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The Old Lion: Vitor Belfort

Derek Bowe

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Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort, is the last relevant remaining fighter of the old generation of mixed martial arts. Belfort made his professional debut against Jon Hess in 1996 in Honolulu under the promotional banner, SuperBrawl 2. The 19-year old defeated Hess just twelve seconds into the very first round via knockout due to punches. The Phenom was the nickname given to the young Brazilian as he stepped into the UFC Octagon for the first time soon after where he won a Heavyweight one night tournament.

Belfort’s furious style overwhelmed opponents, he was known to possess the fastest hands in the sport, which was hard to argue after witnessing his victories. In addition to his incredibly fast hands, he coupled that with a good ground game, and big power. His imposing physical presence made him one of the most fearsome, and intimidating fighters to stare across the cage against.

Vitor would go on to enjoy a nice career, bouncing between promotions until he found himself in a UFC title fight against Randy Couture, the man who had given the Brazilian his first defeat seven years prior. Belfort would earn a doctor stoppage in the match and claim the UFC Light Heavyweight title which he would surrender back to the American Couture seven months later.

Vitor Belfort’s career teetered up and down, the Phenom would look unbeatable at times, then would show up and look completely out of sorts, like he did not want to take part in the bout he was in. The talent was undeniable, which made certain losses in his career difficult to swallow for fans, and mma personalities alike.

Vitor’s career took another turn in a positive direction when he demolished the number two ranked middleweight in the world, Matt Lindland in Affliction’s promotion. Thirty seven seconds was all it took for people to get out of their seats, it took another five to ten for Lindland to leave on a stretcher. The Phenom had returned.

Belfort would enter back into the UFC, a fighter reborn, and rejuvenated. He would draw former middleweight champion Rich Franklin, a fight which many understood would yield a title shot against the champion, and pound-for-pound number one fighter in the world, Anderson Silva. Belfort did indeed defeat Franklin and earn that shot, stopping the former champion three minutes into the fight. Belfort looked poised to challenge Silva and give him, the greatest test of his career. However, that rollercoaster came to a halt as Silva landed one of the greatest kicks of all time to stop Belfort in the first round, a front kick to the face, which snapped Belfort’s neck back and sent him to the canvas.

Belfort would again return six months later, ready to make his way back into that championship form which he saw himself most recent. He rattled off two successive victories over Yoshihiro Akiyama, and Anthony Johnson, and promptly accepted a short notice title fight, up a division against champion Jon Jones where he nearly submitted the champion via armbar in the first round which appeared to be locked in and very deep. Jones willed himself through the defense of the armbar, and won the fight via Americana submission. This loss did not set the Phenom back however, as it was a jump in divisions, and he nearly came away with the victory.

Vitor would show to have reinvented himself in his next outing against Michael Bisping, knocking out the British star with a head kick in second round, kicking was a weapon which had not been shown by Belfort in the past. He would go on to knock out his next two opponents Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson via Spinning back heel kick, and roundhouse respectively. The explosion and ferocity of the finishes showed that Vitor is ready again for the gold, ready to challenge for another title.

Saturday Vitor Belfort takes on Chris Weidman at UFC 187 for the UFC Middleweight title in Las Vegas, Nevada. While the Brazilian is considered the underdog in the matchup, and is said to only have a puncher’s chance, that puncher’s chance is the greatest puncher’s chance a fighter can possess. His diverse attack and quickness has a very real chance to find a home against a fighter in Weidman who has absorbed his share of strikes in his previous defense against another high level striker in Lyoto Machida. Belfort is a fighter who possesses strikes which simply cannot be absorbed. Should this fight stay on the feet, Dana White might again be placing the belt around the waist of an original, a throwback who has evolved his skills to compete with the new blood, the Old Lion may claim his pride again, Vitor Belfort.

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Announcement

Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223

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UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.

 

Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.

After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.

A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.

Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.

Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.

A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.

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Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Fight Announcements

Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April

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MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.

 

The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.

Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.

An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.

His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).

Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.

PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.

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