Things are looking up for Vitor Belfort. | Photo: Sherdog.com
What a difference a fight makes, and in the case of Vitor Belfort, nobody can resurrect a career quicker.
Fresh off a crushing, highlight-reel knockout loss to middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Belfort rebounded back into title contention by dispatching Yoshihiro Akiyama in classic fashion in the UFC 133 “Evans vs. Ortiz 2” co-main event on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. When Belfort throws his dynamite hands at superhuman speed, there is nobody that can inflict so much damage in so little time. He is a physically gifted fighter with excellent takedown defense. The challenges with that skill set have always been in fights when the early Belfort Moment does not happen.
With that said, the middleweight division remains a fairly negotiable hill for Belfort to climb. With bouts like Chael Sonnen-Brian Stann and Jason Miller-Michael Bisping ahead, giving Belfort the winner of either of those is a compelling proposition. I would make him a strong favorite against any of them except Sonnen, whose wrestling could pose a problem. There is also a potential slugfest against Chris Leben, whose resurgent knockout against Wanderlei Silva at UFC 132 makes him instantly marketable against “The Phenom.” However, Leben has a difficult assignment next in Mark Munoz, who could very well beat him with wrestling and brutal ground-and-pound.
On paper, outside of Sonnen, there is nobody with the potential to get to Anderson Silva like Belfort. Challenger Yushin Okami will have something to say about that on Aug. 27, when he takes on “The Spider” for his middleweight belt at UFC 134, but I think that fight will only reinforce why Silva-Belfort was so marketable in the first place. The only way anyone is going to beat Silva is by being able to outstrike or outwrestle him, and Okami is simply not that guy.
We will know a lot about how much the UFC wants Silva-Belfort 2 by how it matches Belfort for his next fight. Given another performance like the one he put forth at UFC 133, it may be something that creates its own demand. Nobody takes out world-class foes quicker than Belfort, and that resonates with fans.
Jason Probst can be reached at Jason@jasonprobst.com or twitter.com/jasonprobst.