TORONTO - UFC 152 opened to plenty of empty seats Saturday night. But latecomers to the Air Canada Centre missed three quick, decisive finishes.
As first Canadian to fight on the night, bantamweight Mitch Gagnon of Sudbury, Ont., got a rousing reception when he was introduced to fight lanky Walel (The Gazelle) Watson second up on the mixed martial arts card.
And the five-foot-six Canadian won more cheers when he dropped Watson (9-5) with a counter left off a attempted Superman punch. Gagnon (9-2) then took Watson's back and choked him out at 1:09 of the first round for his first UFC win.
It was Watson's third straight UFC loss and second at the hands of a Canadian. Yves Jabouin defeated him by split decision at UFC 140 in Toronto.
Australian Kyle Noke, in his first outing at welterweight, stopped Charlie (The Spaniard) Brenneman via TKO 45 seconds into the first round. Noke (20-6-1) crumpled Brenneman (15-5) with a right to the chin and then kept punching until ref Dan Miragliotta stepped in to save the dazed fighter.
Brenneman seemed to object to the stoppage but UFC boss Dana White, via Twitter, gave it a thumbs up.
In a battle of two of the worst nicknames in the UFC, welterweight Seth (Polish Pistola) Baczynski stopped Norway's Simeon (The Grin) Thoresen with a big left at 4:10 of the first round. The finish seemed against the run of play, with Thoresen bloodying Baczynski (17-6). But the one big blow turned the tide and led to Baczynski's sixth straight win.
Thoresen (17-3-1) needed several minutes to recover from the KO.
The main event pitted light-heavyweight champion Jon (Bones) Jones against former title-holder Vitor (The Phenom) Belfort.
For Jones, the spotlight provided a chance to win back some fans after declining to meet Chael Sonnen on short notice, a decision that resulted in the cancellation of UFC 151 in Las Vegas.
It marked the UFC's 10th show in Canada and third in Toronto.