The resurgence of Vitor Belfort has been one of the MMA biggest stories of 2013.
The former light heavyweight champion watched his 2012 campaign end with a failed yet spirited bid to dethrone 205-pound champion Jon Jones, as the pound-for-pound great submitted Belfort in the fourth round at UFC 152 last year in September.
Following his loss to Jones, "The Phenom" decided to return to the middleweight fold, and the results have been nothing short of impressive. He has collected three solid victories with each resulting in a highlight-reel knockout finish.
The Blackzilians-trained fighter started his year by planting Michael Bisping in the second round with a beautifully timed head kick at UFC on FX 7 in January. He followed that up by salting former Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold with a spinning wheel kick four months later.
Those victories catapulted the Brazilian knockout artist to the front of the line in the middleweight upper tier, but with Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman tied up in a scheduled rematch at UFC 168, he had the choice of waiting to see how things played out or getting back to work. The well-traveled veteran chose to step back into the Octagon and promptly knocked out fellow legend Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 32 in November.
With three consecutive wins and three brutal finishes, Belfort put himself in a position where another shot at the title would be difficult to deny. It appears the UFC has taken notice, and on Thursday in Sacramento, UFC president Dana White told FoxSports.com that Belfort would face the winner of the upcoming rematch between Silva and Weidman, regardless of the outcome.
With Weidman pulling off the shocking upset in their first match, there was speculation that a trilogy bout would be scheduled if "The Spider" were to reclaim his title on Dec. 28. White dispelled those rumors and deemed that Belfort would get his shot at the winner in 2014.
Silva and Belfort have squared off before, with The Spider blistering his counterpart with a front-kick knockout in the opening round at UFC 126 in 2011. Although Belfort didn't offer the former champion much resistance in their first go-around, White revealed that the former middleweight king feels Belfort is worthy of another shot if he reclaims gold at UFC 168.
"[Ed] Soares was telling me that Anderson absolutely thinks Vitor deserves another shot," White said. "The next move for him will be Vitor Belfort."
If Weidman once again turns back Silva, the UFC's plans for Belfort's next step won't change all that much. White also addressed that issue as well, declaring the Brazilian powerhouse would face the Ray Longo-trained fighter in his next outing if things played out in Weidman's favor at UFC 168 in Las Vegas.
"If Anderson Silva doesn't win this fight, Chris Weidman and Vitor," White confirmed.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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