As we all know, Vitor Belfort was rewarded with a middleweight title shot for his most recent failed drug test and ensuing attempted cover-up. So, "The Phenom" will face champion Chris Weidman at UFC 181 for the 185 pound championship.
Given Belfort's lightning-fast strikes and KO power on the feet, conventional wisdom might hold that the champion's best strategy would be to wrestle the Brazilian to the ground. That said, the former All-American wrestler Weidman successfully stood and struck with some of the best strikers in MMA history in his last three bouts, Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida, and came out with three wins.
Machida, Weidman's last challenger, believes that the champ is perfectly capable of standing and exchanging blows with Belfort. "Weidman is ready to fight anywhere. If he has to stand, he will. Vitor can obviously land a punch and end this, that’s what makes this sport so captivating, but I think he will be ready to fight him there," Machida told Guilherme Cruz in a recent interview.
"It’s a good fight for both. They both stand a chance. We can’t underestimate either of them. Weidman has evolved a lot, has a big heart. Vitor is super talented, also evolved a lot, and is an athlete that works hard. When you have such a close fight like that, when it’s hard to break down, it’s hard to predict a result."
Machida fought Weidman more effectively and closely than anyone has ever done before in their title fight last month. The two slugged it out until the final bell and Weidman won a close decision.
The former light heavyweight champion believes that Belfort's best chance at beating Weidman will be in the first round and a half, but that a longer fight favors the well-conditioned champ. "I think Vitor has a better chance in the first round and the first half of the second round," he said.
"But after that, I think Weidman’s chances are better than Vitor’s."
Do you agree with Machida that Weidman can handle Vitor on the feet? Let us know in the comments section!