Vitor Belfort enters the Machida era

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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.

Belfort, Franklin set to meet at UFC 103

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By Chad Wuttke

Now that we’ve all recovered from the comedy-turned-bloodbath debut of The Ultimate Fighter 10, we can focus on UFC 103. While this main event fight doesn’t jump off the screen, it is an intriguing bout that could provide a defining moment in the careers of two legendary fighters, Rich Franklin and Vitor Belfort.

Rich Franklin enters this catch-weight bout as a man without a weight division. Following his decision victory over Wanderlei Silva, Franklin still remains a main event fighter with title aspirations. The question is, what weight class?

Having lost twice to middleweight champion Anderson Silva and subsequently moving up to the light heavyweight division with mixed results, Franklin now fights his second fight in a row at a catch-weight of 195 pounds. There is no 195 pound division, so unless one is created, Franklin will have to face the daunting task of moving up to the stacked light heavyweight division where he will surely face both strength and size disadvantages. efrain

Until his hand is forced, Franklin will continue to be fed top 10 ranked opponents and his next opponent is as dangerous as they come.

Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort returns to the UFC after two spectacular knockout victories over Matt Lindland and Terry Martin in the now defunct Affliction promotion. Riding that momentum, Belfort now seeks to reestablish himself as a contender in the UFC’s middleweight division.

With his career once again rejuvenated, “The Phenom” is looking to capture the magic he once had when he debuted at UFC 12 over a decade ago. Then only 19, Belfort brought skills to the UFC that fans had never seen before. A black belt in jiu-jitsu with hand speed comparable to Roy Jones Jr., Belfort seemed to be on a path to super-stardom.

Inconsistency inside and outside of the ring have derailed the Belfort train over the years. Performances like the 44 second destruction of Wanderlei Silva and the one-sided loss to Kazushi Sakuraba have left fans asking; “What Vitor will show up?” Now training at Xtreme Couture, Belfort seems to have overcome many of those questions. Still, Belfort has a history of coming up short against top competition and Franklin is definitely a top tier fighter.

In the night’s co-main event, former Pride headhunter Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic takes on the UFC’s latest blue chip prospect, Junior dos Santos. Cro Cop returns to the UFC with a new three fight contract after a controversial victory over Mostapha Al-Turk at UFC ’99 in Germany. In the fight, Cro Cop used an accidental double eye poke to eventually overwhelm Al-Turk for a TKO victory. Cro Cop needs a better performance if he wants to get back in the fan’s good graces. His devastating knockouts in the Pride organization seem like a distant memory.

Junior dos Santos enters the cage riding a wave of momentum. His colossal uppercut knockout of Fabricio Werdum put Dos Santos on the map and after another win at UFC 95 over Steven Struve, dos Santos now looks to move from prospect to contender. A win over a legend like Cro Cop would do just that.

Originally slated as a number one contender match, Martin Kampmann now faces British striker Paul Daley in just a “contender” match after Mike Swick was forced to drop out due to injury. Kampmann holds a robust 15-2 record with a good mixture of knockouts and submissions to his credit while Daley is making his first appearance in the UFC following numerous contests in promotions such as Cage Rage, Strikeforce, and Elite-XC.

Also featured on the main card is a bout between standout wrestlers, Frank Trigg and Josh Koscheck. The 37 year old Trigg, who owns the worst nickname in MMA, Twinkle Toes, makes his return to the UFC after a 4 year hiatus.

Josh Koscheck will be looking to bounce back after being upset by Paulo Thiago at UFC 95. The four-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler has attempted to become more of a standup fighter recently with mixed results.

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In what sets up to be the fight of the night, Tyson Griffin takes on Hermes Franca in an entertaining lightweight tussle. The Xtreme Couture trained Griffin has won five “fight of the night” awards in his last 7 fights.

Also known as an entertaining fighter, Franca brings both exciting Jiu-Jitsu and an awkwardly efficient overhand right to the cage. Following a win over Marcus Aurelio at UFC 90, Franca tore his ACL and had to pull out of a fight with Joe Lauzon. A fight with Griffin will be a solid test for Franca and his rehabilitated knee and will also be a telling sign of where these two fighters stand in a talent rich lightweight division.