On Feb. 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, longtime mixed martial arts veteran Vitor Belfort will challenge reigning Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva in the main event of the UFC 126: "Silva vs. Belfort" pay-per-view broadcast.
Yes, the same Anderson Silva whose name likely sends shivers down the collective spines of those that have made the fateful decision to climb into the Octagon to do battle against him.
His rule over the UFC's middleweight division has lasted over four years and spanned nine different opponents. And that's without including his exploits in the light heavyweight division -- a one minute destruction of James Irvin (14-4-1 career record going in, 1-3-1 since) and a near career-killing embarrassment of former 205-pound champion Forrest Griffin (untouchable tough guy reputation before, perceived quitter and whinetit after).
Silva possesses black belts in Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and just plain overall badassery. His Muay Thai arsenal is unmatched amongst his contemporaries. The very fear he instills in men that ply their trade inside a cage punching people in the face is nothing short of legendary.
Lost among all the bravado and hero worship is one very damning and yet so simple detail: he is a human being. An aging one at that. And one thing is for certain in all hominids -- perfection is unattainable.
Anderson Silva will be made painfully aware of that fact when Vitor Belfort brings an end to his run as the 185-pound kingpin.
We've seen the track record of both fighters and should be well aware of the extensive accomplishments of the middleweight champion. I watched him enter the UFC fresh on the heels of his other-worldly knockout of Tony Fryklund at Cage Rage 16 before absolutely destroying Chris Leben.
In 49 seconds Silva became the first man to knock "The Crippler" out, landing every single strike in the process. As soon as the fight was called, UFC color commentator Joe Rogan proclaimed, "This is a different kind of striker."
Talk about an understatement.
Fight fans stared in astonishment as Silva staked his claim as the top middleweight in the world by rearranging Rich Franklin's face in just his second bout with the world's largest fight promotion.
Then came the submission of Travis Lutter, followed quickly by a first round technical knockout of Nate Marquardt before another dominant stoppage of Franklin.
By my count, that's one brawler (Leben), three strikers (Franklin, Marquardt, Cote) three jiu-jitsu players (Lutter, Leites, Maia) and two wrestlers (Henderson, Sonnen). Again, that's not including the two light heavyweights crossed off the hit list, who both fall in the category of striker (Irvin, Griffin).
The fighter to have the most success against the champion was unquestionably Chael Sonnen. For four and a half rounds, the Team Quest product didn't just get the better of the previously invincible Silva; he completely neutralized and controlled him. The formula was simple -- takedown, ground-n-pound, top control, rinse and repeat.
But, like everyone before him, Sonnen came up short, submitted with just minutes remaining. Not only that, it's possible Silva was willingly giving up takedowns so as to put himself into position to submit his opponent, who, prior to the fight, had verbally trashed his mentor and the man who awarded him his jiu-jitsu black belt, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Through this brief history lesson what have we learned?
We've learned the only real flaw it would appear Silva has is his wrestling. However, in both instances his flaw was exposed, he persevered and claimed victory just like he always has.
At this point, surely you're saying -- "Well, Geno, with all that in his favor, how the hell is it Vitor Belfort is going to be the one to dethrone him?" And my reply shall be short and sweet. In fact, one word says it all.
Yes, the common denominator in all 11 previous threats to his crown is the total and utter lack of ability to match the champion's speed.
Silva's pinpoint accuracy is accentuated by how fast he fires off his strikes. His victims have no idea what they're in for until it's too late. It's as if in each fight, they realize how hopeless their cause actually is and the end comes shortly thereafter.
Belfort himself has the reputation of a mentally weak fighter; one who breaks when the going gets tough. It's often said of Vitor, if he doesn't win a fight within the first few minutes, he doesn't stand much of a chance, no matter who his opponent happens to be.
Obviously this is amplified if his adversary is one of, if not the best in the world.
Fortunately, it will never get to a point where we'll have to find out if it's actually true. Because for the first time in his storied career, Anderson Silva will face a man who will stand up against him and actually match his speed.
And maybe even surpass it.
How much of an advantage this will be for "The Phenom" cannot be stressed enough. Familiarity breeds complacency and that's a dangerous thing. Silva is so used to his superiority standing, so used to being quicker to the punch, what will happen when Vitor's hands get there first?
And not only does Belfort have the speed to surprise the champion, he also has the power to finish the job.
Ask Matt Lindland, whose soul is lying on a mat in Anaheim, California, leg still involuntarily twitching after Vitor exploded a couple of his trademark bombs on "The Law's" face. Or how about Wanderlei Silva, the unwilling participant in the redefinition of the word "blitzkrieg."
While Silva has exhibited an iron chin throughout his career, it doesn't mean he's exempt from a trip down Queer Street. He need only watch a tape of his beloved mentor "Minotauro" Nogueira, who made his home there when he met the mighty right hand of eventual Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez at UFC 110.
"The Spider" has spent years weaving his web, ensnaring his prey before rendering them useless and feasting upon the helpless remains. But for every spider, there is a praying mantis waiting to seize him first and bring an end to the reign of terror. That praying mantis has a name.
His name is Vitor Belfort.