Vitor Belfort's Win over Luke Rockhold May Cause More Problems Than It Solves
For the second fight in a row, Vitor Belfort finished an opponent with a devastating head kick, this time around putting away former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold Saturday night in the latest UFC on FX main event.
With just over two minutes gone in the fight, Belfort launched a quick, spinning heel kick that landed flush on Rockhold's jaw sending him crashing to the mat.
The spinning kick was similar to the ones landed by UFC lightweight Edson Barboza (finishing Terry Etim) and former Ultimate Fighter finalist Uriah Hall (putting away Adam Cella). Rockhold deserves some credit because he's the only one of the three who had the kick land and didn't get completely knocked out from the impact, but Belfort didn't need much more besides a few punches to put Rockhold's lights out and pick up another win at 185 pounds.
Belfort is actually undefeated at the weight outside of one loss, and that's where his win creates a big problem in the UFC's middleweight division.
The Brazilian has now knocked off two top-five contenders in a row, with Rockhold and Michael Bisping in his previous fight. For any other fighter, it would almost seem a lock for a title shot in his next bout, but for Belfort that assumption can't happen just yet for a number of reasons.
The first obstacle is middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Belfort and Silva met already at UFC 126 in 2011 and ended in one of the most stunning knockouts in mixed martial arts history. Silva threw a front kick that landed straight on Belfort's mouth, knocking him to the ground in dramatic fashion.
Add to that the knockout happened in the first round in a one-sided fight that Silva controlled and no matter what streak he's on currently, it's hard to put Belfort back in against the champion a second time. Silva has never been keen on rematches, although he did grant one to both Chael Sonnen and former UFC champion Rich Franklin since he's been middleweight champion.
Silva next faces Chris Weidman at UFC 162 in July. With a win, he would seem poised to focus on fights that would further define his legacy, like bouts against welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre or light heavyweight king Jon Jones. It's unknown if Silva would have any interest at all in taking on Belfort a second time.
The other major obstacle for Belfort right now is his use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
While the treatment is 100 percent legal by all standards in mixed martial arts, fighters are required to receive a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) by any state commission leading up to a fight. Belfort has now openly been using TRT for his last two fights, but he's only fought in Brazil while being on the controversial treatment.
In the past with cards in Brazil, the UFC acted as a governing body to test the competing athletes. Recently, a commission was formed in Brazil, approving Belfort's continued TRT use.
Belfort would also need TRT approval for fights in the United States or other areas with recognized commissions.
Unfortunately for Belfort, he tested positive for steroids after competing in a Pride Fighting Championships bout in 2006 in Las Vegas. While there's no proof why Belfort has low testosterone, steroid abuse is a known cause of the problem in men.
Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer spoke to Bleacher Report in March and stated that because of Belfort's past conviction for steroid use, it's unlikely they would grant him TRT exemption in the state.
"I don't see Vitor Belfort getting a TRT exemption from us," Kizer told Bleacher Report. "I really don't and I feel kind of bad for him in some ways because if he has learned from his mistakes and now he's trying to do it the right way and his levels are low with the treatment good for him and I hope he is doing that. The rules are the rules and you have to draw the line somewhere."
The line in the sand for TRT usage seems to be a past suspension for steroids, and that could prevent "the Phenom" from using the treatment in a fight in Las Vegas or some other major areas in the U.S. if other commissions follow suit.
It would mean that Belfort's fights would have to continue to take place in Brazil or England or other areas where the UFC acts as the governing body. If that's the case, it's going to make a title fight with Belfort involved a hard sell, especially with the lion's share of major UFC championship fights taking place in the United States and Canada.
The only other scenario would be Belfort discontinuing his use of TRT all together.
At the post-fight press conference in Brazil, Belfort didn't seem too interested in talking about TRT or a potential matchup with Silva down the road anyway, according to Tatame reporter Guilherme Cruz.
Belfort asked someone 2 beat @mmajunkiejohn for asking about TRT. Rockhold says TRT doesn't teach 2 kick. Belfort refuses to answer Johns Qs— Guilherme Cruz (@guicruzzz) May 19, 2013
Belfort now complains about Q's on Anderson. Well, let's go home and get some sleep— Guilherme Cruz (@guicruzzz) May 19, 2013
Belfort's best hope for a title shot might be to begin rooting for Chris Weidman at UFC 162, and then ask for the fight to take place in Brazil. Otherwise, Belfort may have to settle for big fights taking place in his native country with no title implications on the line.
It's not an ideal spot for any fighter to be in, but at 36 years of age, Belfort could certainly earn a nice living being a part of major cards in Brazil time and again. But another shot at UFC gold may never happen in his career.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report.
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