Brazilian MMA veteran Vitor Belfort had the chance last Saturday night to add the UFC middleweight championship to his mantle, next to his UFC light heavyweight championship, but current 185 lb. champ Anderson Silva had other plans.
The two had attracted quite a bit of attention in the American MMA media (Brazilian media overall had a field day with the fight, largely due to Belfort’s celebrity status in the country) for more than just the fact that the UFC middleweight title was on the line in their fight. Silva harbored ill will for Belfort and though he wouldn’t comment publicly on it, he certainly displayed those feelings anytime he and Belfort were in the same room. Once the tension almost boiled over at the weigh-ins, people knew that they were in for a spectacle.
A spectacle was delivered. After a measured period of feinting and probing each other’s respective defenses in the early minutes of the fight, the two finally engaged. Silva missed on a high kick, Belfort took him down as a result. Belfort barely missed with a powerful right hand to the briefly grounded champion. Silva immediately scrambled to his feet, where the fight continued. Belfort launched his own high kick that was blocked. He tried with a series of punches that were deftly avoided by “The Spider.” Then it happened. Silva threw a slightly modified version of the muay Thai front kick and it found its mark on “The Phenom’s” chin. Belfort crumbled to the mat in slow motion, knocked out for the first time in his career.
Belfort spoke about the loss to Brazilian MMA news outlet Tatame.com.
“Look, that kind of kick is very hard to catch, it’s also hard to land it too, but he did it. He can use this kick, but the way he did is pretty difficult to, but he did it,” said Belfort of the fight-ending blow. “I believe you only get lucky if you train. He trained and got lucky. But I think it’s something that if he tried to do in ten fights he would only succeed once. He deserved it.”
While both Silva and Belfort are known primarily for their striking games, Belfort is often lauded for his boxing, while Silva for his creative and dynamic overall attack. Having trained together in the past, Belfort knew that Silva’s kicks posed danger, and he told Tatame that it was a momentary lack of awareness on his part that was all Silva needed to land one.
“I knew that it was the thing he’d bring that would be more dangerous, his legs, and he used them, his kicks… The fight didn’t develop a lot, right? When I noticed it, when it had really started, I was winning but when I stopped, for just one second, it cost me the fight. It was his night.”
“The Phenom” pledged to work hard so that he may succeed when next he earns a shot at the title, and he told Tatame that he hopes to fight again well before the UFC’s planned August return to Brazil at UFC: Rio.