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Outside of his inclusion in the UFC’s Greatest Knockouts highlight reel, MMA fans under 30 know little about former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort nicknamed the “Phenom.” His phenomenal rise through the ranks shortly after debuting in the long since forgotten MMA event Super Brawl is worthy of a hall of fame retrospective. Adopted son of the late Carlson Gracie and a native of Rio De Janeiro Brazil, he is a former ADCC bronze medalist in submission grappling, former UFC Heavyweight champion and tournament winner, light heavyweight title holder and has fought a who’s who circle of MMA legends and superstars. At age 25 he knocked out Wanderleigh Silva with a stunning barrage of blazing fists, fought a trilogy of fights with Randy Couture winning the title at UFC 40, lost titanic battles to Tito Ortiz, and Chuck Liddell, and in Pride Fighting battled Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem and Middleweight legend Kazushi Sakarabu. Owning an MMA record of 19-8 Vitor Belfort is only 33 years old.

Now on the eve of facing one of the greatest pound for pound fighters in MMA history to date in Anderson Silva February 5th, Belfort has the opportunity to close the circle of combat heroics and solidify his identity as the “Phenom.” The former champion can be seen in extra footage on the UFC 117 Silva Versus Sonnen disc providing commentary and insight on the classic 2010 fight. Belfort is composed and intent in watching his former teammate Silva endure a beating from a hungry driven Chael Sonnen but offers pin point insight into Silva’s strategy even predicting the champions finishing move minutes before it happens in the octagon. Since his flash knockout of former middleweight champ Rich Franklin Belfort has maintained a low profile even in the wake of gongs sounding for his matchup with the “Spider”. Belfort’s nagging injuries prevented the fight from taking place two years sooner but meanwhile he has trained at his former rival Randy Couture’s gym Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.

Vitor Belfort will be the most well rounded MMA fighter the Spider has faced since defending the title. Silva, despite a reported prefight rib injury still had plenty in reserve to submit uber grappler Sonnen. Before UFC 117 the middleweight king seemed all but untouchable. Sonnen knocked the Spider down but lacked the finishing knockout power. Given his vulnerability to the takedown Anderson Silva can ill afford to have someone with Vitor Belfort’s pedigree raining down power shots from above. All of the Brazilians are trained tough—at times sparring without head gear. So in a matchup between two champions where no quarter is asked or given, who holds the edge?

Belfort receives the nod as the superior grappler. But to Silva’s credit he too is a Jiu Jitsu black belt and has submitted two Olympic caliber wrestlers and a world class Jiu Jitsu black belt during the time he has held the UFC title. Every MMA fan would like to see a stand up war between the two but if a decision should come via strikes it will likely unfold at a pedestrian pace. Look for Vitor Belfort to start cautiously finding his range behind a jab while Anderson Silva circles and looks for an opening. Without question Silva is the most dangerous striker in MMA and his pin point accuracy is “phenomenal.” Muhammad Ali might have been more accurate. Silva will move away from Belfort’s power but look for the champion to find a gap in the challenger’s defense and open up his Muay Thai arsenal. There has been little talk leading up to the fight but it is no secret that Anderson Silva would like to KO another legendary figure in Brazilian MMA. If Vito Belfort has studied the champions as well as it appears he will whether Silva’s assault covering up—blocking and then unleash the power that will make him the once, future and all time phenom.

Jdon Howard

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