Vitor Belfort: 3 Reasons He Will Beat Michael Bisping at UFC on FX 7
"The Phenom" will likely have the oddsmakers' blessings as the slight favorite against Bisping in their pivotal middleweight clash at UFC on FX 7, which will take place Jan. 19 at the Ibirapuera Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
A win over a mainstay like Bisping, which seems realistic considering Belfort's experience and skill, would once again propel The Phenom to the top of the middleweight contender's list.
In the same vein, a loss for Bisping would once again derail his course toward a shot at Anderson Silva and the middleweight strap.
Here's a look at three reasons Belfort will outshine Bisping in this makeshift middleweight title eliminator bout.
The Phenom Is Slightly More Seasoned
From finishing former UFC champions Randy Couture and Rich Franklin to fighting Anderson Silva and Jon Jones for UFC titles, Belfort holds a considerable edge over Bisping in the experience department.
While "The Count" has squared off with just one former UFC champion (Rashad Evans), Belfort has tangled with five.
Evans prevailed convincingly over Bisping, while Belfort, on the other hand, went 1-2 against Couture in title fights, knocked out Franklin, dropped decisions to Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell and got finished in spectacular fashion by Silva (front kick and punches) and Jones (keylock).
Granted, Belfort floundered in his last two UFC title fights, but "The Phenom" suffered a flash knockout against Silva at UFC 126 in February 2011 and then nearly became the first man to submit Jones before ultimately tapping to a keylock late in the fourth round at UFC 152 in September 2012.
In essence, with the exception of a few costly errors, Belfort hasn't cracked under pressure lately—instead he’s just been trumped by two of the sport’s most dynamic fighters.
Belfort's Supreme Punching Power
Seven of Belfort’s 21 pro wins have come via knockout, including four in his last seven bouts, while just two of Bisping’s 23 victories were knockouts (both occurred in 2004).
Utilizing his blistering speed and cat-like agility, the 35-year-old Belfort most recently landed fight-ending punches on the jawlines of Yoshihiro Akiyama, Franklin, Matt Lindland and Terry Martin.
"The Phenom" also dropped heavy-handed Anthony Johnson several times before slapping on a fight-ending rear-naked choke at UFC 142 last January.
In his last 10 fights, the 33-year-old Bisping has won four by unanimous decision and lost two by unanimous decision. His only finishes were TKO wins over Denis Kang, Jorge Rivera and Jason Miller.
"The Count" also suffered his first KO loss in that span when he got clobbered with a flush overhand right from Dan Henderson at UFC 100 in July 2009.
Bisping might hold a slight advantage in technical striking, but Belfort is not far behind and he has much heavier hands.
Bisping will need to use precise footwork and head movement to avoid Belfort’s dangerous left hand. If not, "The Count" might quickly find himself down for the count.
Belfort Is the Better Grappler
Bisping possesses adequate functional grappling skills, but he’s certainly not an upper-echelon Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt like Belfort.
The fact that Belfort has just three submission wins to his credit doesn’t accurately reflect the threats he poses on the ground. Other than his scraps with Jones and Johnson, Belfort has employed strike-heavy offensives, rarely peppering in a takedown attempt.
In fact, his last takedown occurred against James Zikic in the Cage Rage promotion in September 2007.
Belfort’s grappling skills can be more sharply graded by examining his output in the Abu Dhabi Combat Club World Submission Championship in 2001. Belfort claimed the bronze medal in the absolute division, finishing behind champion Ricardo Arona and runner-up Jean Jacques Machado.
After scoring a pair of takedowns against Rashad Evans and then securing another against Chael Sonnen, Bisping proved he has decent wrestling chops. But in 17 UFC contests, Bisping has no submission wins.
In fact, Bisping’s only three submission victories came in fights that occurred in England before 2006.
If Bisping tries to ground Belfort like he did in his win over Brian Stann at UFC 152 in September, he might find himself on the wrong end of a slick submission.