Vitor Belfort left little to regret at UFC 187
There were times during Vitor Belfort's long MMA career where he didn't give himself his best chance to win fights. His third fight against Randy Couture, nearly 11 years ago, was one such frustrating example for fans of "The Phenom."
In that contest, Belfort allowed Couture to simply walk him backwards into the fence and initiate a clinch. Belfort fought the takedown admirably, but Couture was simply too good of a wrestler to hold off for an entire fight.
In that contest, Belfort refused to fire off any strikes to try and make Couture pay to get inside, or angle out, or try any number of other things really. Eventually, as Belfort just played defense, Couture wore him down and earned a stoppage and the UFC light heavyweight championship.
From fading in fights, physically, to reportedly getting inside his own head, to any number of other problems, the incredibly skilled and talented Belfort of old often appeared to get in his own way more than opponents did. Tonight, in the co-main event of UFC 187, Belfort most certainly gave himself his best chance to win.
In fact, early on in his middleweight title bout against champion Chris Weidman, it looked as though the 38-year-old would become the new king at 185 pounds. Vitor did not hesitate to let his hands go, from the start, and hurt and rattled Weidman with strikes.
As Weidman backed up, covered up and ate big uppercut after big uppercut from Belfort, it seemed -- for a moment -- that the "All-American" was going to have his championship belt ripped away from him by the aggressive Brazilian. Weidman showed an incredible chin, as well as fantastic grappling, and that eventually won the night for him, via a ground-and-pound stoppage victory later in the round.
Even though Weidman is just 13 fights into his MMA career, he has already shown in many ways, with wins over fantastic fighters -- many of them champions and legends like Belfort, Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva -- that he is simply the best at middleweight. No serious observer has ever doubted the New Yorker's skill or accomplishments, and Saturday was his night, to be certain.
Still, I personally come back, in my mind, to Vitor letting it rip early on. Any fighter knows how hard it is, mentally, to let your hands go against a wrestler.
The threat of a takedown, and then ending up on bottom, can force even the best strikers to become tentative, and abandon their game plans. There's good reason for that fear, and we needn't look any further than the very way Weidman ended up beating Belfort.
Weidman changed levels after a strike from Vitor, closed the distance, took him down, then passed and bashed his way to a nasty TKO win. That's what was supposed to happen in this fight.
Weidman is the much bigger man, and is a better grappler, both on the feet and on the ground. For all Belfort's confidence, he must have known that his younger opponent stood a very good chance of taking him down and keeping him there.
So, it took real commitment from Vitor to still give himself a puncher's chance and let his strikes go with tactical abandon.
Yes, Vitor lost.
That sting never goes away. However, losing after not giving it your all feels even worse.
In the end, Vitor Belfort may not own a win over Chris Weidman, but he also won't have any regrets about his effort at UFC 187. Belfort has gotten braver with age, and that's a trait that won't fade, even as physical ones, do.