UFC 126 is set to go down Feb. 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the UFC has announced that the event has sold out. The excitement from the fans is understandable, as the UFC is presenting the fight as the biggest opportunity for a challenger to unseat seemingly invincible Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. Former UFC champion and Pride superstar Vitor Belfort has been on a comeback and is the one expected to offer the champion his greatest challenge.
Yet defeating Silva will be no easy task. While Silva’s record stands at 27-4, the most recent of those losses was by disqualification in a fight with Yushin Okami at a Rumble on the Rock event in 2006. The last time an opponent legitimately defeated Silva was back at Pride Shockwave 2004, when Ryo Chonan caught him in a flying scissor heel hook.
Since the Okami fight, Silva has won 13 consecutive fights, with all but one of those in the UFC, the longest winning streak of any fighter to ever step into the octagon. After taking the belt from previous champion Rich Franklin four years ago, Silva has set another UFC record by successfully defending his title seven times. And his last defense was arguably his most impressive: after a four round domination by challenger Chael Sonnen, Silva made an incredible comeback by submitting his opponent with just two minutes remaining in their 25-minute fight.
Veteran fighter Vitor Belfort is the man tasked with stopping this juggernaut. Belfort is primarily known as a striker; out of his 19-8 record, 13 of the victories were by knockout. Yet Anderson Silva is no different; a majority of the champion’s victories are also due to knockouts. Belfort is essentially going to try to beat the best middleweight fighter at his own game.
It is debatable whether this presents the biggest challenge yet to Silva. The fighters that have managed to give Silva the most trouble, such as Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen, were able to do so through superior wrestling ability. Getting Silva to the ground and keeping him there have allowed Henderson and Sonnen to win rounds against the champion before, despite him being able to eventually submit them.
Thus, Vitor Belfort flirts with danger as he faces Silva’s exceptional Muay Thai. Other strikers that have tried this have been easily defeated by Silva; Rich Franklin, James Irvin, and Forrest Griffin have all been dispatched by the champion in the first round.
Belfort, meanwhile, may want to hope he can end this fight just as soon. The challenger has never been in a fourth round, let alone the full five-rounds a championship match can require. In fact, Belfort didn’t fight at all in 2010.
Belfort’s best chance is a quick knockout, but the odds seem to be against him. Fans may be excited about Anderson Silva meeting his ultimate test, but signs seem to point to the champion extending his unprecedented reign over the Middleweight Championship.