After all the talk, it’s now set for these two middleweights to collide. Longtime UFC competitor and former light heavyweight title holder, Vitor Belfort, returns to his country of origin, as he battles former Strikeforce middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold, in his debut for the UFC. In the lead-up to the showdown, the men have traded verbal jabs including an altercation at the weigh-ins, in which both fighters met the their contractual weights. Now the talk is over. For a preview to the long-anticipated contest, Caged Insider is nice enough to offer you our insight on the outcome of the fight. Enjoy!
Main Event on FX
Make no mistake about it. These two are looking to make a statement. With title implications looming, Belfort and Rockhold are hungry for a shot at Anderson Silva’s title and for good reason. Each middleweight has previously held a title and would enjoy nothing less than doing so again. While Belfort has already had his chance at Silva (he lost via KO), Rockhold has made it known since his Strikeforce days that he’s fully prepared and would welcome the opportunity.
Belfort has been around the block. From Japan to America, he has competed everywhere since 1996. A Carlson Gracie protégé, he gained world-wide prominence when he first joined the UFC and blasted Tank Abbott with his patented lightning fast hands. From there, he made appearances in Pride, Strikeforce, Cage Rage, and even the short-lived Affliction promotion. His 32-fight resume includes such legendary names as Jon Jones, Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, Kazushi Sakuraba, Wanderlei Silva, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, and Alistair Overeem. There isn’t anything he hasn’t done.
The Brazilian has developed an exceptional set of skills in his 17 years of fighting. Included with the aforementioned striking skills, he is also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and has better-than-average wrestling ability. However, his main interest is punching and he uses it exceptionally well. Typically one to box, he has also picked up a little kickboxing, as evidenced in his throttling of Michael Bisping at UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Bisping. The Brazilian fired a well-timed kick to the head of the Brit and followed up with ground strikes until the referee put a halt to the bout. Belfort will hope to do the same to Rockhold.
Rockhold, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer to the sport. The 28 year-old made his professional debut in 2007, after Belfort was already 28 fights in. In eleven pro fights, he has only lost once and carries a nine-fight winning streak into tomorrow night. The American last appeared almost a year ago in a Strikeforce title defense against Tim Kennedy last July. He battered Kennedy with strikes, using his superior reach and timing to win a decision.
The American Kickboxing Academy standout is another well-rounded fighter. He has exceptionally technical striking and holds a brown belt in jiu-jitsu. He relies on his athleticism and size to keep opponents at his preferred striking distance so he can utilize his typically longer reach and counter-striking. His takedown defense is also second-to-none. It’s a nightmare to drag him to the ground and, on the few occasions he was brought down, he has displayed wonderful top and bottom grappling. Success for Rockhold will hinge on his ability to keep his distance and pick the Brazilian apart.
It’s hard not to go with your heart on this one. The hope that the Belfort of old will show up always rests in the back of your mind. In this situation, he will. Vitor Belfort will reign victorious, winning by TKO again.
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski – USA TODAY Sports