Posted 05/14/2013 by admin in Untethered MMA

UFC on FX 8: Belfort vs Rockhold Preview

By Mike Fagan, May 14th, 2013

Luke Rockhold vs. Vitor Belfort

- There are two reasons to watch this card: 1) residence (past or present) in Brazil and 2) this main event. Rockhold and Belfort is all you can ask for with from a free TV headliner: an evenly-matched bout (the online books have this as a -125/-100 split for Rockhold), a compelling story (“old lion vs. new lion” in Vitor’s parlance), and a fun style matchup, on paper. This is fortunate because the main card opener features a fighter without a Wikipedia page. That’s never good.

- On merit, Belfort is a poor man’s Randy Couture. Similar records – Vitor is 22-10; Couture retired at 19-11. Couture won the big fights more often, and held world titles that have escaped Vitor throughout his career. Still, look at the names attached to Belfort’s losses: Couture (x2), Sakuraba, Liddell, Ortiz, Overeem (x2), Henderson, Anderson Silva, and Jon Jones. His best wins, excluding the UFC 46 farce over Couture: Wanderlei Silva, Heath Herring (when that still meant something), Matt Lindland, Rich Franklin, Michael Bisping. Outside of Wanderlei, a who’s who of Good Not Great. Belfort’s never had more than the look of a great fighter, but that shouldn’t cloud the fact that he is a very good one.

- That said, steroids and such. I’m surprised there aren’t more jokes and memes weaving Vitor’s TRT use and the self-coined “young dinosaur,” but I digress. The Nevada commission busted him for elevated levels of testosterone after a loss to Dan Henderson, and it’s reasonable to question how long he was using before that. Now he’s on the Flintstones vitamins. That colors things for people of a certain ilk.

- As for Rockhold, Belfort is a legit step up in competition. The Last Strikeforce Middleweight Champion’s best win was his first for that title: a five-round unanimous decision of “Jacare” Souza. He defended his title twice; first knocking out UFC washout and Awkward Jim Neidhart, Keith Jardine, and then taking a decision over Tim Kennedy. Prior to that, Rockhold’s ledger features such luminous names as Paul Bradley, Jesse Taylor, and “Third” Cory Devela. Belfort’s the biggest name, and, even at 36, arguably the best fighter Rockhold has fought.

- Despite only a 2-inch listed disparity, Rockhold, at 6’3”, seemed to tower over Jacare. Belfort lists at even 6 feet, and will give up three inches in reach as well. The fight hinges on Rockhold’s ability to leverage that length. Against Jacare, he allowed the Brazilian to close distance in the first two rounds, who made him pay for it with two staggering right hands in each frame. Rockhold found his range as the fight wore on, and used that to win the last three rounds going away. He can’t allow Belfort, possessing more potent power and hand speed than any of Rockhold’s prior opposition, the same courtesy.

- On May 18th, it’ll be just over 10 months since Rockhold last fought. Belfort has fought twice in the interim. You’d expect the inverse given their career arcs.

The Undercard

- Speaking of Jacare! As a 5-1 favorite, his fight with Chris Camozzi is little more than a showcase. I would expect the UFC to fast track him after this, though. At 33 (and, somewhat surprisingly, 21 pro MMA fights), Jacare’s title window is closing, and any serious run at the top should come in the next two years. Expect a name in his second UFC fight, someone the likes of Brian Stann or Tim Boetsch.

- While the main event is the only compelling reason to tune in, the lightweight bout between Rafael dos Anjos and Evan Dunham is a nice bonus. Since breaking his jaw against Clay Guida, dos Anjos has gone 4-1 with wins over George Sotiropoulos, Kamal Shalorus, Anthony Njokuani, and Mark Bocek. The lone hiccup in that run – a split decision to Gleison Tibau – is one of two shared opponents with Dunham. Dos Anjos lost both those fights (Tyson Griffin being the other opponent); Dunham won both (by split decision). MMA math is a load of poo poo, though. Still, I have this closer than the online books, who chalk dos Anjos as a 2-1 favorite. And with six post-fight bonuses between them (including four “Fight of the Nights”), this is probably the favorite for that parenthetical award.

- Here’s everything you need to know about Joao Zeferino. He’s 27 years old and stands 5’11”. He’s 13-4, including a 7-fight win streak. His nickname is “The Brazilian Samurai.” His car is green.  He beat up a Baby. And a Salmon. (A big, fat, flopping salmon.) He fights out of Nitrix (for Ni-kids) Fight Team. He’s probably going to lose to a low-level UFC middleweight. That’s all I got for you.

Other Notes

- Jussier Formiga, the former number one flyweight in the world, is fighting on the Facebook prelims. He’s currently ranked sixth. His opponent, Chris Cariaso, is ranked tenth. Unranked (in the top 25, even!) Rafael Natal is fighting UFC newcomer and Harry Potter spell Joao Zeferino on the main card. Does not compute.

- According to Reed Kuhn, southpaws win 55% of fights against orthodox fighters (from a ~1,200-fight sample). He notes that is greater than homefield advantage in baseball.

- This article suggests Brazilians fighting non-Brazilians in Brazil are 4 wins better than expectation. Nothing conclusive with a 35-fight sample, but interesting nonetheless.

- Hot off the presses: Take a gander at Jon Snowden’s piece about UFC contracts.