This weekend, the UFC will close out 2013 with arguably the biggest rematch in the history of the promotion. UFC 168 will feature the rematch between the long time Middleweight champion, Anderson Silva, and the man who dethroned him early this year, Chris Weidman.
The last six months have been dominated by headlines of the Middleweight Championship rematch, the huge implications of the bout, and the legacy that is on the line come Saturday night. Today, I take a glance at what is to come after the rematch on Saturday night is over, and the dust settles.
Once Saturday night ends, and the champion is crowned, whether it be Anderson Silva or Chris Weidman, the next man up is Vitor Belfort. Belfort’s name alone spawns hatred from hardcore fans who think he is cheating with TRT. Others believe that his TRT usage will prevent him from being licensed in the US. The more casual fans will simply remember the incredible three head kick KO’s Vitor pulled off this year. At the end of the day, Vitor Belfort will be getting a shot at the title whether it is fair or not.
In September of 2012 at UFC 152, Vitor nearly shocked the world by armbarring Jon Jones. After the near submission was defended, Vitor was battered by the Light Heavyweight champion for the remaining 4 rounds before being submitted. After that fight, a new reinvigorated Vitor came alive, and he was hungry for the Middleweight title.
First came Michael Bisping in January. Bisping, the perennial Middleweight contender, once again found himself at the doorstep of a title shot with only Vitor blocking his way. Many expected Bisping to finally get over the hump by defeating Belfort. Instead, Vitor looked fantastic in the first round, beating Bisping to the punch at every occurrence. Then in round 2, Belfort cracked Bisping with a left high kick that sent him careening to the mat. After a few follow up punches, Vitor reigned victorious.
Then in May, Vitor faced Luke Rockhold, the former StrikeForce Middleweight champion, in a bout that had title implications. Incredibly, Belfort topped his previous performance against Bisping by wheel kicking Rockhold into unconsciousness in the very first round. After the fight, Vitor began campaigning for a bout with the Weidman/Silva winner just two months later. Once Weidman KO’ed Silva, and the rematch between the men were set, Vitor would have to fight once more before getting that coveted title shot.
In November, Vitor stepped into the Octagon against the legendary Dan Henderson. This was a rematch of their Pride 32 battle where Henderson won a unanimous decision over Belfort. Henderson had never been finished due to strikes in his career up to this point, so there was no way Vitor could continue his head kick KO streak right? One minute into the fight, Vitor hit Henderson with a ferocious uppercut that took Henderson off his feet. As Henderson got back up, Vitor landed a perfectly timed left high kick that put Henderson to sleep.
After that fight, there were no qualms. Vitor Belfort earned himself a shot at the Middleweight title with arguably the most incredible string of finishes a challenger has ever had. Three straight head kick KO’s over top flight competition in one year. No matter the stigma behind TRT, and no matter whether or not you believe it is wrong, Belfort has earned a shot at the belt. He has followed the rules, passed his tests, and beaten all of the top challengers. The question is who will he fight: Anderson Silva or Chris Weidman?