Though Paulo Filho had never fought a mixed martial arts fight in the United States, most American fight fans had heard of the undefeated middleweight’s dominant submission skills.
Sunday night, the Brazilian earned the World Extreme Cagefighting middleweight title by showcasing his stand-up prowess in a first round TKO victory over Joe Doerksen at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Filho landed a right and a left to floor Doerksen, then landed an onslaught of shots on his downed opponent.
Doerksen appeared to be finished but was able to grab onto Filho and rise to his feet, only to be decimated by another prolonged flurry.
Referee John McCarthy called a halt to the fight 4:07 into the opening round.
Filho came to the WEC to become a champion and it took him just one night to establish himself in that role.
"I’m very happy to fight in the organization and I’m looking forward to the upcoming challenges," Filho said through an interpreter.
Early in the fight, Filho tried to go to his strength and take Doerksen to the ground.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran was up to the challenge, however, and did not allow Filho to gain an advantage on the mat.
That didn’t stop Filho from taking home a championship.
"My goal since the beginning is to be the best fighter in the world," Filho said. "In this weight division, I feel that I am top three in the world."
It had been thought that Filho was placed in the WEC by Zuffa — the promotional company that owns and operates the UFC, WEC and Pride Fighting Championship — to avoid a potential matchup with friend and training partner Anderson Silva, the UFC middleweight champion.
Filho attempted to put that notion to rest, claiming he would have no problem entering the ring against his fellow Brazilian Top Team member.
"A fight is a fight," Filho said. "I’m a champion now. He’s a great champion. If we fight, we fight. Then, we go to dinner afterwards."
Carlos Condit retained his welterweight title Sunday in an equally unexpected manner.
He came into the fight with a clear stand-up advantage over Brock Larson, who was thought to be far superior on the ground. Instead, Condit locked in an armbar from bottom position and held on until Larson tapped out at the 2:21 mark of the first round.
"It’s a weapon I always have in my arsenal. I’ve got good submissions," Condit said. "I thought I had the advantage on my feet, but I’m well-rounded."
The win was the sixth in a row for the 23-year old.
"I love armbars. I haven’t been able to use them for awhile," Condit said. "But tonight, the opportunity presented itself and I was able to use it to finish the fight."
Jamie Varner and Sherron Leggett got their lightweight bout started early when they mixed it up at the weigh in on Saturday, but it looked as if only Varner was ready to continue the fireworks when they stepped in the cage for the official start of their fight Sunday.
Varner landed several big shots, including two solid right kicks to the head, and slammed Leggett to the mat three times before the fight was finally stopped at 4:08 of the first round during a barrage of right-hands by Varner.
Blas Avena, a Hard Rock security guard, worked a short shift on Sunday night, disposing of Tiki Ghosn with a choke just 1:01 into the first round.
Jeff Curran survived three grueling rounds to hand Stephen Ledbetter the first loss of his career, earning a unanimous decision victory in one of only three fights on the nine-fight card to go the distance.
Las Vegan Eric Schambari and Antonio Banuelos also earned victories by decision.
Steve Cantwell and Hiromitsu Miura picked up TKO victories.