Upcoming UFC middleweight title challenger Chris Weidman has a vested interest in the UFC on FX 8 main event between Luke Rockhold and Vitor Belfort next week, since both contenders are potential future opponents.
While "The All-American" acknowledges Belfort's power in an interview with MMA Fighting's Dave Doyle, he believes Rockhold's game-planning and cardio will make the difference in the pivotal 185-pound clash:
I think it's a great fight, ... But I think Luke's going to take it. I'm not counting Vitor out, not with everything he's accomplished. You have to respect his heavy hands. But I think the more the fight goes along, the stronger Luke is going to become. I think he's going to weather the early storm and gets stronger as the fight goes along.
Rockhold, an American Kickboxing Academy product, enters the May 18 bout on the strength of nine straight wins, including seven stoppages.
A relative unknown even after going 6-0 under the Strikeforce banner, Rockhold caught the attention of mainstream MMA fans after upsetting Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza for the promotion's middleweight gold in September 2011.
With the being said, he faces the stiffest challenge of his career in "The Phenom."
A former UFC light heavyweight titleholder, Belfort has posted a 4-1 record at middleweight since 2008, with his only loss coming to long-reigning divisional kingpin Anderson Silva at UFC 126 in February 2011.
Most recently, the Brazilian took out perennial divisional contender Michael Bisping at UFC on FX 7 in January, scoring a vintage TKO after he dropped "The Count" with a head kick.
UFC on FX 8 takes place at the Arena Jaragua in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil, with it being quite feasible that the main event winner will next face the victor of Weidman vs. Silva this summer.
Weidman has his long-awaited title shot with "The Spider" at UFC 162, which will be hosted at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 6.