SAN JOSE, Calif. - The biggest fight in the history of women's MMA did not disappoint.
In front of 13,524 fans at HP Pavilion, Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos became the new face of women's MMA with a dominating first round TKO win over Gina Carano on Saturday night at Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg, earning the first Strikeforce lightweight women's championship in the process.
The end came at 4:59 of the first round.
"I felt it was time to finish the fight," Santos said through an interpreter. "I didn't know there was like five seconds left in the round. I just kept punching and punching."
The crowd was electric throughout the fight, with many standing to watch the action. While Carano garnered by far the biggest reaction on the show, Santos was both cheered and booed by the fans. The crowd was into the entire fight.
While Carano enjoyed the support of the crowd, the chants of "Gina!" did not help her from suffering her first career defeat.
Santos controlled the majority of the bout, landing shots almost at will. In a scramble at the beginning of the fight, Santos locked in a heel hook, but Carano escaped. Later, she tried a kimura. At one point, Carano mounted Santos, but got up and let Santos stand, a move that ended up being to her detriment.
From that moment, the fight was all Cyborg. She ended up on top of Carano. Sensing both a finish and the end of the round was near, Santos turned it on, bringing down hard, heavy punches as referee Josh Rosenthal saved the battered Carano right as the horn sounded.
"Gina kind of closed her guard and turned around a little bit and I went for the strong punches," Santos said. "I tried to submit her but since she didn't tap, I went for the knockout."
Though she is the new champion, her next opponent is unclear.
"I am ready for any challenger Strikeforce wants to put in front of me," she said.
In the co-main event, Gegard Mousasi made a favorable impression in his U.S. debut, knocking out Renato "Babalu" Sobral in 60 seconds to win the Strikeforce light-heavyweight championship.
Expected to win the battle on the feet, Mousasi took Babalu to the mat. He went into side control and from there he got up and starting raining down vicious blows to Sobral's head. One put Sobral out, forcing referee "Big" John McCarthy to put a halt to the contest.
"Fighting for the first time in the U.S. was a little bit of pressure," Mousasi said. "I knew I had to perform well. There was some pressure, but I trained hard and it paid off."
Mousasi landed 13-of-15 strikes overall and all 11 of his strikes on the ground.
"I wanted to keep the fight standing up, but I knew if I could take him down, I would take him down," Mousasi said. "I know he's a great jiu-jitsu guy, but this is not jiu-jitsu, it's MMA."
The win runs Mousasi's record to 26-2-1, including 13 straight wins and the DREAM middleweight tournament championship. He has not suffered defeat in nearly three years.
Gilbert Melendez avenged the first loss of his career, retaining his Strikeforce interim lightweight championship with a third round TKO win over Mitsuhiro Ishida.
Ishida defeated Melendez by decision in Japan on Dec. 31, 2007. It was a different story this time, as Melendez controlled the action from start to finish.
Takedowns won Ishida the first fight between the two, but he could not get Melendez to the mat this time around, converting just 1-of-7 takedown attempts.
Melendez took over in the third round, taking Ishida's back. He appeared to have three solid chances at a rear-naked choke but gave them all up. Instead, he flattened Ishida out and pounded away until Herb Dean stepped in to wave it off.
"If the choke was there I would've taken it," Melendez said. "I was going for it, it would probably make Jake (Shields) proud. I'm working on my brown belt. I was trying to get the rear-naked choke but it just didn't happen. I was trying to sink it in but he kept slipping out. Trust me, if it was there, I would've finished it."
The time was 3:56.
Melendez will now again await Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson for a unification fight.
In other action, Fabricio Werdum got back on track with a first round submission win over Mike Kyle and Jay Hieron won a unanimous decision over Jesse Taylor. All three judges scored the bout 30-27.