Vitor Belfort and Luke Rockhold – Why Both Men Could Receive Title Shot
By Christopher Jester
This weekend at UFC on FX 8, the last Strikeforce middleweight champion will meet face-to-face with Vitor Belfort in what could be a title eliminator for both fighters. In fact, it is easy to say that both men are deserving of a shot at the title. With a fight between UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and challenger Chris Weidman looming, the UFC desperately needs to fill the spot of title challenger to keep the 185 pound division busy. This bout is ideal for setting up the next challenger.
The fighter with the easiest case for title contention is Luke Rockhold. This former Strikeforce Champion left the organization as its middleweight champion after rattling off victories over Keith Jardine, Tim Kennedy, and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza; the latter whom he took the title from. Rockhold holds an impressive winning streak of nine wins since his only loss back in 2007. The UFC versus Strikeforce angle has been very popular among the fans as the recent Benson Henderson versus Gilbert Melendez clash proved. Rockhold’s battling through Strikeforce Challengers to reach the championship at Strikeforce was a story within itself, but if he was to gain a title shot in the UFC, it would only make his journey to the top more inspiring.
The only thing working against Rockhold is that he has not fought any of the top 10 names as of yet (unless your rankings included Jacare Souza), Vitor Belfort will mark his first top ranked middleweight opposition. A victory over Belfort would surely impress. A victory by (T)KO or Submission would be even nicer. The truth is, just because he has yet to finish a top ten fighter does not rule him out, nor should it. Another fighter who had only finished one top ranked fighter is now getting a title bout against the UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and his name is Chris Weidman. An impressive win over Belfort is the sort of victory Rockhold needs on his resume to legitimize any kind of campaign to title contention.
Vitor Belfort has a few more things going against him, to a degree, and that is stating it loosely. Vitor Belfort has been remarkable at middleweight. His only loss in the 185 division was to the now famous front kick from Anderson Silva in his shot at the title. Since then Belfort has beaten Yoshihiro Akiyama (middleweight bout), Anthony Johnson (catch-weight bout), and most recently Michael Bisping (middleweight bout). Bisping was one fight away from his own shot at the title but Belfort snatched that away with a fight ending headkick. That should be worth something.
His fights at middleweight have all been finishes, that is also something to keep in mind as well. With the middleweight division in turmoil after the fighters with winning streaks have lost, this put Belfort in a precarious situation that he can benefit from. Beating Rockhold strengthens his winning streak in the division to three, and that is a lot more than most other fighters in the division have at the moment.
The biggest things working against Belfort are his losses. Some would argue that his venture to 205lbs to fight UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones should be discarded. And for good reason, if you remove that loss, Belfort would be on a three fight winning streak overall. That is much better than going into this fight with just one recent win. Considering just his wins at middleweight, Vitor Belfort has the sort of record that propels him into title contention immediately. His dilemma is that he has crusaded for a rematch against Jon Jones instead of calling out for a rematch against Anderson Silva.
Since this discussion has moved into Silva territory, Belfort’s loss against the UFC Champion still remains fresh in many fans’ minds. It is the kick that revitalized Anderson Silva from the criticism he received about the lack of killer instinct in his bouts prior that one. In the past, Belfort implied that the kick was lucky. Well, if Belfort believes that, he should turn away from wanting this rematch with Jones and take a match that far more is reachable. A rematch with Silva going the same way via front kick to the head is slim to none, and it would likely prove a more exhilarating affair than the first time around. However, the finish was so stunning that some may not find a rematch as interesting. Regardless, a Belfort victory would prime him for a shot at the title; whether Anderson Silva defends his title against Chris Weidman or not.
UFC On FX 8’s main event will prove an intriguing one as it will likely line up the next title challenger at middleweight. Rockhold has a lot to prove in this match against Vitor Belfort. The questions are: is he ready to take on a top ten middleweight? And can he withstand the punching power of Belfort? It would appear that more pressure is on him. Perhaps that is a good thing for a fighter whose inspirations are about nothing more than getting to UFC championship gold. With Belfort, although his recent losses are still fresh in many memories, he still has the knockout power to skyrocket himself back into title contention. Tune in this Saturday night for the answers!
Follow Christopher “sLapDatSuCKa” Jester on Twitter @sLapDatSuCka
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