Vitor Belfort earned his nickname “The Phenom” early in his career, a fiery young man, with blazing speed and knockout power. Now, at 36 years of age, he continues to add credence to his moniker.
Belfort entered Saturday night’s UFC on FX 8 in Brazil having knocked out middleweight title contender Michael Bisping at UFC on FX 7. He continued his resurgence by knocking out final Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, but it was the manner in which he did it that really added to The Phenom’s legacy.
Belfort looked comfortable and confident from the opening bell, sprawling an early takedown attempt, and just missing with a spinning heel-kick to the head. He did, however, land a flurry of punches that backed Rockhold into the fence.
Rockhold fought out of it, but seemed to have trouble finding his rhythm, moving flat-footed around the Octagon. Belfort was circling and bouncing on his toes the entire time.
Just as the fight appeared to be falling into a rhythm all its own, Belfort launched another spinning heel-kick, this time landing squarely on Rockhold’s jaw, immediately putting him on the mat. Belfort pounced and landed several more punches as the referee jumped in to stop the fight.
Belfort was elated after the fight, saying, “I want to thank everyone. I’m stronger than ever.”
He certainly looked it, but steered clear of calling for a return shot at the middleweight title. He did, however, make his pick for the UFC 162 battle between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman in July.
“I’m here to fight. I don’t pick fights. I accept fights. The fans decide it, Dana White,” Belfort declared. “I’m very happy. I’m going to root for Anderson.”
The victory gives Belfort back-to-back wins over Top 10 middleweights, and makes him 4-1 since losing to Anderson Silva at UFC 126 in early 2011.
Rockhold, hoping that a victory would have launched him into a title fight in his next bout, will instead go back to the drawing board.
“I didn’t see that one coming,” he admitted after the fight. “I thought I was finding my timing, but what can I say, he landed a spinning heel kick to my head.”
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