This past weekend’s UFC 142, held in Rio de Janeiro was a triumph of sorts for Zuffa. The Brazilian contingent of fighters, led by Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo and Middleweight contender Vitor Belfort, gave the hometown crowd something to cheer about. The UFC now begins filming of the Brazilian version of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality series, where Vanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort will coach squads in the typical format for the show. As usual, the two coaches will meet at the end of the series, and UFC 146 has been scheduled for June of this year in Brazil’s capital, Sao Paulo.
Both men will coach teams of Featherweights and Middleweights and the finals in the will help to headline the event.
It has been roughly a dozen years since Silva and Belfort met for the first time, back at the first UFC Brazil event in 1999. The sport was different, and it is a testament to both men that they are still competing at the sport’s highest level so many years later. Because of their long careers at the highest level, I expect that the ‘TUF’ series is going to be a ‘respect’ fest far as the coaches is concerned, with both being very professional. Sure, in Brazil the cast of fighters is sure to have some stories and characters, but don’t expect Vitor to be removing the wheels from Vanderlei’s car on the show.
The first match between the two was filled with that angst that comes with grudge matches. Belfort had already fought in the United States, he was still associated with the Gracie name, and though talented, was considered a bit of a headcase. Silva for his part, had used his fists and knees to beat everyone in the IVC to a pulp, but considered the match his ‘shot’ at using fighting to get to the big time.
SIlva would be KO’d in rather quick fashion. When interviewed after the fight, Silva was absolutely crushed, feeling that he had let an opportunity to advance his career slip by.
This rematch has none of those dimensions or emotions. Both men are at the tail end of their careers now. Silva may have more motivation to win this bout, as he is said to be seriously contemplating retirement. Belfort is still a contender at Middleweight, so he must win to stay near the top of the division.
Interestingly, neither men has changed much in style since their first meeting. Certainly refinements have taken place, but Silva is still a come forward brawler/striker who wants a firefight and he is still easy to hit for an accurate striker. And Belfort is still an explosive puncher who is at his most dangerous early in the fight. Both are black belts in BJJ, however neither has relied much on ground technique throughout their careers.
This is why I see this rematch going much the same way as the their first meeting. Belfort still retains hand speed and KO power, and Vanderlei continues to be a straight forward attacker who never met a fist fight he didn’t like. Unfortunately, as his career has progressed, opponents have found Silva’s button more and more often. I’m looking for Belfort to find it again, and I would bet this match that way. Unless something to change the chemistry of this fight happens on the reality show, this rematch will be a repeat.