A former UFC tournament and one of the certifiable legends of the sport takes on MMA’s most disliked Brit in what’s a title eliminator for the latter. In Brazil, too, so that an entire stadium will be chanting “you’re going to die” in Portuguese at the Brit. Man oh man, this could be a lot of fun AND it’s on FX. How can you not like that?
Fight Breakdown – Vitor Belfort has been a known quantity since he was 19 years old, destroying fighters back when the rules were not nearly as developed, and yet he really hasn’t changed all that much when you think about it. He hits really hard to start and then gasses, susceptible to someone who can drag him into the deep waters. Throw in an underrated (and often little seen) ground game honed under BJJ royalty and you have a fighter who oozes intrigues in every facet of the game. Vitor still commands interest because he as that “it” factor; you never know when he’s going to just explode and give you a highlight reel knockout.
Belfort’s game is simple: throw hands, throw them hard and keep throwing them until your opponent fall does. Vitor has remarkable hand speed combined with one shot power; there’s a reason why Vitor’s highlight reel spans over a decade of one-shot KO’s. And that’ll be his game plan going in; throw something hard that connects and then throw another dozen punches immediately thereafter if/when he gets rocked. He’s master of the swarm; he may rock you with the first one but while you’re still collecting your senses he will bury you in an avalanche of strikes. Off his back he has a slick submission game but look for Vitor to keep it standing; his boxing game brought him to the dance and he’ll probably go out on his shield with it.
Michael Bisping, on the other hand, has refined his talents significantly in the past couple years. He used to be an ok wrestler, even for a Brit, but he’s refined his wrestling to be probably the best England has produced in terms of MMA adaptation. Not a high level to hit, admittedly, but being above average is something. His game plan is pretty simple too; outbox and outlast. Bisping puts a pace a guys that few can match and gets better as the fight goes on.
Bisping’s game plan will be to do just that to Belfort, who fades pretty fast. Most of his wins happen early, usually before the end of the second, and the further the fight goes the worse he gets. He needs to survive what’ll be “Hell on Earth” for the opening 2-3 minutes and drag Belfort as deep as possible into the fight. Look for Bisping to do something similar to what worked in the first round against Dan Henderson in keeping his distance, pumping jab and keeping the fight as far away as possible. He needs to keep away from Vitor’s power; he has a good enough chin to survive it but his chin has been cracked before. If he can get into the third and beyond he’ll have the definite advantage.
Vitor comes out like a bull in a china shop and he needs to finish this as soon as he can. Bisping has a major edge in cardio and the longer the fight goes the worse it’ll be for “The Phenom.” Bisping is hittable and he needs to lay a beating on him quickly and decisively. Bisping is durable but he has this tendency to get hit a lot, as well; Belfort’s strategy has to hit him often and swarm him. Bisping is one of the toughest outs in MMA but Belfort has the skillset to do it.
Why It Matters – Bisping is a win away from a title shot and the UFC really wants to match him up against Anderson Silva. All that stands in his way is Vitor and a win, especially a big finish, gets him there. Bisping is the perennial bridesmaid when it comes to getting to this point and he’s far enough along in his career that this could be his last shot. He’s had a TON of title eliminators and there comes a point when you stop being in the mix because of it.
If you translate Vitor Belfort from Portuguese to English it would be spelled “Rich Franklin” … which is where Belfort’s career is right now. He’s no worse than the 4th best guy in the division but he got mercked by Anderson Silva already. He needs to go through a murderer’s row to get one more stab at it and he has to win here to keep it up.
Prediction – Bisping