Vitor Belfort enters the Machida era

ufc103

By Chad Wuttke

Flash back a dozen years and Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort was just that, phenomenal.  At the age of 19 he was blowing up opponent’s faces Tyson-style and being groomed as potentially the greatest fighter in UFC history.  Twelve years later Belfort has become an enigma.  Dreadful performances versus Kazushi Sakuraba and Randy Couture showed us that “The Phemon” was not only human, but someone who’s fighting spirit could be easily broken.

Flash forward to the present-day Vitor Belfort.  Once known for his Olympic level boxing skills and his little used black belt in jiu-jitsu, Belfort now has his new ace in the hole, karate.  This isn’t the first time we’ve seen karate invade the mixed martial arts world.

Fighters such as Bas Rutten, Chuck Liddell, Georges St. Pierre have all used different styles of karate to varying degrees but no one has mastered it to perfection like the current UFC light heavyweight Champion and part time training partner of Vitor Belfort, Lyoto Machida.

Get ready to hear the phrase “The Machida Era” ad nauseam.  It was Machida who won the light heavyweight strap without getting punched by then-champ Rashad Evans.  That same karate style was employed in the main event Saturday at UFC 103.

Vitor Belfort, in complete Machida-style, fought Rich Franklin for 3 minutes in the octagon without getting punched a single time.  Patiently hovering out of Franklin’s range, Belfort remained in his wide karate stance and calmly waited.  Like a tiger creeping up on a gazelle, Belfort waited for Franklin to wander into his striking zone… and BAM!  Out comes the Vitor of old and before the former high school math teacher could say trigonometry, he’s on the mat without a clue as to what hit him.

This sets up a dream matchup between the rejuvenated Vitor Belfort and the untouchable Anderson Silva for Silva’s Middleweight Championship.  Up next for Franklin, a frightening jump up to the light heavyweight division for the rest of his floundering career.

In the night’s co-main event, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic once again put on a disappointing performance that is becoming all to common for the former Pride destroyer.  Junior dos Santos manhandled his opponent until a punch to the eye in the third round forced Cro Cop to verbally tap out.  The victory was a bit anticlimactic, but the body of work (Cro Cop’s bludgeoned face) was impressive enough.   ufc-103

Dos Santos now finds himself treading the waters of a heavyweight division that has been injected with new blood and new talent like Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez, and Todd Duffee.  Unless Cro Cop decides to cut his weight down to the light heavyweight division, he may be out of a job as a result of this fight.

In what was the biggest surprise of the evening, Paul Semtex Daley knocked out potential number one contender Martin “The Hitman” Kampmann.  Making his UFC debut, Daley stepped in as an injury replacement for Mike Swick and took full advantage by landing several left hooks that left Kampmann wobbly on his feet.  Sensing Kampmann had lost consciousness and with the fighter’s safety in mind, referee Yves Lavigne stopped the fight, albeit in somewhat controversial fashion since Kampmann quickly regained his faculties.

The win is easily the biggest of Daley’s career and now he may face the fighter he replaced at UFC 103, Mike Swick.  Kampmann is rewarded with many restless nights wondering why he chose to stand and strike with Daley when he should of taken the Semtex to the ground where he had a clear advantage.

Josh Koscheck presumably sent Frank Trigg out of the UFC with a solid first round knockout.  The American Kickboxing Academy product easily took care of the 37 year old Trigg and got a win he desperately needed after getting upset by Paulo Thiago in his last appearance.

After disposing of a decorated wrestler in Frank Trigg, Koscheck turned his focus to another decorated wrestler, Matt Hughes.  Hughes would be another big name for Koscheck to take out on his climb back into title contention.  Trigg seems destined for retirement.
The night’s opening bout got things off to an exciting start when Tyson Griffin notched his first stoppage in quite some time over a somewhat overweight Hermes Franca who was recovering from a torn ACL.  Known for his exciting fights and decision wins, Griffin took Franca down and pounded on his head until the referee stopped the fight.  It’s the stoppage Griffin has been looking for and one that could propel him into potential title contention.

UFC 102: Nogueria, Couture put on a show

ufc_102_poster

By Chad Wuttke

Heavy leather and broken records were on tap at UFC 102 in Portland, Oregon.  Now that the Rose Garden roof is repaired, after being blown off by Saturday night’s main event, we can take a deep breath and look at what it means for some of these fighters.

In the main event, a highly motivated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira put his UFC 92 performance against Frank Mir behind him to beat fan favorite, Randy “The Natural” Couture, in convincing fashion.

Nogueira’s granite chin was on display as he took numerous stiff shots from Couture without even a flinch.  The 46 year old Couture looked great physically, but perhaps his chin is aging faster than his frame as Nogueira floored him in both the first and third rounds.

Nogueira’s legendary submission skills were also on display as we saw Couture forced to defend a rarely seen brabo choke, as well as an arm triangle.  The fight looked to be over about 6 or 7 different times, but to Couture’s credit, the wily veteran was able to survive.

Surviving wasn’t enough though for Couture.  Nogueira won what could be the fight of the year by unanimous decision and now has the Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar in his crosshairs.  Couture, who signed a new six-fight contract just before the fight, may be heading to the light heavyweight division, unless a bout with former Pride standout, Mirco Cro Cop intrigues him enough.

The night’s co-main event featured two fighters coming off losses to two standouts in the light heavyweight division.  Keith Jardine lost to top contender Rampage Jackson in the main event of UFC 96, while Thiago Silva was looking to rebound from a devastating knock out at the hands of current champion Lyoto Machida.

Silva would prove to be the better man on this night.  After withstanding a few early punching combinations, Silva caught Jardine with a left hook counter and finished him soon after on the ground.

It’s clear Thiago Sliva belongs near the top of the division and a possible fight with former champion Forrest Griffin could be on the horizon.   The inconsistent Jardine has now lost four of his last six fights and any dreams of a title shot seem almost unreachable at this point in a stacked division.mma_nogueira_300

In what was possibly the most compelling matchup of the night, Nate “The Great” Marquardt faced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Damian Maia.  Both fighters had title aspirations coming into the fight but only one would leave as a true contender.

In Maia’s previous five UFC fights, he rolled up five submission victories.  He wouldn’t get his sixth as Marquardt took all of Maia’s hype and planted it into the ground with one punch.  Maia’s chin hadn’t been tested and the well-rounded Marquardt showed you can’t be one-dimensional if you’re going to tread the waters of the middleweight division.

Marquardt now looks to be in line for a title show against Anderson Silva but Dan Henderson may have something to say about that.  A fight to determine Silva may be in their future.

Maia now must reinvent himself.  It’s clear his boxing and kickboxing skills must improve before he sees himself in title contention again.

In a very entertaining fight, 4-time wrestling All-American Jake Rosholt and heavy hitting Chris Leben waged war for… almost the entire three rounds.

Showing good patience and new standup skills Rosholt waited for the right moment and sunk in a fight-ending arm triangle choke midway through he third round.

Although he could still use some more seasoning, Rosholt proves he belongs in the UFC and may look to avenge his prior loss to Dan Miller.  Leben, who’s fought alcoholism for much of his life, may have some soul searching to do after reportedly falling off the wagon a few times leading up to the fight.

In the night’s opening bout, Brandon Vera provided us with another lackluster decision victory that continues his career, but doesn’t sit well in the eyes of most fans.

The talented fighter who once talked about winning titles in multiple weight classes looked to have his opponent Krzysztof Soszynski in trouble numerous times, but instead of moving in for the kill, stayed on the outside and grinded out a decision.  couture_mma_oly

UFC matchmaker Joe Silva may need to put Vera into matches with someone who will get in his face and push the action.  Someone like Stephon Bonner or even Thiago Silva may fit the bill.

The undercard was filled with plenty of fights that proved notable.   Todd Duffee set a new UFC record with a seven second knockout of Tim Hague.  Aaron Simpson looked to be on his way to defeating his opponent Ed Herman before Herman blew out his knee.  Gabriel Gonzaga took a step towards his return to title contention by defeating Chris Tuchscherer in convincing fashion, albeit after a low blow that clearly had an effect on Tuchscherer’s performance.

Great performances had by all, but the night belonged to two legends, Randy Couture and “Minotauro” Nogueira.  If you could ever look good in losing, Couture’s performance did just that. Nogueira proved his bout with staph infection is behind him. He now looks to figure out the man-beast that is Brock Lesnar, in what could be the superfight of the year!