Vitor Belfort has the support of his countrymen. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Chris Weidman is all that stands between Vitor Belfort and his becoming the third fighter in Ultimate Fighting Championship history to win UFC titles in two weight classes.
Belfort will challenge the incumbent champion in the UFC 187 co-main event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Stakes could not be higher for the 38-year-old Brazilian, who has rattled off three straight victories, all of them by knockout. Belfort, however, has not competed since he felled Dan Henderson with a first-round head kick in November 2013. The undefeated Weidman will enter his latest title defense on the strength of back-to-back victories over Anderson Silva and a five-round unanimous decision against Lyoto Machida.
An unscientific poll of prominent Brazilian fighters offered two common themes -- their allegiance lies with Belfort, and Weidman has the edge, especially late in the fight. A smattering of their thoughts:
Related » UFC 187 Fight-by-Fight Preview
Ricardo Arona: Weidman is the favorite. In my opinion, it wasn’t coincidence that Anderson couldn’t crack his chin. I see Weidman having the strongest bone structure in the division. Besides being stronger, he’s also bigger than all the fighters in the division. Plus, he’s a very intelligent fighter because of his background in wrestling competition. I see the fight featuring lots of clinches, lots of time on the fence and lots of time on the ground. Vitor can knock out anyone on any given day, but I think this fight is a better fit for Weidman.
Pedro Rizzo: I would say it’s 50-50. Vitor is too explosive and will have a better chance early in the fight. His hands can decide the fight quickly, but after three rounds, I see Weidman having the advantage.
Andre Pederneiras: I’m betting on Belfort. I think he has improved a lot while training with Henri Hooft and the Blackzilians. Now, besides his boxing skills, he’s also kicking very well. When he finds his target and pulls the trigger, he normally doesn’t need a second shot. The big question involves how he’s going to feel without TRT, but in the videos I saw of his training, he looks to be in great shape. I’m betting on Belfort by knockout.
Jose Aldo: I see Belfort winning in the first or second round. I know Weidman is a tough fighter and deserves all the respect, but Vitor is a phenom and I believe he’ll win that fight.
Sergio Cunha: This is a very tough fight for Belfort. Weidman is coming in with lots of confidence after two wins over Anderson and also beating Lyoto. In my opinion, he’s the favorite.
Renan Barao: It’s going to be a great fight. Belfort is such an explosive guy, and I believe his best chance is in the first two rounds. After that, Weidman may start to have an advantage.
Royce Gracie: Weidman always has a great strategy. He’s trained with Renzo [Gracie] for a long time and is a perfect representative for the new generation of fighters. On the other hand, Belfort has a lot of experience in his favor and knows what to do. It’s really hard to pick a winner in this fight. I think it’s 50-50.
Demian Maia: I started my MMA training with Belfort and I’ve already fought Weidman. Vitor is a really outstanding athlete: strong, explosive, technical, great boxing skills and takedown defense. When he’s on his game, he can beat anyone, but Weidman is the favorite after proving himself by beating Anderson and Lyoto. He’s definitely the man to beat in the middleweight division.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: I see Belfort’s boxing skills as a great advantage in the first few rounds, but after the second round, Chris starts to have the advantage.
Paulo Thiago: It’s going to be a very complicated fight for Belfort. I believe he has a great chance in the first two rounds, but after that, Weidman will dominate.
Ronaldo Souza: You always have to respect a guy who has been fighting for over 19 years, who has faced the strongest opponents in three different weight classes across three generations, and I don’t see that respect coming from Weidman. I believe he’s going to regret that. I think Belfort will win by knockout.
Josuel Distak: I believe in Belfort. If he studies the fight between Weidman and Lyoto, he may find the key to winning. If he uses fast hooks with his left hand, Belfort may get a knockout; in my opinion, that was a weakness Weidman showed against Lyoto. That’s a clue from someone who studies MMA a lot.
Sylvio Behring: The key point is that we don’t know how Belfort will look without TRT. Over his last three fights, he’s been as good as he’s ever been, and if we get that Vitor, he has a great chance; but I don’t think that will happen. I believe Weidman is the favorite in the fight, and he will keep that belt a little longer.
Wallid Ismail: I’m sure all of Brazil will be cheering for Vitor, but we need to know how he will fight without TRT. I truly hope he wins and brings one more belt home to Brazil.