BOSTON -- Chael Sonnen is considered the best trash talker in the fight business, but he proved Saturday night at TD Garden that there is much more to him than harsh words.
Sonnen silenced his critics with an impressive first-round submission of former UFC light heavyweight champion Maurico 'Shogun' Rua. The finish came at the 4:47 mark, when Sonnen applied a guillotine choke that forced Rua to tap.
From the opening horn, Sonnen took control of the fight, using his superior wrestling to take Rua to the ground. Sonnen then punched Rua repeatedly before shifting to the submission hold.
"I'm the man of the hour too sweet to be sour," Sonnen said after improving to 29-13-1. "Wanderlei Silva, in three months, [it's] you and the bad guy."
Sonnen has been targeting Silva for several months. He has taunted Silva relentlessly during that time, but the Brazilian has seemed unreceptive to accept. That might have changed with Sonnen's performance against Rua.
If that fight can't be made, Sonnen might shift his attention back to former middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Despite being a former 205-pound titleholder, Rua (21-8) has struggled to find consistency inside the Octagon. He has lost two fights in a row and is only 2-5 since losing his title to Jones in March 2011.
Browne recovers to knock out Overeem in first
Now maybe people will begin to take Travis Browne very seriously in the heavyweight division.
Browne put himself squarely in the title conversation with a first-round knockout of former Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem, much to the delight of the crowd.
Though the win was impressive, it looked as if Browne wouldn't survive the first minute of the fight. Overeem came out aggressively, landing hard punches and kicks that had Browne wobbly. But after surviving, Browne went on an attack of his own.
He began catching Overeem to the body with kicks. Despite being kicked continuously, Overeem kept moving forward with his hands held low. He would soon pay a huge price for his action.
Browne threw a left kick that would catch Overeem flush on his chin. Overeem went down and was nearly out before hitting the canvas. He would not get a chance to recover as Browne delivered several right hammer fists, which forced referee Mario Yamasaki to jump in at the 4:08 mark.
"The only difference between us in here and you out there is we are tougher for 15 minutes more," Browne said. "He hit me with shots that I'd never been hit with before.
"I just kept trying to back to my feet and move. I did it. This is just another goal in my career, taking care of a top-five guy."
Browne improves to 15-1-1. He is currently ranked ninth among heavyweights by ESPN.com but will likely move up a few spots after winning his second fight in a row. Overeem, currently ranked fifth, dropped his second in a row. He falls to 36-13 with one no-contest.
Faber downs Alcantara for third win in a row
For former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber, the only thing that matters these days is claiming the UFC bantamweight crown. And he doesn't care who he has to go through to get there, even if it's an extremely dangerous fighter like Yuri Alcantara.
Faber remained on track to land another 135-pound title shot with a unanimous decision. But he experienced a few scares along the way.
Two judges scored the fight 30-26. The other had it 30-27. ESPN.com gave Faber the nod 30-27.
Alcantara got Faber to the ground in the opening seconds of the fight and nearly pulled off an armbar. The defensively skilled Faber, however, escaped the hold.
But he wasn't yet out of danger. Alcantara took Faber's back and tried to apply a rear-naked choke. Again, Faber escaped and returned to his feet.
It was then Faber's turn to take the fight to the ground and get top position. Once in control, Faber began landing left elbows and punches to Alcantara's head.
"A guy like that is a true Brazilian warrior," Faber said. "That's right, conditioning is my thing.
"I actually thought Yuri broke my jaw in that early scramble. I think he might have dislocated it."
Faber, who is ranked No. 2 among bantamweights by ESPN.com, improves to 29-6. He has won three fights in a row since his unanimous decision loss to interim titleholder Renan Barao in July 2012.
Alcantara, a native of Marajo, Brazil, falls to 27-5 with one no-contest.
Brown knocks out Pyle in 29 seconds
There are more talented welterweights in UFC than Matt Brown, but none fight harder or put on more exciting fights. Brown continued to entertain fight fans with a first-round knockout of former WEC titleholder Mike Pyle.
Brown went after Pyle immediately. He delivered right and left punches that put Pyle on his heels. But it was a right knee to the chin that sent Pyle to the canvas.
With Pyle on his back, Brown threw hard right punches that found his opponent's chin. When Brown could no longer defend, referee Kevin MacDonald jumped in and stopped the assault 29 seconds into the bout.
Impressed with his performance, Brown raised a few eyebrows with this comment: "Mike Pyle is good enough to be champion. He's better than Georges St. Pierre. I guarantee you that.
"I know how good Mike Pyle is. I knew if I let him get comfortable in there it was going to be a dogfight."
Brown, who extended his win streak to six, improves to 20-11. Pyle slips to 25-9-1; his win streak ends at five.
Howard defeats Hall in return to the Octagon
Expectations were high for Uriah Hall from the moment he began knocking out opponents on Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter. Those expectations were tempered on April 13 when Hall lost a split decision to Kelvin Gastelum in the TUF finale.
Those expectations took another downward turn after Hall suffered his second loss in a row -- a split decision to Boston resident John Howard.
Howard, making his return to the Octagon for the first time since being cut by the promotion in June 2011 -- this time in the middleweight division -- outworked Hall in at least two of the three rounds to satisfy two judges (30-27 and 29-28). The third judge had Hall winning 29-28.
ESPN.com favored Howard 29-28.
"I would've taken this fight for free. I like to fight strikers because I love to go out there and bang," Howard said. "Uriah is the type of guy that is willing to have a war. He did surprise me with the takedowns, and he's very dynamic on his feet. Fighting in my hometown of Boston is a dream come true for me, and I'm so thankful to the UFC for bringing me back."
The knock on Hall after his loss to Gastelum was that his ground game and cardio were suspect. But Hall attempted to erase those doubts. He took Howard to the ground seconds into the fight and attempted to get to the ground on a few more occasions in the bout.
But Howard was undeterred. He executed a few takedowns of his own and often pressured Hall to the body.
Howard, who competed at welterweight during his previous stint in UFC, improves to 21-8. Hall drops to 8-4.
Johnson stays in his feet to dominate Lauzon
Lauzon, however, wasn't satisfied with sharing the top spot; he wanted to set a new mark. But Lauzon's quest was not to be on this night.
A determined Johnson dominated Lauzon on the feet to earn a much-needed unanimous decision.
Johnson sent Lauzon to the canvas with left hooks in the first and second rounds.
"This was definitely my best performance, not just because of how I performed but who I performed against," Johnson said after the fight. "This training camp was push, push, push because I was the underdog from the moment we signed to fight Lauzon. Joe is one of the guys I respected and wanted to fight from the time I got into the UFC. I knew he'd be willing to compete with me where the fight was tough. He brought out the best in me."
The judges scored the fight 30-27, 30-27 and 30-25. ESPN.com had Johnson winning 30-26.
Johnson, who snapped a two-fight skid, landed hard left hooks, uppercuts and straight right hands throughout the three-round affair. Using his superior hand speed and footwork, Johnson never allowed Lauzon to get untracked.
Midway through the third round, Lauzon's face was showing the impact from eating so many punches. There was redness and swelling around his right eye.
Lauzon, who has a solid submission game, was unable to get the speedy Johnson to the ground. Johnson took Lauzon to the ground at the end of the second and third rounds to cement the win.
The loss was the second in a row for Lauzon.
McDonald submits Pickett in second round
But McDonald had more than winning on his mind; he was intent on destroying Pickett. From the moment the fight started, McDonald landed hard punches, especially right hands that sent Pickett to the canvas several times.
On a number of occasions, it appeared that the referee MacDonald was about to stop the bout. But Pickett, a hard-hitter himself, showed great resolve and held on.
But in the second round, when they went to the ground, McDonald turned to his submission skills and applied a triangle that forced Pickett to tap at the 3:23 mark.
"I was not going to let an Englishman beat me in Boston, where the American Revolution began," McDonald said after improving to 16-2. "I didn't think his chin would hold up to my punches.
"I've never hit anybody that many times and that hard without them falling and staying down. I'm thinking to myself, Why are you getting up, and how are you not unconscious? It was very frustrating for me. He's so tough. I still have some things to work on, but I have a long career ahead of me and I'm looking forward to it."
The win gets McDonald back in the win column. He came up short in his bid for the interim bantamweight belt on Feb. 13, when titleholder Barao submitted him in the fourth round.
McDonald entered the fight ranked third among bantamweights. Pickett, who falls to 24-8, is sixth.
McGregor impressive in United States debut
A ton of hype surrounded Conor McGregor as he made his second appearance inside the Octagon and first in the United States. But McGregor was unmoved by all the attention. Actually, he embraced it heading into his featherweight bout with upset-minded Max Holloway.
It's one thing, however, to embrace high expectations. It's another to meet them. The hard-hitting McGregor met those expectations and, in some ways, surpassed them.
He dominated Holloway throughout their featherweight bout, standing and on the ground, en route to a unanimous decision.
The judges scored it 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26. ESPN.com had it 30-27 for McGregor.
"I wanted keep the fight standing and put him away," said McGregor, who improved to 14-2. "But in the second round, he kicked me and I hurt my knee. So I had to take him to the ground after I suffered that injury."
Just about every paying spectator inside the arena roared when McGregor entered the arena. The hard-hitting resident of Dublin, Ireland, had a stern look on his face as he stepped into the cage, which made the crowd scream louder.
And McGregor, who entered the fight with 12 knockouts under his belt, did not disappoint anyone. He started the fight landing hard kicks to the lead leg of Holloway. Once he had Holloway focusing on the kicks, McGregor began throwing hard left hands.
The punches snapped Holloway's head backward on occasion, which earned cheers from the crowd. He continued that form of attack early into the second until the injury occurred.
From there, McGregor began taking Holloway (7-3) to the ground repeatedly. The change in strategy did not lessen McGregor's dominance. He spent the remainder of the fight in top position.