Vitor Belfort (22-10, 15 KO’s, 3 Subs)
Vitor Belfort has had a storied MMA career but his most recent defeats against Anderson Silva as a middleweight and subsequently to Jon Jones in the light heavyweight division signaled to many that his illustrious tenure had come to a close. However, the final chapter has not been written as Belfort rebounded from his loss to Jones in September to secure a stunning TKO victory over Michael Bisping before a jubilant crowd of over 9000 of his countrymen in Sao Paulo Brazil.
And just like that Vitor Belfort has soared to the number three ranking in the UFC’s middleweight division. His performance against Luke Rockhold will determine whether Belfort will be considered for another crack at Anderson Silva or relegated as a gatekeeper for all the young guns looking to make their mark over an aging legend.
Belfort has done most of his damage in the Octagon with a punishing brand of strikes and kicks as evidenced by his 15 KO’s in 22 victories. Yet he is also an accomplished mat technician, holding black belts in judo and BJJ. Those skills were on display when he stealthily hooked an armbar on Jon Jones and almost made it stick until the champ was able to wriggle free and ultimately submit Belfort in the 4th round.
Luke Rockhold (10-1, 2 KO’s, 6 Subs)
Rockhold is a Strikeforce refugee but has the distinction of being a reigning champion without a belt. He defeated then champion Ronaldo Souza to win the Strikeforce Middleweight crown and successfully defended it with a 1st round TKO over Keith Jardine and then a unanimous decision over Tim Kennedy in July of last year.
He will now make his UFC debut against a man who will be more than happy to stand and trade or seamlessly go to the mat. Prior to his unanimous decision over Souza to claim the title, Rockhold racked up six consecutive 1st round victories with five coming by way of submission and the other a TKO over Paul Bradley. He doesn’t have the obligatory All-American designation on his wrestling resume that is seemingly a prerequisite for elite grapplers in contemporary MMA but he does have a wrestling background and a brown belt in BJJ. While that may not inspire those who wish to plunk a few bucks on Rockhold, it must be noted that he is training with a superb level of talent at the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) and his lack of a formal pedigree did not inhibit his domination in Strikeforce.
It’s not surprising that this matchup is a veritable pick’em in most offshore betting shops because Belfort’s experience advantage is diminished by the fact that he is 36 years of age and 17 years into a brutal MMA career. Rockhold has not lost in almost six years and was the reigning king of the now defunct Strikeforce organization. However, I’m not convinced he has the chops to successfully go toe-to-toe with a murderous striker of Belfort’s ilk.
Rockhold’s camp is well aware of this potential mismatch standing up so it would be logical they will be looking to get this fight to the ground. But even on the mat Belfort will be far from easy prey as he has only been submitted twice in his career with the most recent coming at the hands of the sublime Jon Bones Jones.
Unfortunately for Belfort, the two champions standing in his way at the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions happen to be two of the greatest fighters ever to grace the Octagon. However, he still has plenty of gas left in the tank to defeat virtually anyone else, particularly when the match is taking place on his home turf in front of a packed crowd squarely in his corner.Play Belfort +100 at 5Dimes.eu in your UFC betting odds.