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.