This weekend will mark the UFC’s first event of 2013 as UFC on FX 7 gets underway. Surging middleweights Vitor Belfort and Michael Bisping will toe the line in an attempt to take one step closer at a title fight with longtime champion, Anderson Silva.
With Chris Weidman, Hector Lombard and Yushin Okami all waiting in the wings, an impressive victory is imperative for each man. The winner may very well find himself challenging for divisional gold with a spectacular win on Saturday night.
The question is: who has the goods to make a title shot reality?
Years Competing: October, 1996-Current
Weight: 185 lbs
Professional Record: 21-10 (17 finishes, five stoppage defeats)
Strengths: Speed, precision, killer instinct.
Notable Victories: Anthony Johnson (like it or not he’s a massive, well-versed competitor), Rich Franklin, Matt Lindland, Randy Couture, Heath Herring, Wanderlei Silva.
Notable Defeats: Kazushi Sakuraba, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson, Anderson Silva, Jon Jones.
Years Competing: April, 2004-Current
Weight: 185 lbs
Professional Record: 23-4 (18 finishes, 1 stoppage defeat)
Strengths: Speed, mobility, offensive diversity.
Notable Victories: Brian Stann, Jason Miller, Denis Kang, Chris Leben
Notable Defeats: Rashad Evans, Dan Henderson (one of the sport’s nastiest KOs), Wanderlei Silva, Chael Sonnen
If Vitor wants to make a statement and substantial advancement toward legitimate title contendership, his best bet is to end the collision as quickly as possible. The Brazilian is most dangerous inside of the first five minutes of competition—and this could be the window in which to catch his English foe off-guard.
In order for “The Phenom” to snatch victory in this fight, he’s got to bypass the feeling-out process and exhibit the ferocious nature he showcased in his early years as a fighter. If he swarms “The Count” early, he may be able to thwart the Englishman’s footwork and force him against the cage.
If the first round sees Belfort pin Bisping against the cage, you can expect a quick fight ending flurry, especially if Bisping finds himself dropped.
In order for Michael Bisping to win this fight he’s got to do two very important things: escape the first and second round.
Footwork will be Bisping’s best shot at success. If he can continually switch stances, and utilize fluid lateral movement, he can avoid the initial onslaughts delivered by Vitor. Belfort’s bread and butter is the quick finish, but if Bisping can circle to the opposite side of Vitor’s engaging power, he can avoid an early stoppage.
The Brit will need to keep his chin tucked and his hands up, while being wary of his movement at all times, but if he can avoid the power of Belfort for two rounds he can potentially turn up the heat in the later rounds.
If Vitor has any serious knock, it’s his endurance. Bisping does not suffer from that problem. If Michael can drag this fight into deep waters, he stands a solid chance of triumphing over the power-puncher.
Half of Vitor’s losses have come via decision—a sign that if Bisping can keep busy for three rounds, outscoring Belfort while evading potential fight ending blows, looks very viable.
15 of Belfort’s finishes have come via first-round stoppage, leaving valid cardio questions, but further enforcing the fact that he's a natural born finisher.
In 21 victories, Belfort has gone to a decision just four times.
Michael Bisping has been stopped just once in his career. Dan Henderson put him to sleep with an explosive right hand at UFC 100.
Bisping’s three other losses were all considered controversial. He dropped extremely close fights to Chael Sonnen, Rashad Evans and Wanderlei Silva.
In 23 victories, Bisping has gone to a decision just three times.
As much as I’d like to see Belfort uncork a jaw-dropping flurry that puts Michael Bisping away (I have nothing against Bisping, Vitor’s hands simple amaze me), I don’t think it will happen. I see an extended feeling-out process and a whole lot of movement from “The Count”.
Vitor makes a valiant attempt at stopping the loudmouth Englishman, but Bisping is smart enough to use effective movement to avoid any damaging blows. Rounds three through five tell the story as Bisping methodically wears down the Brazilian en route to a unanimous decision victory.