UFC 126 from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 5, 2011 will headline two dynamic strikers in the middleweight division.
Current champion, Anderson “The Spider” Silva, will put his 12 consecutive victories in the UFC on the line against fellow Brazilian, “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort. Both possess pedigrees of sheer dominance and this explosive match up has been destined for fruition since Belfort’s return to the UFC in 2009.
On February 5th, either the current champion Anderson Silva will remain the No. 1 middleweight in the world. Or, a new champion will reign supreme and history will be rewritten in Las Vegas as Vitor Belfort dethrones “The Spider” and becomes the UFC middleweight champion.
With an overall mixed martial arts record of 27-4-0, Anderson Silva has earned 15 (T)KO and five submission victories during his future hall of fame career. Currently ranked the No. 1 middleweight fighter and the No. 2 pound for pound fighter in the world, Silva has been king of the UFC middleweight division since winning his championship belt in 2006.
Defeating Rich “Ace” Franklin at UFC 64 on October 14, 2006 by TKO in 2:59 of Round one, Silva utilized his full arsenal of strikes to take out the former champion. Attacking Franklin’s body with knees from the Muay-Thai clinch, Anderson went on to badly break Rich’s nose with a devastating knee strike. Crumbling to the ground, Franklin had no answer for Silva’s assault forcing the stoppage by referee “Big” John McCarthy.
Following his title victory at UFC 64, Anderson Silva would continue his destructive roll of his competition beating Travis Lutter at UFC 67. Earning a tap out victory over Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Lutter, Silva would then annihilate both Nate Marquardt at UFC 73 and yet again, Rich Franklin, at UFC 77 in stand up affairs. Both fighters’ losses were a result of TKO’s due to strikes.
Silva followed up these dominant performances with a one sided affair against Dan Henderson in which he made the veteran look amateur at UFC 82 earning a submission victory over Henderson via rear naked choke.
With three additional victories between July 2008 and April 2009, Silva stepped up a weight class to challenge the former light heavyweight champion, Forrest Griffin at UFC 101.
Dominating Griffin with an onslaught of strikes from all angles and levels, Anderson was virtually untouched in this match up and left Griffin bloodied and beaten in the middle of the octagon resulting in a knockout victory for Silva at 3:23 of Round 1.
Anderson Silva’s victory over Forrest Griffin earned Anderson Beatdown of the Year honors from Sherdog.com as well as Fight of the Night and Knockout of the Night bonuses from the UFC.
Following Silva’s dismantling of Forrest Griffin, Anderson’s fighting style took a turn to the egocentric and left the public confused and questioning his performance inside the octagon. Silva’s standup brilliance that resulted in the overwhelming thrashing of his opponents devolved into a pedestrian “doing just enough to win” fighting style.
The untouchable head movement, lightening fast hand speed, attacks from various angles and levels and a masterful offense which rewarded him with the middleweight championship was replaced with a passive, taunting and arrogant show boating style that kept his opponents in each fight. Anderson Silva was no longer fighting to win. Rather, he was fighting not to lose and allowed his arrogance to control his cage performance.
“The Spider’s” title defense against Demian Maia was viewed as pathetic and a mockery of the sport and actually forced the UFC president, Dana White, to walk out on Silva’s title defense mid-fight. During the post-fight press conference, Dana White apologized to the UFC fans for Silva’s poor performance.
This shocking turn in Silva’s performance continued into his next title defense against Chael Sonnen. Losing all four rounds on the judges’ scorecards when entering the fifth and final round, Silva caught Sonnen in a triangle choke forcing a tap out at 3:10 of Round 5 earning the champion a submission victory. Narrowly escaping Sonnen’s relentless assault, Silva’s camp would blame Anderson’s sub par performance on a rib injury sustained prior to the fight.
Currently, in less than a month’s time, Anderson Silva will once again place his middleweight championship belt on the line against the resurrected, Vitor Belfort.
Belfort stormed onto the UFC scene at the ripe age of 19. Competing then in a heavyweight tournament at UFC 12, “The Phenom’s” hand speed was on display as he unloaded on UFC veteran Tank Abbott earning a technical knockout victory and placing Vitor Belfort on the mixed martial arts map for the world to witness.
Following up his brutal beating of Abbott at UFC 12, Belfort would continue to make a name for himself with a TKO victory over “The Axe Murderer” Wanderlei Silva in October of 1998.
Catching Silva with a left cross, Vitor followed Wanderlei across the cage with a relentless barrage of punches to “The Axe Murderer’s” face forcing the referee stoppage.
Following his explosive entrance into the UFC, Belfort was subsequently marred in steroid controversy. Bouncing between various MMA promotions including Pride Fighting Championships, Affliction and Cage Rage, Vitor would not return to the UFC until four years later.
During his lay off from the UFC, Belfort endured a hellacious personal loss. Vitor’s sister was kidnapped in 2004 and later found murdered in Brazil. This tragedy, rightfully, took a toll on Belfort’s emotional balance forcing Vitor’s fighting career to take a back seat while he managed the emotional affects of his sister’s death.
Refocused, Dana White resigned “The Phenom” in 2009. Knocking out the one time UFC middleweight champion, Rich Franklin, at a catch weight of 195 pounds at UFC 103, Belfort was once again welcomed into the middleweight championship contender talk against Anderson Silva.
This middleweight championship fight on February 5, 2011 has all the makings of an explosive main event. A striking clinic may be witnessed as fans lift their jaws off of the ground if and only if both fighters enter the octagon with the same fighting brilliance exhibited during their primes.
With respect to the champion, Anderson Silva must leave his ego outside of the octagon and approach this fight with the tactical precision that has dominated the middleweight division for the past four years.
Challenging Belfort with a myriad of kicks, knees and punches as well as combining his brutal Muay-Thai clinch work will keep Vitor off balance and leave “The Phenom” scrambling to mount an offensive threat. Additionally, Silva’s elusive head movement and innate ability to attack at various striking angles needs to be the foundation of his fight strategy.
Standing across the octagon, Vitor Belfort’s explosive hand speed and precise strikes that earned “The Phenom” his nickname must emerge. Belfort’s ability to stand and exchange in the pocket and strike first are his key assets. Vitor’s boxing prowess, slick movement and unmatched power in his punches are the tools that have kept him a threat in the MMA world since UFC 12.
In the end, the fighter that can resurrect their former self will be victorious. Glory and the title will be presented to the man who has the ability to maintain their game plan and dominate with their historic strengths.
After the sweat is wiped and the blood is clotted, I believe we will have a new middleweight champion. Vitor Belfort will put an end to Anderson Silva’s four years of dominance in the UFC’s middleweight division. It is “The Phenom’s” time to shine and show the world that the 19 year old destructive force with lightening fast hands and knockout power has returned.
I look forward to an amazing main event at UFC 126 and I welcome your comments.
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