Posted 05/21/2013 by admin in Untethered MMA

UFC on FX 8: Belfort vs Rockhold recap

by Mike Fagan, May 21st, 2013 

You couldn’t visit an MMA website this week without seeing articles about Vitor Belfort and testosterone replacement therapy and commission loopholes and the UFC’s complicity in the thing and OH MY GOD FIGHTERS ARE DOING STEROIDS LEGALLY?!?!

Then Vitor Belfort knocked out Luke Rockhold halfway through the first round with a spinning kick worthy of UFC highlight reels for years to come, and the I’m-only-sort-of-joking-but-not-really jokes started rolling through my Twitter timeline. Jokes about getting on TRT. Jokes about getting all the fighters on TRT. Jokes about who cares if Vitor’s doing TRT as long as he’s knocking out handsome, perfect-haired men with those crazy spinning kicks.

Are these jokes or an honest look at what people think of all this TRT nonsense? (“You know, on second thought, it’s just professional sports, right? Why do I care so much?”) I don’t know. But it seems as if Belfort’s use and the general TRT culture pervasive in the sport is such a farce, those complaining about it so much would avoid the fights and go watch other, “clean” sports or do something productive, otherwise.

Belfort is not the only fighter to deal with TRT backlash, though this might be the most visible. Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir, Forrest Griffin, etc., etc. All have had words of varying harshness written about their medical needs (or “needs”), from long, malicious diatribes (Sonnen) to offhanded snarky remarks (Mir, Griffin).

Yet, one man has (mostly?) survived the wrath, despite being the Jackie Robinson of Legalized Steroids: Dan Henderson. Henderson’s use started in 2007. Before 2007, he notched KOs against names like Akihiro Gono, Ryo Chonan, and Murilo Bustamante. After 2007, those names became Wanderlei Silva, Michael Bisping, and Fedor Emelianenko. Noting the obvious sample size caveat, his KO rate rose from 31% to 42% despite fighting a much higher level of competition at an age further and further away from 30.

How much of his post-2007 success can we attribute to our wonderful new miracle drug? I don’t know. (I don’t care too much, either.) But the relative lack of attention Henderson’s use has received (in contrast to the recent Belfort/Sonnen circuses), despite the seemingly obvious benefits of his use, is interesting nonetheless.

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Amidst in all the TRT hoopla and the usual Old Vitor, New Vitor/dinosaurs and lions routine is the oft-mistaken career narrative of Vitor Belfort.

Get talking with some media type or hardcore fan about Vitor’s legacy and you’ll hear words and phrases like “inconsistent,” “up and down,” and so on. The reality is that Vitor Belfort is one of the most consistent fighters in MMA history.

Look at the names in his loss column. Couture, Sakuraba…Silva, Jones. Outside of Overeem, every single one of those fighters deserves a spot in an MMA hall of fame.

The only comparable name in his win column is Wanderlei Silva. I could list a number of caveats (sub-minute finish, Wanderlei wasn’t WANDERLEI yet, great style matchup for Vitor, etc.), but even without them, it doesn’t escape the reality that it’s the only elite fighter Belfort has ever beaten.

Which is to say this: Vitor Belfort is a gatekeeper. The best kind of gatekeeper. If you can claim a notch on Belfort, you’re a very good fighter, and there’s a very good chance you’re a great fighter.

I can’t be sure as to why Belfort’s been given the inconsistent/disappointment reputation, but through discussion on Twitter, I think I’ve stumbled on a hypothesis. Given his entrance into MMA, his quick work of Wanderlei Silva, his looks, his physique, and his name (I’m talking aesthetics here; “Vitor Belfort” sounds like a badass from some fantasy novel or video game), Belfort had all the making of a superstar. At the time, people expected him to beat guys like Couture and Ortiz. It seems like the stigma of “disappointing” losses has followed him throughout his career. But when you instead look at Belfort as a guy who, for whatever reason, didn’t have the makeup of a truly elite fighter, you see a clearer picture of his career.

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-I don’t think the UFC could have scripted “Jacare” Souza’s win over Chris Camozzi any better than the actual result. The fight had the makeup of a showcase for Jacare, and a showcase it was. Camozzi was game for the short time they stood across from each other, but Jacare showed UFC fans what BJJ and hardcore MMA nerds have known for a long time. I expected the UFC would move fast with a Jacare win, and I stand by that. At 33, Jacare’s window is small, and the middleweight division always stands for fresh contenders. I see him matching up with x, or y, and perhaps a title shot after that.

-Camozzi fell asleep quicker than anyone else I’ve seen, which just goes to show you what level of grappler were dealing with when it comes to Jacare.

-Rafael dos Anjos and Evan Dunham didn’t win Fight of the Night, but they did deliver exactly the type of fight expected of them. I scored the fight for Dunham, and was surprised when Bruce Buffer announced dos Anjos as the winner. (Disclaimer: I had money on Dunham.) This is third close decision loss of Dunham’s UFC career, and you’ve got to feel for a guy who’s found himself on the wrong side of variance that often.

-Rafael Natal and Joao Zeferino’s fight had everyone glad the pizza guy showed up at the opening bell.


Mike Fagan writes a weekly column for MMA Owl, and hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET at