With his first-round knockout victory against Luke Rockhold at UFC on FX 8, Vitor Belfort has clearly separated himself from the rest of the pack in the 185-pound division. He didn’t even take any damage during his bout against Rockhold, putting the last Strikeforce middleweight champion away with a perfectly executed spinning heel kick.
In a perfect world, Vitor’s back-to-back wins against top middleweight contenders should automatically put him in line for a title shot, but things don’t always work that way in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. UFC president Dana White – or fans for that matter – haven’t seemed interested in seeing “The Phenom” get a second crack at MMA’s pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva in the past, given the fact “The Spider” made quick work of Belfort during their UFC 126 encounter, finishing him with a beautiful front kick to the face.
However, it’s worth noting that today’s Vitor is considerably better that the guy who faced Anderson back in 2011. He’s more confident, his physique has never looked better, and he’s deepened his striking arsenal by adding a variety of kicks which clearly have knockout power behind them.
“I was part of two jungles. I’m the T-Rex, surviving in this new jungle, so I’m rebuilding myself, and God has given me the strength,” Belfort said during a post-fight interview. “Just as I used to be strong then, I am strong now.”
Belfort’s critics will attribute his recent success to testosterone replacement therapy (which the Brazilian admitted to prior to his UFC on FX 7 bout against Michael Bisping), but they don’t have a solid case. For one, Vitor’s improved technique is primarily responsible for his recent success inside the Octagon, not any physical attributes that might have been improved with TRT.
Then factor in the fact that Jones — who was almost submitted during the first round of their UFC 152 encounter — and Silva are the only two men who have been able to defeat Belfort in the past six years.
The reality is: Belfort and Silva are the two best middleweights in the world, and the “Old Lion” is the only 185-pounder who has a legitimate chance against Anderson right now. If “The Spider” gets past Chris Weidman at UFC 162 — which he should — anything less than a Silva vs. Belfort II bout will be a great injustice.