PHILADELPHIA - Rashad Evans delivered a crushing knee to Tito Ortiz's chest, then ended the fight with a series of blows to the head to shake off a 14-month layoff and win the main event of UFC 133 on Saturday night.
Evans won at four minutes, 48 seconds into Round 2 via TKO. Evans had Ortiz pinned against the cage when he blasted a right knee into the chest that crumpled Ortiz. Evans (21-1-1) finished Ortiz (17-9-1) with punishing right hands, and is the No. 1 contender for the light heavyweight championship.
Evans and Ortiz fought to a draw in 2007. Ortiz took the fight on short notice after a stunning win last month in UFC 132.
In the other featured bout, Vitor Belfort stopped Yoshihiro Akiyama with a first-round knockout, throwing a flurry of punches to dominate like his days atop the light heavyweight division.
Both fighters spent the opening moments of the round feeling each other out in the octagon which brought some boos from the restless Philadelphia crowd. Belfort pounced and knocked down Akiyama with a right hook. Belfort (20-9-0) swarmed his fallen foe and pummelled him on the ground. Belfort won the middleweight bout in one minute, 52 seconds.
"I have the courage it takes to be one of the best," Belfort said. "I feel strong, fit, powerful and fast."
Ortiz and Evans ended the card on a high note in UFC's return to Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center.
Rory (The Water Boy) MacDonald of Quesnel, B.C., improved to 12-1 with a TKO win over American Mike Pyle. MacDonald put Pyle down at 3:54 in the first round.
Former 76ers star Charles Barkley, actor Mickey Rourke, light heavyweight boxing champion Bernard Hopkins and UFC star Quinton "Rampage" Jackson were among the celebrities in the crowd.
Hopkins and UFC president Dana White had a brief conversation before the start of the main card. The crowd went wild when Jackson walked in and the former "The A-Team" actor posed for pictures to the delight of the rabid fans.
UFC returned to this city for the first time since UFC 101 two years ago. But White promised last month Philadelphia would become a regular stop on the UFC calendar.
"Awesome, I love this town. Great town," White said from his seat. "You can't go wrong in Philly."
Unlike 101, the Wells Fargo Center wasn't sold out. The arena sold about 10,000 seats in the 12,00-seat configuration. It was loud and fans booed both Ortiz and Evans when they were shown on the six video screens hanging near the upper deck.
"Listen, when is it ever boring in Philly," Ortiz asked. "It's a fight town ... long before UFC."
Most of the fights on the six-bout undercard lacked the punishing action the Philly crowd was dying to see until Alexander Gustafsson won the finale by bashing and bloodying Matt Hamill en route to a second-round TKO.
"Usually when the prelims go like this," White said, "the main card is hopefully going to be a barnburner."
Ortiz resurrected his career with a first-round submission victory over Ryan Bader last month at UFC 132 and stepped in when the card needed a replacement fighter in this main event. Evans, the top contender for the light heavyweight belt, hadn't fought since beating Jackson by unanimous decision 14 months ago at UFC 114.
"It's what you do when you're in a valley, that allows you to come back," Evans said. "I want that belt back."
Ortiz and Evans fought to a 28-28 draw on July 7, 2007.
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was scheduled to face Evans until he dropped out with an injured hand. Former Penn State wrestler Phil Davis was next on the list, but an undisclosed injury forced him out of the lucrative fight.