Vitor Belfort still has some of MMA's quickest hands. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Vitor Belfort (19-9, 8-5 UFC) vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-3, 2 NC, 1-2 UFC)
The Matchup: In nearly two decades of MMA since UFC 1 shocked our sensibilities, there has not been a single fighter to resemble Belfort in terms of the body of work produced and the wildly disparate results. When he is on his A game, he is as dangerous a striker as there is in the sport, stringing together concussive blows with blinding speed and numbing effect. Belfort’s losses have a recurring tragic air to them, often with the whiff of potential unrealized attached as an epilogue to why he came up short.
Then there is his last outing against middleweight champion Anderson Silva at UFC 126. After a couple minutes of dancing and eyeing each other, Belfort scored a flash takedown, missed a monster punch that Silva slipped and was summarily dispatched with a front kick that ended matters as quickly as they began to unfold.
Akiyama is a decent opponent with moderate all-around skills in addition to a strong judo base. He seems the perfect guy for Belfort to rebound against.
At 185 pounds, Belfort is going to be exceptionally strong and difficult to take down. With his range and hands, he can also decide when they engage. In short, Akiyama is taking a knife to a gunfight. There is the outside chance the judoka could circle, kill some time, frustrate Belfort with counters and then hit a well-timed takedown en route to running “The Phenom” out of gas and maybe hitting a submission or grinding to a decision by repeating this over several rounds. That scenario is doubtful at best.
The Pick: Belfort by second-round knockout in a one-sided pounding.
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