Chael Sonnen had struggled in his past two fights as he lost title bouts to all-time great champions in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
He found more success taking on a former champ Saturday night in Boston.
Sonnen immediately took Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to the ground and worked to a fight-ending guillotine choke in the first round of the light heavyweight main event of the UFC card on Fox Sports 1.
Also, heavyweight Travis Browne survived a brutal onslaught of punches and knees before recovering enough to knock out Alistair Overeem with a front kick to the chin late in the first round.
Sonnen had lost to then-middleweight champion Anderson Silva and light heavyweight champ Jon Jones in his past two fights but made quick work of Rua.
“It feels good. It’s ‘Shogun.’ The guy’s a former world champ, and he’s going to be in the Hall of Fame. He’s beat all these guys that I have looked up to,” Sonnen said. “It feels good whether you squeak out a win or you catch a guy in a good tight lock. It’s the biggest win I’ve had.”
Overeem came close to stopping Browne with a barrage of shots, but didn’t land the decisive blow to prompt referee Mario Yamasaki to step in. His exuberance to end the fight appeared to wear him down, and Browne recovered and got the victory later in the round.
“We didn’t know I was going to get my butt kicked for the first few minutes, but everything else went like we thought it would,” Browne said. “… I’ve never had my body shut down like that on me. The referee kept saying he was going to stop it, and I was telling him that I was OK.”
Bantamweight Urijah Faber appeared to be in trouble early after Iuri Alcantara worked to dominant position in the opening seconds, but Faber took over midway through the first round and grappled his way to a unanimous decision.
Faber, a former World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion, remains unbeaten in nontitle fights between the UFC and WEC.
Lightweight Michael Johnson opened the main card with one of the best performances, as he landed several shots on hometown hero Joe Lauzon and won all three rounds in a unanimous decision.
“This was definitely my best performance, not just because of how I performed but who I performed against,” Johnson said. “I got booed at weigh-ins, and that’s all the motivation I needed to come out here in his hometown and do it right. Joe is one of the guys I respected and wanted to fight from the time I got into the UFC. He brought out the best in me.”
Welterweight Matt Brown extended his winning streak to six with a 29-second knockout of Las Vegan Mike Pyle, who had won four straight bouts.
After a spectacular appearance on “The Ultimate Fighter,” middleweight Uriah Hall fell to 0-2 in official UFC fights, losing a split decision to John Howard.
Hyped featherweight prospect Conor McGregor put on a striking display in winning all three rounds against Max Holloway in a unanimous decision to highlight the preliminary card, though McGregor suffered a second-round knee injury.
Also, former bantamweight title challenger Michael McDonald blasted Brad Pickett with punches before submitting him with a triangle choke in Round 2.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.