Where Does Vitor Belfort Rank Among the All-Time Great Brazilian Fighters?
At one point in his career, Vitor Belfort was one of the most famous and popular Brazilian fighters in the world.
He burst on the scene at just 19 years old and went on to capture the UFC Heavyweight Tournament title in his debut.
Not for nothing was he called "the Phenom" in the early part of his career.
At 35, with 16 years in the sport behind him, he's still at the top of his game. On Saturday, he will face title hopeful Michael Bisping at UFC on Fuel 7 in Brazil.
Here's where Belfort ranks among Brazil's best MMA talent.
10. Murilo Bustamante
For a brief period, Murilo Bustamante was considered one of the best middleweights in the world for his accomplishments in the UFC and Pride.
A dangerous striker and grappler, Bustamante went the distance with Chuck Liddell, won the UFC middleweight championship in 2002 and defended it against Matt Lindland the following year.
However, his star quickly faded in Pride against the likes of Quinton Jackson and Dan Henderson, but he nevertheless continues to fight into middle age.
9. Paulo Filho
Paulo Filho is among the most accomplished mixed martial artists never to have fought for the UFC.
Between 2000 and 2007, he went undefeated in 16 fights, cutting through the competition in Pride and the WEC.
He had the potential to be great in the UFC after Zuffa purchased the WEC, where Filho was middleweight champion. However, he fell into a long battle with substance abuse, leading to fight cancellations, hospitalisation and ultimately his retirement in September 2012.
But not before he capped his legacy with a 47-second first-round knockout of another great Brazilian fighter, Murilo “Ninja” Rua, at Best of the Best: Filho vs. Ninja II.
8. Lyoto Machida
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In his first six years as a professional, Lyoto Machida went on an unprecedented 15-fight winning streak in MMA’s light heavyweight division, which ended with him winning the UFC title in 2009.
At the time, he was considered to be one of the most dangerous fighters in the world with a cryptic karate-style of striking that could defeat anyone.
He’s been brought back down to earth more recently, having lost three of his last five fights. But Machida remains a force to be reckoned with at 205 pounds. He gave Jon Jones his toughest test yet and destroyed Ryan Bader in his last fight.
7. Junior dos Santos
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At 28 years old, Junior dos Santos has already proved that he is one of the best heavyweights Brazil has ever produced.
However, his recent setback against Cain Velasquez, which ended a 10-fight winning run, has made him look somewhat human. Not least because of the mauling he took at the hands of the new champion.
Still, he’s been a dominant fighter for years and has beaten all of the UFC’s top heavyweights except for Alistair Overeem and Daniel Cormier.
6. Vitor Belfort
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Vitor Belfort transformed MMA when he burst on the scene at just 19 years old, becoming the UFC’s youngest champion and winning the promotion’s light heavyweight championship several years later.
And today, after more than 16 years as a professional, he still looks as strong as ever. Since 2007, in nine fights, he’s only lost twice—to the sport’s most dominant fighters, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones.
Although his fight record stands at a checkered 21-10, he’s found success in three weight divisions and has finished three of his last five UFC opponents inside the first round. Those men include highly regarded fighters such as Rich Franklin, Yoshihiro Akiyama and Anthony Johnson.
He’s due to face Michael Bisping on Saturday in his native Brazil, where he hopes to re-emerge as a threat in the middleweight division.
5. Mauricio Rua
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With an aggressive, power-hitting style of striking honed from the famed Brazilian Chute Boxe Academy, Mauricio Rua has often been talked of as one of the most dangerous light heavyweights of all time.
He has wins over Lyoto Machida, Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell and is a former Pride Middleweight Grand Prix champion.
But Rua is another Brazilian struggling to assert himself late in his career and has often been criticised for turning up to fights out of shape and badly prepared.
That shouldn’t take away from what a great fighter he is. He has the guts and warrior spirit that have seen him through bloodthirsty contests against Dan Henderson in 2011 and Brandon Vera in 2012.
4. Jose Aldo
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One of only two men on this list to be considered the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, Jose Aldo has been utterly dominant as a featherweight.
That’s not as impressive as it sounds considering that the 145-pound division is less established than the other divisions. Still, his performances speak for themselves.
With world-class muay Thai and dogged takedown defence, he has destroyed Chad Mendes, Kenny Florian, Mark Hominick, Manny Gamburyan and Urijah Faber.
Aldo seems worlds ahead of the competition at featherweight and is one of the best mixed martial artists Brazil has ever produced.
3. Wanderlei Silva
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A true legend of the sport, Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva is one of the most ferocious fighters MMA has ever seen.
His early foray into the sport was most notable for a short-lived first-round knockout at the hands of Vitor Belfort.
After that defeat, he went on to make his name in Japan, where he terrorised the middleweight division.
There has never been a fighter as fierce as him. His fighting style led him to five Pride middleweight titles and the 2003 Pride middleweight tournament title.
However, his aggressive fighting style has taken its toll. Since returning to the UFC, he has had a disappointing record.
He’s gone 3-5 in his last eight fights but is unwilling to hang up his gloves. He is due to face Brian Stann at UFC on Fuel TV 8 in March.
2. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
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Few fighters in this list, except perhaps for Belfort and Wanderlei Silva, have transcended eras like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has.
If not for Fedor Emelianenko, Nogueira would be considered the greatest heavyweight of all time.
He won the Pride title twice and came a close second in the heavyweight tournament. Later, he captured the UFC’s heavyweight title and defeated the legend, Randy Couture.
He’s gone 3-2 in his last five fights, but one of those losses, against Frank Mir, could be put down to an unfortunate decision to go to the ground against a man he was clearly beating in the standup.
In the new era of heavyweights, Nogueira is holding his own and is due to face Fabricio Werdum in June after they coach the next season of The Ultimate Fighter in Brazil.
1. Anderson Silva
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No one could have doubted that Anderson Silva would top this list as the greatest fighter Brazil has ever produced.
No mixed martial artist has dominated the sport or broken as many records as Anderson Silva. Even today, at 37 years old, he makes the rest of the field look ordinary.