At UFC 181, the No. 3 middleweight in the world, Vitor Belfort, is scheduled to take on Chris Weidman for the 185-pound championship title. Belfort has been on a tear since 2007. He is 10-2 in his last 12 fights, only losing to then-middleweight champion Anderson Silva at UFC 126 and current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 152, respectively.
The 18-year veteran and former UFC light heavyweight champion brings tremendous knockout power and a wealth of experience to the Octagon against Weidman on December 6. The latter, plus his recent dispatching of other top contenders in his division, gives him much more than a puncher’s chance to emerge victorious in his championship matchup at UFC 181.
More Than a Puncher’s Chance
Not only has Belfort won 83 percent of his last dozen fights, in those victories, he has finished all but one of his foes.
The Phenom has not just reigned victorious over a great number of opponents, he has beaten highly talented combatants and former title holders in Rich Franklin, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Anthony Johnson, Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson. His most recent knockout win over Henderson was significant in that the multiple-time world champion had never previously been knocked out.
As for Weidman, he is a two-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler and has dominated some of his opponents by taking them down and imposing his will.
Belfort, on the other hand, holds a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and is more than capable of handling himself on the ground. In fact, the Brazilian has faced high-caliber wrestlers in the past and has emerged triumphant in many of those matchups. This gives light to Belfort’s confidence upon entering UFC 181.
According to Combate.com (translation via Fernando Arbex of Bloody Elbow), Belfort stated:
(Chris Weidman) has a lot of flaws in his game. We'll exploit them. I've been studying Weidman and I believe that you will see a nice fight. I'm ready for five rounds of Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling...This bout has been already very anticipated, I think it'll be a great show.
All in all, Belfort was terrifyingly violent in his last three fights, finishing his opponents viciously. Given his versatility and ability to end fights quickly, Belfort may end up being Weidman’s toughest challenge to date.
Belfort has been fighting professionally since 1996. He is a former UFC champion and has fought the best of his era. He realizes that at 37 years old, however, his bout against Weidman will most likely represent his last opportunity to secure gold.
In that, one of the “flaws” about which Belfort wishes to exploit may be Weidman’s inexperience. In his interview with Combate.com, Belfort commented on his own profound experience and chance to attain another world title. He stated:
I'm as hungry as when I won my first world title at 19 years old. Today I'm 37 and I have the opportunity to be world champion for the third time in a third different division. With humility, determination and respect for my opponent, I'll do my best to win my third belt.
The All-American is 12-0, and although he was most recently pushed to a decision against the former light heavyweight champion in Lyoto Machida at UFC 175, Weidman has never witnessed real adversity in the Octagon. At UFC 181, Belfort will attempt to expose the champion’s weaknesses and inexperience in his quest to reign atop the middleweight division.
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