UFC 175 received a major shake-up when Wanderlei Silva was pulled from his fight against Chael Sonnen. The announcement that his replacement would come in the form of fellow Brazilian Vitor Belfort was greeted by excitement throughout the MMA community.
Now that the news has settled, there are a number of interesting factors that this new fight brings to the Pay Per View event during Fourth of July weekend.
Chael Sonnen vs. Vitor Belfort presents a completely different dynamic than the original fight against Wanderlei Silva.
The first point that must be made is the new opportunity that has been presented to both Sonnen and Belfort. Even though these two men will meet as light heavyweights, there are rumors swirling that the winner of the contest will be deemed the No. 1 contender for the middleweight championship. The UFC has yet to confirm, but Sonnen is already spreading the word of this new development.
“The stakes are up,” Sonnen said in a report presented by MMA Junkie's Matt Erickson. “I am now fighting in a number one contenders match. The winner of my bout will take on the winner of Chris Weidman versus Lyoto Machida.”
Weidman is set to defend his belt against Machida in the main event of UFC 175.
Even though the UFC has yet to respond to this statement, it would seem as if Sonnen has once again talked himself into a potential title shot.
Vitor was widely recognized as the No. 1 contender to the middleweight title. He was Weidman's original opponent before the UFC-wide ban on the use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) forced him to take time away from competition to meet those new demands. If Sonnen—who is a massive fan favorite within the UFC—could find a way to upset Belfort, one could expect that the UFC would be willing to give him his fourth shot at UFC gold.
Belfort also stands to benefit from this newly created contest. Before the ban on TRT, Vitor was running through his opponents in blazing fashion. While some stood in awe, there were others who questioned his usage of TRT at this point in his career. Especially when the fact that he's failed a drug test in the past was added to the equation.
If “The Phenom” can blow through Chael to add another knockout to his highlight reel of stoppages, the mixed martial arts community would almost immediately begin clamoring for him to fight for the title once again.
Most will consider this a gift opportunity for Vitor as Chael is seen as an “easier” path back to the title. Chael has lost three of his last four fights, and his most important win of late against Michael Bisping occurred more than two years ago. Belfort's bound to be the betting favorite coming into this contest.
Sonnen's fight style plays directly into Vitor's strengths. His overwhelming striking smothers fighters from the opening bell, and Chael has fallen under such pressure in the past.
Another interesting dynamic that adding Belfort creates for this fight is the continued debate about TRT in MMA. Both Vitor and Chael have stood as central figures around the controversy that has been the removal of this therapy. With two high-profile fighters placed together in such a way the MMA media should pounce on the opportunity to talk about how their past usage and ban has changed their career.
Back in March Sonnen chronicled how “terrible” his life would be without TRT. “The best way to describe is that it is a completely terrible, horrible feeling,” Sonnen told Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports. “This is a medicine and it's medicine I need to live normally on a day-to-day basis.”
Sonnen has never shied away from saying controversial things while building a fight, so it will be interesting to see how he handles these questions leading into the fight at UFC 175. Current champion Chris Weidman, has already spoken against the usage of TRT in the sport, as reported by Yahoo! Sports' Mike Chiappetta, and with two potential contenders being former users, one can expect him to voice his concern with the situation.
Vitor Belfort is one of the most polarizing individuals within the sport of mixed martial arts. The minds behind the UFC have created a firestorm by placing him in a fight against Chael Sonnen at UFC 175. His inclusion creates a new set of questions that not only Sonnen will have to answer, but the UFC will have to address as well.
July 5 was shaping up to be one of the most anticipated nights of action that the Ultimate Fighting Championship has given fans in 2014, and this new bout has made it even more important in the MMA community.