It's been recently reported that Vitor Belfort has been offered a No. 1 contender bout with Nate Marquardt. If it happens, this will be a great stylistic fight, and I feel the need to celebrate it just a little bit.
I wasn't happy to hear that Paulo Thiago is going to be thrown in against Koscheck again, or that Forrest is probably going to fight against Tito Ortiz in an unnecessary rubber match. In the case of Marquardt vs. Belfort I am quite happy, and so I feel it necessary to give the UFC some credit where credit is due.
Vitor Belfort was scheduled to fight Anderson Silva before the latter had to pull out due to an unexpectedly long recovery from surgery. This fight would have been exciting and had the potential to make a lot of money for the UFC, had they simply waited for Anderson's return.
Vitor Belfort has been an inconsistent performer over the length of his career, so there has been some concern that he hasn't yet displayed the kind of staying power of a true contender. The logic goes that if Belfort was given enough fights, he would somehow find a way to lose. Furthermore, he has yet to fight in the UFC at the 185 lb weight limit, where he was scheduled to battle for a title.
In Belfort's defense, there were many things going on in his personal life that probably were affecting him.
Marquardt, on the other hand, is still searching for a big win to put himself in the top contender position. Some might argue that the Demian Maia match was enough, but I personally feel that while the Maia victory was a good one for Marquardt, it did more to show how far Maia still needs to improve in regards to his striking technique.
Marquardt's wins over Gouveia and Kampmann were also good, but don't exactly make me believe he's ready for Anderson Silva. An impressive win over Vitor Belfort would.
I still look back to Marquardt's fight against Thales Leites, where Marquardt was dropped in the first round, and think that if Anderson Silva had been in Thales' place, it would not have gone well for Marquardt.
To his credit, Marquardt bounced back and fought a good fight against Leites. Still, it can't be a good thing when you're getting knocked down by the same guy who was so afraid of striking with Anderson Silva that he repeatedly flopped down to his back to avoid getting hit.
I suppose that if Belfort flakes out, or if Marquardt gets dropped early again, maybe nothing new will have been discovered, but at least we'll have a true contender.
The stylistic match-up should also be good, as both fighters have significant striking and grappling abilities, and both are dynamic fighters.
The winner of this fight will have proven himself to be the current UFC middleweight with the best chance of defeating Anderson Silva. Although this bout opens the door for a title fight between Silva and Dan Henderson, I think the winner of Vitor and Nate will stand a better chance.
Credit goes to the UFC for being willing to abandon a potentially lucrative bout (Vitor vs. Anderson) in favor of an interesting one that still has title implications.
Now if there was only something we could do about Couture vs. Coleman....