LAS VEGAS --- Even after a dozen consecutive wins during nearly a half-decade of unrivaled perfection in the UFC octagon, Anderson Silva still came up with another spectacular way to finish a fight.
Silva stopped Vitor Belfort with a single kick to the face in the first round, defending his middleweight belt for a record eighth time at UFC 126 on Saturday night.
After little action in the opening minutes of their bout, Silva (28-4) flattened his fellow Brazilian brawler with one magnificently placed kick that caught Belfort squarely on the jaw, bringing a dramatic end to Silva's 13th consecutive UFC victory at 3:25 of the opening round.
"Thanks to my coach for teaching me that kick," Silva said. "Everybody should respect Vitor. Before I even started fighting, he was a champion, so he deserves your respect."
The lightning-quick strike landed before anybody in the sold-out Mandalay Bay Events Center even realized Silva had done it.
Belfort's eyes rolled while his knees buckled as he fell limply on his back, and Silva landed two punches to the prone Belfort's head before the fight was stopped.
"I've only seen that in a video game," UFC president Dana White said.
Belfort (19-9) blamed himself for failing to block the straight-ahead kick from Silva, whose athleticism and well-rounded style have kept him perfect since 2006.
"It's no excuse. He caught me with a kick," Belfort said. "I just got caught up. He faked the body, and he kicked to the head. Anderson is a great fighter."
Jon "Bones" Jones earned a light heavyweight title shot with a second-round submission victory over fellow prospect Ryan Bader on the undercard in the UFC's hometown.
Forrest Griffin. an Evans High graduate, also won an unanimous decision over fellow veteran Rich Franklin in a meeting of former champions.
Silva is the longest-reigning champion in UFC history, largely dominating all contenders since winning his belt in October 2006 with a first-round stoppage of Franklin.
Yet Silva's aura had lost much of its luster in the past 10 months. He was ripped by White for embarrassing the UFC in Abu Dhabi by barely engaging Demian Maia during a title defense last April, then Silva was largely dominated on the ground for four rounds by Chael Sonnen in Oakland last August before escaping with a fifth-round submission victory.
After Griffin (18-6) controlled nearly the entire opening round, he traded punches and avoided takedowns to grind out a win over Franklin (28-6), the former middleweight champion who has lost three of his past five fights.
"Rusty, rusty," said Griffin, who hadn't fought since late 2009 while recovering from a shoulder injury. "It's great to be back. I was so nervous. Camp didn't go right, but I feel good now. It's hard to come back after a year when you haven't gone full speed. Fortunately I got him down in that first round and was able to grind on him a bit."