This Saturday night (May 23, 2015) 18-year UFC veteran Vitor Belfort will climb into the Octagon to fight in his long-awaited and oft-delayed middleweight title fight with champion Chris Weidman.
It’s been a long, twisting road of false starts and hold-ups, as Belfort’s controversial testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT) lead to him backing out of the first fight at UFC 173 last May, and a duo of Weidman injuries put the respective kibosh on the subsequent reschedulings at UFC 181 and 184.
But the fight is finally here, and while most are giving Weidman the decided edge to retain the belt in one of the most delayed fights in UFC history, ‘The Phenom’ simply has to be respected for the long list of eye-popping knockouts he’s put on for the fans over the years.
There are a lot of them, but here are the five best.
1First Round TKO over Luke Rockhold at UFC on FX 8
This scintillating victory undoubtedly earns the top spot on this list both because it is the most spectacular and the most pivotal of his career. Coming in hot with the momentum of his win over Michael Bisping just three months before, Belfort rained on Rockhold’s UFC debut with a vicious spinning back that shocked Rockhold and the MMA world. The finish win was made all the more impressive by the fact that Rockhold has since won four straight bouts by finish to look like one of the most dangerous competitors in all of MMA right now.
2First Round TKO over Wanderlei Silva at UFC Brazil
This legendary stoppage over former Pride great Wanderlei ‘The Axe Murderer’ Silva will remain forever etched in the annals of MMA history. There’s not much more to say about than Belfort used his otherworldly hand speed and power to put an early end to Silva’s night with a bulldozing rush that finished the fight in only 44 seconds and left ‘The Axe Murderer’ slumped up against the cage. Classic stuff.
3First Round KO over Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 32
The third and final finish win of Belfort’s highly criticized and controversial TRT-fueled run of 2013, ‘The Phenom’ lifted tough veteran Henderson off of the ground with a massive first round uppercut when ‘Hendo’ rushed in carelessly. After following up with an accurate head kick, Belfort avenged a previous loss to Henderson and earned the title shot that he’s been patiently sitting on the sidelines since late 2013 for. Henderson protested the stoppage, but he was in big trouble courtesy of the Brazilian slugger.
4Second Round KO over Terry Martin at Affliction: Banned
This win, which came in Belfort’s middleweight debut, may have marked the beginning of Belfort’s current return to form. After weathering some big first round punches from Martin, ‘The Phenom’ came back with a shattering flying knee in the second, following up with a picture-perfect uppercut-straight right combo that had his opponent out cold between the ropes. Another classic, but at times forgotten, Belfort knockout.
5First Round TKO over Marvin Eastman at UFC 43
This finish that earned Belfort a shot at the UFC light heavyweight title was another spectacular one, as ‘The Phenom’ blasted the power-slugging ‘Beast Man’ with two lifting knees and a barrage of follow-up punches that may have caused the most gruesome cut in MMA history. Given the fact that Eastman is well known for countless jaw-dropping knockouts of his own, this one was quite the impressive feather in Belfort’s cap.
6Honorable Mention – Second Round TKO over Michael Bisping at UFC on FX 7
While this win is arguably deserving of a spot on Belfort’s illustrious top five, it’s difficult to put all three of his controversial yet dominant 2013 wins on the list. In the fight, Belfort kicked off his improbable run of that year by nailing Bisping with a powerful left high kick and swarming to earn the stoppage. ‘The Count’ thought it was an early stoppage for his enhanced opponent, but nevertheless this was the fight that began Belfort’s run to where he is now.