While Chris Weidman may have scored a highly unsatisfying win over Anderson Silva at UFC 168, the UFC's brutal schedule pauses for no man.
The young champ already has his next opponent lined up; former light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort. Both Weidman and Belfort have been on absolute tears lately, with Weidman remaining undefeated through 11 professional bouts while Belfort has knocked out three top-10 fighters in a row with headkicks.
So how do the two match up against one another? Who should be favored when the two face off?
Find out right here!
Chris Weidman has some powerful hands and a highly underrated dirty boxing game. He showed that off in both of his fights with Anderson Silva.
Vitor Belfort, though, was one of the most dynamic, powerful strikers in MMA even before injections of raw testosterone turned him into a real-life Hulk.
The accuracy of his striking is perhaps the best in MMA next to Anderson Silva. Even more importantly, his ability to explode after wobbling an opponent is second-to-none. He is simply the single best finisher in MMA right now.
Vitor Belfort is the best striker in the middleweight division with Anderson Silva out of commission.
Edge: Vitor Belfort
While Belfort has the clear edge in the striking department, Weidman is a mile better as a grappler.
Weidman, as you likely know, is a two-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler and owns a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Matt Serra. He has powerful takedowns, and a dominant clinch game.
What's more is that when he gets his hands on you, he can hurt you.
His punches and elbows from top position are fearsome, as we saw against Mark Munoz and in his second fight with Anderson Silva. In the clinch, he has a Shane Carwin-like ability to do damage with short punches.
Belfort clearly prefers to keep things standing, and at striking range. He has a solid game from the bottom, but nobody should expect him to actively try and grapple with Weidman. He's smarter than that.
Edge: Chris Weidman
In theory, Vitor Belfort is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and therefore, capable of locking up submissions with quickness. In reality, Vitor isn't really about that kind of thing. Vitor is about punching and kicking people.
His submission defense is largely rooted in being physically strong and doing good work of keeping opponents from locking things up. When he can't? He muscles out of things.
Weidman has a very solid submission game, and we've seen him lock up some nice chokes against Tom Lawlor and Jesse Bongfeldt. That said, against top-level grapplers, he won't be able to simply go after submissions with any real hope of success.
The only way either fighter is likely to get a submission here is by finishing the other off after wounding them with strikes. In that way, they're equals.
This is the most interesting category.
When it comes to Chris Weidman, the biggest X-factor he has going for him is his steady growth in the sport. While it's hard to tune out Joe Rogan yelling "they better every time they step into the cage," it is actually true for Weidman.
Where things get really interesting, though, is with Vitor Belfort.
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going" may be a tired tautology, but it rings very true when it comes to analyzing fighters. When the going gets tough, Demetrious Johnson gets going. Jon Jones gets going. Ronda Rousey gets going. Mark Hunt, Antonio Silva, Diego Sanchez, Georges St-Pierre? They all get going.
Vitor Belfort, the majority of the time, does not get going, and gets swallowed up by whatever fighter drags him into deep water. Sometimes his tentativeness leads to an emphatic knockout like the one Anderson Silva laid on him. Sometimes he simply crumbles as tougher fighters like Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz and Jon Jones press him.
As if that wasn't enough, the TRT question is a critical one. As we saw with Matt Riddle, once you start using, it is very easy to convince yourself you need it. If the fight takes place in America, which is a legitimate possibility, there's a good chance Belfort will have to quit the TRT that has helped him bulk up to the enormous size he walks around at today. Will that weigh on him entering the cage, and if so, how much?
Those three factors all favor Weidman and because of that, he finds himself with a major advantage in terms of X-factors.
Edge: Chris Weidman
Vitor Belfort may wilt under pressure, but there literally isn't a single opponent, all the way up to Cain Velasquez, that is immune to his ability to capitalize on an opening.
Still, that is a roll of the dice.
The most likely outcome with Chris Weidman is that the champ will press on the challenger. He will grind him against the cage, drag him to the mat and wear him down with dirty boxing and ground and pound.
Eventually, the muscle-bound Belfort will tire. One of Weidman's biting elbows or heavy hands will land hard and he will capitalize in the form of a submission win.
Prediction: Chris Weidman defeats Vitor Belfort by submission via arm triangle in Round 3