UFC veteran and former Light Heavyweight Champion "The Phenom" Vitor Belfort is slated to challenge current title holder Jon "Bones" Jones at UFC 152.
"How could I not be joyful to fight the best guy at the moment? Everybody from my time retired, and nobody would have that opportunity," Belfort explained in an article published on MMAJunkie.com.
Eager to once again challenge for Light Heavyweight supremacy, Belfort knows that with Father Time calling, his 16 year career may soon be coming to an end.
Known to travel the world searching for the right camp in preparation for his next fight, "The Phenom" accepted the tutelage of former Light Heavyweight Champion—and the last man to face Jones in the Octagon—"Suga" Rashad Evans.
Evans is the head coach of the Blackzilians Team, training at the JACO Hybrid Training Center in Boca Raton, Florida. The Blackzilians possess a wealth of talent, including Alistair Overeem, Braulio Estima, Tyrone Spong, Melvin Guillard and Anthony Johnson.
But the question remains: will the Blackzilians provide Belfort the edge he needs to defeat the already-iconic champion Jones in Toronto on September 22nd?
Breaking down the skill-sets of the most prominent members of the Blackzilians, there is no denying that Evans may provide a first-person insight into the destructiveness that Jones presents inside the Octagon.
Having received many punishing elbows in his title fight against "Bones," Evans could serve as a valuable asset to Belfort in breaking down strategy to overcome Jones' reach advantage and athleticism.
A perplexing reality remains, however. "Suga" is known for his tremendous lateral movement and footwork inside the Octagon, which provides him the necessary elusiveness and quickness to get inside on his competition. In his matchup for the belt, Jones remained one step ahead of Evans and continually peppered the former Michigan State University wrestling standout with strikes from a distance, thwarting any opportunity for "Suga" to inflict any serious damage.
Conversely, Belfort is a traditional boxer with lightening fast hands and explosive punches. "The Phenom" does not exhibit the side-to-side movement of Evans and does not utilize quickness from his feet to expose striking angles. As a more traditional boxer, Belfort remains in the pocket, ready to explode like a boa constrictor with a counter, rather than dancing his way in like a nimble jack rabbit.
This contrast in styles may be a challenging reality for Evans in his coaching strategy to detail a fight plan, considering their techniques are opposite.
What about Alistair Overeem? Will the Dutch kickboxing dynamo provide Belfort with a tactical advantage over Jones?
There is no denying that Overeem is a tremendous striker. As a devastating force within Dream, Strikeforce, K-1, and the UFC Heavyweight Division (just ask Brock Lesnar), Overeem's striking propensity is a force to be reckoned with.
Obviously, Belfort and Overeem have very different physiques, but even though there is probably a 70-pound weight difference between the two fighters, one aspect that may transition smoothly and be of assistance to Vitor in his matchup with Jones is the "Reem's" clinch game.
Striking in the clinch and inflicting severe damage is a staple of Overeem's fight tactics.
This behemoth of a man has lethal knees and elbows, and has devastated top competitors with blows to the solar plexus and head alike. The six inch scar Belfort caused on Marvin Eastman's forehead is proof positive that the Brazilian can deliver a wallop from the clinch, as well, with his knee strikes. If Overeem is capable of passing on novel clinch game knowledge to Belfort, that pearl of wisdom could serve useful if "The Phenom" is able to get inside on Jones.
In the end, will the Blackzilians provide Belfort the tactical advantage to defeat Jon Jones?
To quote the legendary Mike Tyson, “Everybody’s got a strategy. Until they get hit."
I will never challenge Belfort's decision to team up with the Blackzilians in this epic matchup with Jones. I will say, however, when those cage doors close and the 84.5" reach of "Bones" punches "The Phenom" in the face for the first time, as Tyson stated, any strategy developed at the JACO Training Center will be sucked out of the Air Canada Centre faster than Chael Sonnen's belief that Jones is the true champion.
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