The concept of creating a legacy is something unique unto humankind—an extension of our collective mortality.
Vitor Belfort has built his legacy atop a series of highlight-reel finishes.
And “the Phenom’s” knockout of former Strikeforce middleweight champ Luke Rockhold at UFC on FX 8 may very well be the most impressive of his career.
Midway through the first round, Belfort threw a spinning heel kick that Rockhold never saw coming. It landed flush on his chin. After a few follow-up punches, the ref jumped in to save Rockhold from further punishment.
The finish earned Belfort Knockout of the Night honors and it is easily an early contender for Knockout of the Year.
With his second straight victory over a top-level divisional opponent, Belfort finds himself surging through the middleweight ranks.
However, at 36, Belfort’s age-defying accomplishments have been seriously called into question.
He tested positive for elevated testosterone levels after his unanimous-decision loss to Dan Henderson at Pride 32 in 2006.
A dark cloud of skepticism has hung over his career ever since.
The level of suspicion reached a crescendo following Belfort’s head-kick KO of Michael Bisping back in January. After the fight, the UFC announced that Belfort was receiving testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
Other fighters including Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson have also been granted waivers for TRT.
Even though TRT is currently legal, many still equate the highly controversial procedure to cheating.
The order of life dictates that as a man ages, he experiences a natural decline in his testosterone levels. This drop leads to obvious decreases in strength, speed and agility.
The reintroduction of testosterone into the system not only helps to negate these losses, but also further delays the aging process.
Not surprisingly, Belfort has been cagey about the TRT issue and relatively dismissive of the subject altogether.
While TRT definitely doesn’t turn the user into Superman, it is hard to argue with the perceived effects it has had on Belfort’s career.
Over a four-year period from 2002-2006, Belfort was in a 4-6 slump and looked like he may be finished in the MMA.
He lost to Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz and dropped two fights to the light heavyweight version of Alistair Overeem.
But after returning from a nine-month suspension stemming from his positive steroid test, Belfort has looked like a fighter reborn. He’s gone 9-2 in his last 11 fights, only coming up short against Anderson Silva and Jon Jones.
Belfort has ripped through the rest of his opponents with ease, finishing seven of the bouts by way of knockout.
The win over Rockhold puts him at the front of the line in a division seemingly bereft of ready talent. From the UFC’s standpoint, it is hard to argue with this scenario.
There are few fights for Belfort to take aside from a possible matchup with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, who defeated Chris Camozzi via arm-triangle choke on the same FX card.
However, it is more likely that he will play the waiting game to see who comes out on top in the championship tilt between Silva and up-and-comer Chris Weidman at UFC 162.
While Weidman’s top-notch wrestling may give him a good shot at dethroning Silva, one would wager a guess that Belfort is hoping that “the Spider” successfully defends his belt for a record 11th time.
In their first meeting at UFC 126, Silva knocked out Belfort with a front kick to the face.
It's safe to assume then that Belfort would relish the opportunity to fight Silva again. If "the Phenom" could hand the Brazilian his first Octagon loss, it would really put an exclamation point on his career.
But even with UFC gold around his waist, it remains to be seen how fans will ultimately view Belfort's MMA legacy.
Perhaps he will be remembered fondly for his accomplishments inside the cage, or maybe he'll be harshly tossed on the trash heap and dismissed as just another "cheater."
I guess only time will tell.