As we reported yesterday, The UFC officially announced UFC 126 on Saturday, February 5, live from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. In the main event, the UFC middleweight title will be on the line when Anderson “The Spider” Silva looks to extend his record title reign against history-seeking Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort, who is attempting to become only the third man to hold UFC belts in two weight classes.
Also on the main card at UFC 126, it’s a clash of former world champions as Forrest Griffin takes on Rich “Ace” Franklin in a bout that is certain to have major title implications in the 205-pound weight class; and speaking of the light heavyweight division, two of its most exciting rising stars will clash when Jon “Bones” Jones takes on Ryan “Darth” Bader.
“UFC fans expect big things from us every year for our Super Bowl weekend show, and this year could be our biggest ever,” UFC President Dana White said. “Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort is a fight fan’s dream match. It’s a fight people have wanted for years. Don’t blink because both of these guys have dynamite in their hands and can end the night quickly and in very exciting fashion. Plus, I can’t wait to see Forrest Griffin and Rich Franklin mix it up; they’re two former champions that are known for being in the middle of instant classics. And then we have the next wave of stars in the Jon Jones vs. Ryan Bader fight. Both of these guys are the future of our sport and possess unlimited talent. It’s impossible to pick a winner here.”
Arguably the most gifted and dominating fighter in UFC history, Anderson Silva (27-4) is currently riding a record-breaking 13-fight winning streak inside the Octagon that includes seven middleweight title defenses (another record). Owner of wins over Rich Franklin (twice), Chris Leben, Nate Marquardt, Thales Leites, and Forrest Griffin, Silva’s dynamic style has baffled opponents in the UFC for over four years now. Fresh from a stirring come from behind submission victory over Chael Sonnen in August, Silva now readies himself for perhaps his stiffest challenge yet in countryman Vitor Belfort.
A veteran of the early days of the UFC, Vitor Belfort (19-8) first captivated fight fans with his blazing hand speed and fight ending power. But there was more to Belfort’s game than his knockout victories over Tank Abbott and Wanderlei Silva, and the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt showed off his abilities both standing and on the mat in memorable battles around the globe. In 2004, he stopped Randy Couture to win the UFC light heavyweight title, and after a few years away from the Octagon, he returned in 2009 with a blistering first round knockout of Rich Franklin. Now “The Phenom” looks to make UFC history against one of the best to ever put on the gloves.
Winner of season one of The Ultimate Fighter and a former light heavyweight champion, Forrest Griffin (17-6) instantly became one of the must popular figures in the sport when he won a three round war against Stephan Bonnar in the season finale of The Ultimate Fighter in 2005. Since then, Griffin has continued to show why he is on every fan’s ‘must see’ list, scoring exciting victories over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and Tito Ortiz while winning a 205-pound title in the process. In his most recent bout, at UFC 106 in November of 2009, Griffin pounded out a three round win over Ortiz in their highly-anticipated rematch, and he knows that a win over Franklin will edge him ever closer to a shot at regaining his world championship belt.
A true pioneer of the UFC, Rich Franklin (28-5, 1 NC) began his stint in the Octagon back in 2003 at UFC 42. Two years later, he was a world champion after defeating Evan Tanner at UFC 53. After two successful title defenses, “Ace” was dethroned by current champion Anderson Silva, but he was undeterred by the setback, scoring big victories over Jason MacDonald, Yushin Okami, Travis Lutter, Matt Hamill, and Wanderlei Silva. In June of 2010, Franklin squared off against UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell, and despite suffering a broken arm from a kick delivered by “The Iceman”, the resilient Franklin went on to score a devastating first round knockout. On February 5th, Franklin will once again square off against a fellow UFC superstar in Forrest Griffin.
A gifted athlete whose work ethic matches his natural ability, Jon Jones (11-1) took the mixed martial arts world by storm as soon as he stepped into the Octagon for the first time in 2008, and he hasn’t missed a beat yet. A dynamic striker with an unorthodox style that has marked him as a ‘can’t miss’ prospect for world title honors, Jones has marched through the likes of Brandon Vera, Vladimir Matyushenko, and Stephan Bonnar, and he hopes to do the same thing to fellow hot prospect Ryan Bader this February.
Unbeaten in 13 pro bouts, Ryan Bader (13-0) has lived up to all expectations placed on his shoulders after he won season eight of The Ultimate Fighter in 2008. Owner of victories over Eric Schafer, Keith Jardine, and most recently, Antônio Rogério Nogueira, since his TUF stint, the former two-time All-American wrestler from Arizona State University is eager for his time to shine against Jon Jones at UFC 126.