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Belfort deserves a title shot
There were a few voices shouting for it after Vitor Belfort's left leg connected flush against Michael Bisping's head.
The noise got louder after Belfort used a spinning back kick to introduce Luke Rockhold to his left heel and another spectacular knockout followed.
But on Saturday night in front of a packed house in Goiania, Brazil, as Vitor Belfort became the first fighter in history to knock out Dan Henderson, stentorian voices roared that the time is here — Belfort has done enough to earn another shot at the UFC middleweight title.
Despite the fact that the main event bout took place at 205 pounds, just about everyone considered Belfort's rematch against Henderson as a de facto middleweight contest between two fighters who just didn't have to cut the weight. Henderson has spent a large part of his career fighting at 185 pounds, and considering his past win over Belfort the rematch seemed perfect at the time.
Belfort not only did his part to pay Henderson back for the first loss, but as his left shin landed with a thud across the American's jaw he shut down any possibility of a rubber match between the two competitors. In that one emphatic moment, Belfort also secured his spot as the top challenger at middleweight, locking up the position to take on the winner of the main event of UFC 168 between champion Chris Weidman and former title holder Anderson Silva.
"There's gonna be some big fights coming up for Vitor Belfort," Dana White told FOX Sports' Heidi Androl after the bout. The UFC president elaborated further at the post-fight press conference. "Big night, he did something nobody's ever done in 39 fights, he stopped Dan Henderson. Vitor's a completely different fighter than when he was younger. He's mentally there, he's physically there, he's more well-rounded than he's ever been. I'm blown away by tonight's performance."
While White originally stopped short of declaring Belfort as the next in line for a title shot, continued pressure from the media in Brazil forced his hand and he finally made the call that they were all waiting to hear. Outside of a catastrophe, like Weidman or Silva facing a lengthy injury after their fight in December, Belfort will face the winner in 2014.
"Whoever wins, yes, will fight Vitor Belfort unless something crazy happens and somebody gets hurt," White stated.
Belfort also backed up White's idea saying that the fight he wants now, and the fight he's earned, is the winner of the UFC 168 main event and it's time for his middleweight title shot.
"I'm looking right now for the winner of Anderson Silva and (Chris Weidman)," Belfort said. "Dana is the one who makes the call and I've just got to be ready and I told them I will be ready. Good things come when you work hard."
In three fights this year, Belfort has made the impossible seem possible. He became only the second person ever to knockout Michael Bisping, while pulling off the exact same feat against Luke Rockhold a few months later. Finishing Henderson by knockout will be the crowning achievement for Belfort in 2013, however, because no one in 40 fights has ever accomplished that before.
Belfort did it in just 77 seconds.
The only haze that will cloud Belfort's seemingly straight path to the title shot is his continued use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) and how that translates into his recent performances. Well on Saturday it was an even playing field at least in regards to TRT because both Belfort and Henderson prescribe to the treatment, and agree or disagree with how it's being used, nobody can say one fighter had an advantage.
The next argument then becomes if Belfort gets a title shot will he be able to fight in the United States and continue to use TRT given his 2006 conviction for a positive steroid test? First, let's make sure to clarify Belfort's licensing — he will receive a fight license to compete in California, Nevada or any other state, province or country. That's never been at stake. Where the cloud of controversy swirls is whether or not Belfort will be approved to use TRT, but he believes it won't be a problem at all.
Belfort references current UFC light heavyweight Chael Sonnen, who was previously suspended after testing positive for elevated testosterone and not disclosing his TRT usage to the California State Athletic Commission in 2010, but then received a fight license in Nevada while also being allowed to use TRT less than two years later. In other words, Belfort's not sweating it.
"It's easy, Chael Sonnen's fighting in Las Vegas. We do everything by the book. Everything's good, we can get licensed, that's no problem," Belfort said.
The TRT debate will surely end up as a stain on a title fight with Belfort's name attached to it, but at this point there's no denying him the shot. No one has to like that he can use synthetic testosterone, but until athletic commissions ban it or him from using the treatment, he's only playing within the rules that have been made. Belfort's three consecutive head kick knockouts are not only impressive — they've separated him from the pack and he now stands alone as the true No. 1 contender in the middleweight division.
Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva consider this as notice served — the Phenom is coming.
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