The end of middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva’s reign has opened up many doors to those battling it out in the middle of the pack at 185 pounds. Now, middleweight champion Chris Weidman has to fend off a slew of worthy fighters that have once again found a legitimate opening at the top of the mountain. Nobody may be in a better position to take advantage of Silva’s fall and Weidman’s ascension than the surging Vitor Belfort.

Belfort’s last two title fights didn’t go as planned. His fight against light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 152 didn’t turn out the way he would have liked, despite the Brazilian catching the light heavyweight king in what seemed to be a very secure armbar in the first round of their fight. With no time to prepare and fighting at 205 pounds for the first time since his return to the UFC, Belfort eventually succumbed in the fourth round to an americana.

Several fights before that contest, though, Belfort was seen as the man who could most definitely dethrone Silva. He has the fast hands, knockout power and striking that definitely made people question if, for the first time in his career, Silva’s striking was actually the second best in that cage. One front kick later, however, and Belfort’s middleweight title dreams were put on hold. That first-round knockout loss to Silva at UFC 126 has effectively kept Belfort out of the middleweight title picture until recently.

Now, with Weidman at the helm of the division, Belfort has certainly pushed himself into contention for that title shot. The Brazilian is currently riding a three-fight winning streak, and each of those wins earned him “Knockout of the Night” honors. Whether it be his second-round dismantling of Michael Bisping, his derailing of hyped Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold or his head-kick knockout against Dan Henderson at light heavyweight, Belfort has certainly made a name for himself since his bout with Jones.

The 36-year-old has looked utterly amazing and unstoppable in his last three fights. Wins over Bisping, Rockhold and Henderson normally get a fighter into the title picture. Belfort added those victories to his resume over the course of three fights, taking out these top-10 caliber fighters like it was nothing.

In those three fights, Belfort spent just a smidge over 10 minutes in the cage. Against those kind of names, it’s hard to even fathom spending less than 10 minutes with one of them.

However, Belfort has been outmatched in his last two title fights. Silva was undoubtedly the top pound-for-pound fighter on the planet—not to mention probably the greatest fighter in MMA history, depending on whether you back Silva or Fedor Emelianenko. Then he gets Jones, who, again, stands as the top pound-for-pound fighter on the planet and who has eased through each of his title fights up until meeting Alexander Gustafsson.

The way Belfort has looked in his last few fights is completely different from how he looked when he came to fight Silva. The Brazilian has seemingly unleashed the killer inside him, and his striking has surprisingly become better. Belfort was already a great striker in his own right, but over the course of his last three fights he has found way more openings and the head kick has become a lethal part of his repertoire.

Belfort, thanks to his knockout power, is certainly a threat to Weidman, who now possesses the belt outright after beating Silva for a second time. However, he is going to have to be wary with Weidman. Weidman’s wins over Silva have already shown that the champ can handle a devastating striker. Although the two possess different styles of striking—Belfort utilizing speed and power and Silva utilizing movement and unparalleled counter striking—Weidman has already overcome the one variety, making it a reasonable assumption that he would fare well against the other variety.

Since undergoing testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), Belfort has become a different beast, and that is something Weidman will have to worry about. Belfort now trains fully without becoming tired or lethargic to the point that he was pre-TRT. Belfort now feels 100 percent for his entire eight-week camp.

A motivated and fully functioning Belfort is a Belfort that will cause problems for the champ. If Weidman can’t get this fight to the ground, he will have to face the full power of the Brazilian and react to the quickest hands the middleweight division has to offer.

With Silva out of action, there is no one who has the striking that Belfort does at 185 pounds—not a single person—and his last three fights have shown that. Taking out a top-10 fighter is not easy, but doing so in each of his last three fights and doing so by knocking each of them out before the middle of the second round is positively scary.

Remember that throwback to the young Vitor Belfort that we all saw when he returned to the UFC? The one who had massive potential and was coming to the Octagon as a hugely hyped threat to Silva? Yeah, he is here. In fact, he’s knocking on the champ’s door.

About The Author

Sal DeRose
Staff Writer

Sal hails from New Jersey and is currently training for his first MMA fight. He hopes to use his knowledge and insight to generate articles that interest and entertain you. Outside of MMA, Sal is a big fan of every other sport. He's a diehard New York sports fan, with the exception of cheering for the Packers.

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