It was an event steeped with some of the best fighters of the early part of this decade. UFC 126 on Feb. 5, 2011 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas featured a handful of the biggest names in the sport’s history on the main card and a number of future stars on the prelims. Anderson Silva’s middleweight title fight with Vitor Belfort headlined a show that also boasted Forrest Griffin, Jon Jones, Donald Cerrone, Chad Mendes and Demetrious Johnson.
Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White had named Belfort as Silva’s next challenger months earlier, as the former light heavyweight champion would be the next challenger in a long line of fighters attempting to unseat “The Spider” at the height of his powers. Silva entered the fight with a perfect 10-0 record in the UFC -- a historic run that included victories over Griffin, Dan Henderson, Demian Maia, Rich Franklin and Chael Sonnen. Belfort had racked up a five-fight winning streak to earn a crack at becoming a two-division UFC titleholder, but he found out firsthand just how dangerous Silva was at his peak.
Silva finished the fight with a highlight-reel front kick that knocked out Belfort 3:25 into the first round. It earned him “Knockout of the Night” honors and remains an iconic moment in the career of one of the greatest fighters of all-time.
Beyond the Silva-Belfort main event, Griffin defeated Franklin by unanimous decision, and a young Jones submitted Ryan Bader with a second-round guillotine choke. Jake Ellenberger and former World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder Miguel Torres earned decisions to round out the pay-per-view bouts.
On the undercard, Cerrone, Mendes and Johnson all showcased the world-class skills that would later turn them into household names. Cerrone pocketed a $75,000 bonus for “Fight of the Night” following his battle with Paul Kelly, though “Cowboy” was passed over for “Submission of the Night” in favor of Jones.
With so much talent on one card and memorable finishes from Silva, Jones and Cerrone, UFC 126 stands the test of time seven years later. In fact, it ranks as one of the most unforgettable pay-per-view events in recent memory.