This Saturday, UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, brings an intriguing matchup to the table with a Middleweight bout between Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. The co-main event features two of the best knockout artists in the UFC today, and will give the winner a healthy climb up the Middleweight ladder. With the striking talents of both fighters, this should be an exciting and unpredictable war that may end swiftly in brutal fashion.
Many serious fans of Mixed Martial Arts have become quite familiar with the exploits of Vitor Belfort. Belfort, a quick and aggressive fighter who sports a black-belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is looking to get closer to another shot at the UFC Middleweight championship. Also a black belt in judo, he is most well-known for his hand speed and boxing skills. Belfort’s last bout was an emphatic knockout of Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 133, where he finished the famed judoka with punches at 1:52 of the first round. Prior to that, however, he was on the unfortunate end of arguably the most watched KO highlight of 2011, a viciously powerful front kick courtesy of Middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
With that said, the outcomes of his last two fights seem to show how Vitor Belfort’s career has played out thus far. At the young age of nineteen, Belfort burst onto the scene when he won the UFC 12 heavyweight tournament and became an instantly recognized rising star. Following a first-round stoppage of Tank Abbott, he had won his first four bouts in the Octagon in a total time of three minutes and four seconds. After suffering his first career loss to Randy “The Natural” Couture, he would gain a permanent spot on the highlight reels with his amazing twelve-second knockout of Wanderlei Silva at the very first UFC Brazil. He later avenged his loss to Randy Couture in early 2004, earning “The Phenom” an impressive 12-3 record.
However, Belfort weathered a rough stretch from August of 2004, to October of 2006, suffering five losses in seven bouts albeit against top-level competition such as Couture, Tito Ortiz, Alistair Overeem, and Dan Henderson. Suddenly even a phenom like Belfort became human. Belfort has repeatedly said he was going through some incredibly tough times in his personal life, and that this affected his fighting negatively . Undeterred, he responded by bouncing back with a string of six out of seven victories, the lone blemish being the championship loss to Silva. Looking back at Vitor Belfort’s mercurial career, it would seem that if he shows up with a clear head, he will be very tough to beat in the Octagon on Saturday.
On the other side of the coin, Anthony Johnson brings another incredible skill set into the Octagon at UFC 142, headlined by his flashy knockout power and deadly head kicks. Having won a NJCAA wrestling title in 2004 at Lassen College, opponents have found it incredibly difficult to deal with the size and strength of Anthony Johnson. Coming off of an impressive head kick victory over Charlie Brenneman at UFC Live last October, “Rumble” has shown an impressive mix of kickboxing, ring smarts, and power on his way to amassing a 10-3 record inside the Octagon. Having fought at the 170 lb. limit for the majority of his career, Johnson unquestionably enters his fights as the biggest Welterweight in MMA. Normally cutting 55 lbs. prior to his bouts, Johnson maintains an advantage over his opponents that, recently, only Josh Koscheck has been able to overcome by tapping Johnson out in a Fight-of-the-Night winning battle. His powerful victories prove that “Rumble” Johnson is one of the up-and-coming stars of the UFC, but Vitor Belfort may just be his toughest test to date.
At UFC 142, Johnson will finally make his way to a higher weight class as many fans have expected him to do for some time. There, he will stand across the Octagon from a man that possesses deadly striking speed in his hands, with pinpoint accuracy and knockout power to match. Vitor Belfort has fought and won against a veritable who’s who of MMA legends, and while he may have suffered his downswings, he has also accomplished a great deal in a career that has now spanned over fifteen years. Experience goes to Belfort here, while youth, size, and strength will go to Johnson. This bout has the makings of an absolute war, one that could be an instant Fight of the Night candidate. What are your thoughts, LowKick’ers? Will the Belfort of old show up to the arena in his home country of Brazil and quickly finish Rumble with his deadly boxing, or will Anthony Johnson use his physical advantages of size and strength to earn a finish of his own in the biggest fight of his career? Will the less drastic weight cut help Johnson to a victory? Either way, it would be a surprise if this one were to reach the judges’ decision cards.