Vitor Belfort: Resurgence of “The Phenom”
By Jesse Heitz
Nearly a decade ago, the UFC’s light heavyweight division was ruled by four men, each of whom became legends within the sport. These men were: Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, Randy “The Natural” Couture, Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz and Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort. As it stands, only one remains an active competitor within the confines of The Octagon, that man being Belfort.
Belfort broke into the UFC in February 1997 at the age of 19 stringing together a series of impressive wins against Tra Telligman and Scott Ferozzo at UFC 12. At UFC 13 in May of 1997, the 20 year-old Belfort stepped into The Octagon to square off against one of the most feared punchers of his generation, “Tank” Abbott, improbably dropping him with a bevy of punches in less than one minute. His win streak was derailed at UFC 15 by Randy Couture, but he rebounded quickly with wins over Joe Charles and Wanderlei Silva in his following two bouts.
After spending time in the Pride promotion in Japan, Belfort made his return to the UFC in 2002 with a unanimous decision loss to Chuck Liddell at UFC 37.5. He then rattled off two wins against Marvin Eastman and Randy Couture at UFC 43 and UFC 46, respectively. Then he suffered back-to-back defeats against Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz, which marked the end of his second run with the UFC.
Belfort returned to the UFC in September of 2009 at UFC 103 after a four year absence from the promotion, defeating former middleweight kingpin Rich Franklin in devastating fashion. Sidelined by injury for well over a year, his next fight didn’t come until he unsuccessfully challenged Anderson Silva for the middleweight title at UFC 126 in February 2011. After his knockout loss to Silva, Belfort exhibited tremendous skill in dispatching Yoshihiro Akiyama and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson at UFC 133 and UFC 142.
Belfort had been scheduled to take on Alan Belcher at UFC 153; however, he was scratched from that card and instead inserted into UFC 152 card on September 22, 2012, when he’ll lock horns with UFC light heavyweight champion, Jon “Bones” Jones in the main event.
The upcoming clash at UFC 152 showcases the type of fighter Belfort is, his indifference toward opponents, and his apparent lack of hesitance in moving up a weight class to face a man who is ten years younger—and is fresh off destructive wins over the 205 lbs. division’s top fighters, including “Shogun” Rua, and Lyoto Machida.
Belfort’s admirable pit bull mentality, coupled with his tremendously skilled hands and solid ground game, wealth of experience, and the ability to fight at a more natural weight, should make his bout with Jones an interesting one at the very least.
Belfort is one of the last of his generation still standing, perhaps even a dinosaur compared to today’s cache of 20-something fighters, such as the man he’ll be facing in less than one month. Yet, at age 35 it can be argued that he’s as good as he’s ever been, and as a fan I certainly hope that’s the case because he’ll certainly need to be on top of his game in September if he’s to pull off the upset of the year.