Opinion: Reason for Skepticism

By Mike Sloan Nov 11, 2013
Vitor Belfort is just 1-3 in UFC title fights. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

By reading various message boards, social media posts, established columns and other various blogs, one would think Vitor Belfort is the second coming of Joe Louis, Mike Tyson and Ernesto Hoost all rolled into one. “The Phenom” once again has the masses foaming at the mouth after witnessing another one of his highlight-reel knockouts.

This is nothing new for Belfort. His stunning first-round knockout against Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 32 on Saturday was sensational, yes, but anyone duped into believing he is going to go on some sort of historic tear and capture another world title may be in for a shock. Belfort tends to come up short in the most important fights of his career.

Belfort has always been one of the most physically gifted fighters in MMA. It could be argued that his combination of hand speed and crushing power is unparalleled. However, unmet expectations are on the other side of the coin. Belfort just does not own many wins over upper-echelon opponents. Outside of his knockout against Henderson, the only other signature victory on the Belfort resume came against Wanderlei Silva more than a decade ago. Yes, he stopped Rich Franklin and holds a technical knockout against Randy Couture, but the latter resulted from an incidental cut on the eyelid of “The Natural.” Running down Belfort’s ledger, where are the hall of fame-worthy wins? Marvin Eastman? James Zikic? Joe Charles? Terry Martin? Yoshihiro Akiyama?

The anticlimactic victory over Couture brought Belfort his only major championship, and he surrendered the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight crown to “The Natural” in their rematch seven months later. To his credit, Belfort did win the UFC 12 heavyweight tournament, but the competition he faced -- Scott Ferrozzo and Tra Telligman -- did not exactly constitute a Murderer’s Row. A fighter cannot win every single bout of his career, especially when he competes at such a high level, but aside from his fluky win over Couture, his blitzing of a young “Axe Murderer” and his drubbing of the elder “Hendo,” Belfort has fallen short in almost every other major fight of his career. Couture dominated him in their first and third meetings; Alistair Overeem bested him twice; an in-his-prime Henderson beat him inside Pride Fighting Championships; and he was conquered by Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and Kazushi Sakuraba, all of whom were at or near the top of their respective games at the time.

It is true that Belfort has only two losses in his last 12 fights dating back to 2007, but those two losses were in championship bouts. Anderson Silva blew him out of the water in 2011, and though he threatened to end Jon Jones’ reign with an armbar, “Bones” eventually overwhelmed and submitted him in 2012. What is to lead me to believe Belfort’s fortunes will change in his next significant opportunity against the winner of the forthcoming rematch between Silva and current middleweight champion Chris Weidman?

I have always enjoyed watching Belfort compete, especially when he is at home in Brazil, but the truth of the matter is he is not a reliable bet when he tackles an opponent on the same level. I concede that it is easy to fall under the spell of someone who fights like Belfort because of the talents he brings to the table. However, the overwhelming majority of his stoppages have come in the first round; in fact, he has never finished an opponent after round two. Plus, Belfort has shown a tendency to wear down late in fights.

That sketchy history -- and we have not even discussed his controversial use of testosterone replacement therapy -- is precisely why it is difficult to get too excited about the manner in which he dispatched Henderson. I would not favor Belfort against either Silva or Weidman, as both have the ability to drag him into deeper waters, where they can tire him out and then take him out.

It is almost comical to sit back and watch the so-called experts go bananas over Belfort. Maybe it is wishful thinking from the masses because he is a likeable guy who has proven so enjoyable to watch. However, when it comes down to it, my money will always be on the guy standing across from Belfort in the big fight. It is only a matter of time before his Mr. Hyde surfaces inside the Octagon again. I will see you at the sports book.

Follow Mike Sloan on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mikesloan19.


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