rewarded with US$130,000 in bonuses for fight and submission of the night while Foster got $65,000 for his role in fight of the night.
Knockout of the night - and a $65,000 bonus - went to Belfort, who showed patience and maturity in his return to the UFC after an absence of more than four years.
After a cautious opening that saw the Brazilian escape damage, Belfort clipped Franklin's head with a punch and then put him down with a right, sealing the win with several more heavy blows. Franklin was on his knees and getting hurt when Canadian referee Yves Lavigne stepped in.
Belfort said his new weapon is karate, something that has worked for light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida, another Brazilian.
"In this fight I was taking my time. I was feeling the fight. As soon as I land something, I make sure I have the zip code, the address and the social security (number)," Belfort explained. "I don't like to throw things away."
The predatory Belfort waited for his opening and then cashed in.
"He pulled the trigger tonight and as soon as he hurt him, he went right in for the kill," White said.
Franklin was still trying to figure out what happened at the post-fight news conference. The bottom line was he simply got tagged.
"He's Brazilian and he's southpaw and I tend to have a problem with those guys for some reason," Franklin, who lost his title and two fights to Brazilian lefty Silva, said dryly.