Rafael dos Anjos (25-7), the 155-pound champion, recorded his first successful defense, storming through Cerrone in 66 seconds for the quickest stoppage in UFC lightweight title history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The fight was called at 1:06 of the first round after dos Anjos badly hurt Cerrone with a left kick to the body and a flurry of punches. The title bout headlined UFC on Fox inside Amway Center.
The loss was the first for Cerrone (28-7) since August 2013, when he dropped a decision to dos Anjos. Riding an eight-fight winning streak, Cerrone promised a rematch would be different, but dos Anjos was up to the challenge.
Immediately following the win, dos Anjos sent an invitation to current featherweight champion Conor McGregor to move up to lightweight. McGregor (19-2) unified the 145-pound title by knocking out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds last weekend at UFC 194 in Las Vegas. McGregor and his coach, John Kavanagh, have expressed interest in fighting at lightweight in 2016.
"Listen, McGregor," dos Anjos said. "If you want to come to the lightweight division, this is my division."
It's hard to argue with that. Fighting out of Kings MMA in Southern California, dos Anjos moved to 10-1 in his past 11 fights. His last loss came by decision to Khabib Nurmagomedov, inside Amway Center in April 2014. Since that defeat, dos Anjos has been outstanding, recording five wins in a row.
Cerrone, 32, never even got started in a title fight he was forced to wait months for because of dos Anjos' lingering knee injury. According to Fightmetric, Cerrone landed just four strikes in the fight. After eating a stiff lead left in the first exchange, Cerrone seemed slightly tentative, and he ate a hard kick to the body moments later.
Cerrone attempted to hide the effects of the kick, but it was obvious he was badly hurt. He retreated to the fence, where dos Anjos unloaded a string of punches that snapped his head back. Dazed, Cerrone managed to circle off the cage and basically run backward, but dos Anjos was on him the whole way. In a final act of desperation, Cerrone ducked for a takedown, but dos Anjos sprawled and continued to land shots to the head.
It was a vindicating win for dos Anjos, who dealt with performance-enhancing drug accusations from Cerrone during the build-up to the fight. Dos Anjos has never failed a drug test, but Cerrone publicly questioned the changes in his physique in recent years.
"I'm so happy, man," dos Anjos said. "I just proved that I've come to this division to stay. All those accusations people were throwing at me, I'm here with my belt. It's just the beginning of my career now.
"Cerrone is a great opponent. The guy won eight fights straight. It's not easy to do this in the lightweight division, but I have the best team. I am surrounded by great people."
Dos Anjos needs 66 seconds to finish Cerrone
Rafael dos Anjos defeats Donald Cerrone by TKO in 66 seconds for the fastest finish in UFC lightweight title history.