In the sport of mixed martial arts, some fights are won and lost due to mental health, rather than physical. One of the greatest examples of a fighter who has all the tools to be a champion, but have dropped the ball due to not "having their head right" before a fight, is former UFC light heavyweight champion, and current middleweight contender Vitor Belfort. Just prior to his second bout with then UFC light heavyweight champion Randy Couture at UFC 46, Belfort's sister Priscila Belfort was kidnapped. An emotional Belfort defeated Couture in one of the most strange championship victories in the history of the sport, when a punch thrown by the challenger grazed Couture's eye, with the seam of the glove cutting his eye, and forcing the fight to be stopped.
Seven months later, Couture defeated Belfort in their rubber match, winning via TKO when the doctor stopped the fight at the end of the third round. The Brazilian lost his next two bouts, to Tito Ortiz, then Alistair Overeem. It wasn't until 2007 that Belfort was able to find some stability in his career, having gone 2-4 since 2005. Much of Belfort's success from 2008 and on can be attributed to his time spent at Xtreme Couture, and more specifically, former striking coach Shawn Tompkins.
Word recently came out that Vitor had went separate ways with Shawn Tompkins, and on Tuesday, Tompkins was a guest on The Fight Show with Mauro Ranallo where he spoke out on Belfort's decision to part with him:
"Vitor has done this before. Vitor sometimes, he gets a little clouded in his head. It’s not that he brought in Mike Tyson or anything like that. Vitor just wanders, you know, and he goes where, you know, what’s happening, what’s famous, what’s popular and he’ll go over there and Mike Tyson isn’t teaching him anything. Neither is the other eight gyms that he’s training at.
Just because he’s over at Couture’s and not with me doesn’t mean he’s with Couture’s. Vitor isn’t loyal to anybody. We’ve seen it before. I hope for the best for him, but you know for a guy who told me about respect, loyalty, and God and all this stuff for so many years, he sure did prove the opposite. So, we’ll see. Best of luck to him. Best of luck to Anderson, as well."
After the jump, we'll look at Belfort's three victories he had while training with Tompkins, and I'll explain why I feel that Vitor Belfort is in fact, destined to fail at UFC 126.
July 19th, 2008. Vitor Belfort debuts at middleweight:
At Affliction: Banned, Belfort dismantled fellow UFC veteran Terry Martin in a second round knock out. This was Belfort's first fight under the instruction of Shawn Tompkins, as well as his first victory in the United States since his previously mentioned victory against Randy Couture in January of 2004,
January 24th, 2009. Vitor Belfort faces Matt Lindland:
Fighting once again for Affliction, Belfort took on Greco-Roman Olympic silver medalist, Matt Lindland. Many thought Lindland's wrestling would be enough to shut down Belfort long enough to tire him out and reduce the threat of a knock out. However, that would not be the case.
September 19th, 2009. Vitor Belfort returns to the UFC:
At UFC 103, Rich Franklin welcomed Vitor Belfort back to the UFC in a catchweight bout at 195lbs. Franklin was known for his durability, and versatility, which lead some to believe he would be able to stifle Belfort, weather the storm, and earn a victory. Some went as far as to write off Belfort's last two wins due to "quality of opponents". Once again, Belfort won in devastating fashion.
Three great wins for Belfort, no doubt, but what now that he's parted ways with his coach, and is adjusting to new faces at Xtreme Couture? If the conditions were different, I would say that Belfort could go into this fight with Anderson Silva at UFC 126 with little to worry about (other than, you know, fighting Silva)...but let's analyze the situation.
- Vitor Belfort hasn't fought in a year and four months.
- Come fight night at UFC 126, Vitor Belfort wouldn't have fought at middleweight in over two years.
- With multiple voices in his ear, there is a chance Belfort has multiple gameplans he's worked on, rather than dedicating himself to one, solid strategy.
- The pressure going into this fight is greater than any of his most recent bouts. Not only is this a title fight against who many consider the best pound for pound fighter on the planet, he now has to prove to his former coach that he can continue winning, or at least putting on impressive performances without him.
- Belfort is coming off injuries.