Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 205-pound champion, Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort, headlines UFC 152 this saturday night (Sept. 22, 2012) versus Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) prodigy and current light heavyweight champion Jon "Bones" Jones at the Air Canada Center in Toronto.
After a myriad of opponent swaps and an unprecedented event cancellation, Vitor miraculously found himself headlining a major event against the seemingly unstoppable Jon Jones. Despite being a major under dog, Vitor's confidence has remained unshaken. Touting this fight as "Old School vs New School", Vitor claims his fighting style is still supreme. In this analysis, I'll see if there is any merit behind Vitor's argument and find out if he has any gas left in the tank.
Follow me after the jump for an investigation into "Old School" MMA
Despite receiving his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt at the age of 17, Vitor is most famous for his lightning fast hands. Even though his MMA debut was 16 years ago, his speed hasn't changed much nor has his game plan evolved. It still and likely always will be: land as many punches to the opponent's face in as little time as possible.
Vitor's boxing game is not particularly complicated or technical; he rarely sets up his attacks or properly exits after them. Despite this, his reputation as one of the greatest counter strikers of all time is well deserved. Whenever his opponent over commits to a strike, Vitor explodes into one of his famous boxing centered flurries. Throwing straight punches one after another, Vitor is able to get off long combinations before his opponents can fully recover from his initial strike.
While his striking game has evolved quite a bit over they years, mixing in new elements like leg and high kicks, his flurries still make up most of his highlights.
Despite his striking prowess, Vitor is not without flaws. Vitor uses his speed to explode from the kicking range, but even decent kick boxers have been able to keep him away from their chins. Noted strikers Chuck Liddell and Anderson Silva managed to damage, or in Anderson's case finish, Vitor with kicks. Surprisingly, even Kazushi Sakuraba managed to damage Vitor with a variety of kicks, especially spinning back kicks. Half of Vitor's losses are to fighters who can out kick Vitor, yet he hasn't done much to stop it.
Over his long career, Vitor has proven that his offensive wrestling is not to be underestimated. He used his wrestling to dominate Gilbert Yvel in Pride, and recently took down current Middleweight champion Anderson Silva and heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem briefly in their fights. Much like Oliveira, Vitor's wrestling is based more off of speed and athleticism than perfect technique. Although he has shown he can grind for takedowns, he prefers to catch a kick and throw his opponent to the floor or shoot for a power double.
Even though Vitor has been fighting for nearly two decades, takedown defense remains his Achilles heel. The other half of his losses are to elite wrestlers, like Dan Henderson, Randy Couture(2x), Sakuraba, and Tito Ortiz. Vitor has taken steps to fix this problem, training with the aforementioned Couture and wrestling guru Mike Vans Arsdale, but the problem remains. In Vitor's most recent fight, against bloated middleweight Anthony Johnson, Vitor was taken down easily before being aided by referee stand ups and Johnson's gas tank running empty.
Vitor received his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt from the now deceased Carlson Gracie when he was 17. Vitor has shown a very good defensive guard. Although he hasn't submitted anyone off of his back, he often threatens with arm bars or gets under hooks to restrain his opponent and prevent them from landing any effective ground and pound. The reason that Vitor hasn't submit many of his opponents is that he is partial to posturing up and throwing brutal ground and pound instead of trying to latch onto a sub.
Vitor is a very unique fighter in a lot of ways. When he came into the UFC he was known for his jiu-jitsu, yet he knocked everyone out. He was also one of the first successful counter punchers in MMA. Of course his most unique quality is speed. Probably the fastest fighter above flyweight ever, Vitor's hand speed and aggression are what made him famous. The final, and perhaps most important, trait that Vitor possesses is his phenomenal killer instinct.
To put it simply: If Vitor hurts you, he finishes you. Violently.
An excellent example of this is his fight with Akiyama. The Japanese judoka's iron chin was well known, and when he was matched against Vitor many wondered if "The Phenom" would be able to crack it. About a minute and a half into the first round, that question was answered.
After a feeling out process, Akiyama throws a front kick reminiscent of the one Anderson Silva knocked out Vitor with. It doesn't land, but Vitor doesn't like it and explodes forward. A crushing overhand left lands and drops Akiyama to the mat. Akiyama gamely tries to defend, even momentarily standing back up, but Vitor lands another 5 punches before Akiyama drops to the mat completely unconscious. The time from the front kick to the referee pulling Vitor off of Akiyama? 12 seconds.
This is just one of many examples of Belfort's killer instinct. Look at the gifs above, none of the knockouts are anything less than brutal. When Belfort finishes a fighter with strikes, it isn't thanks to a referee stoppage or the fighter giving up mentally and balling up into the fetal position. It's because the fighter is asleep on the mat. Will he be able to leave Jon Jones staring up at the lights wondering where his belt has gone?