Top Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight contender Michael Bisping expects to win his fight against Vitor Belfort in the main event of UFC on FX 7, which goes down this Saturday night (Jan. 19, 2013) from Ginasio Estadual Geraldo Jose de Almeida in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
His strategy? Survive the first round.
"The Count" expects his Brazilian rival to empty his tank in the opening frame, leaving him a "walking punching bag" for the latter two-thirds of the fight. After all, how hard can it be for the British banger to stay out of harm's way for a mere five minutes?
Considering "The Phenom" has 15 first-round finishes -- 12 of them knockouts -- I'd say the answer is "very hard."
Belfort (21-10) is clearly entering the twilight of his career, but still widely-considered one of the most dangerous strikers in the 185-pound (or any other) division. Not just inside the Octagon, but perhaps in all of mixed martial arts (MMA).
Never was that more evident than at UFC 17.5: "Ultimate Brazil."
That's where the 21-year-old "lion" competed in his final UFC fight before embarking on a four-year sabbatical under the PRIDE FC banner in Japan, facing off against a violent young "Axe Murderer" named Wanderlei Silva, who entered the cage with a 5-1 record and a list of bloody finishes that read more like a crime scene report.
Here's what happened.
Both fighters enter the cage at 199 pounds as referee John McCarthy gets the action underway. "A very stoic and expressionless Vitor Belfort," remarks cageside commentator Mike Goldberg. "None of the rah-rah that we've seen in the past, he appears to be extremely focused."
The combatants cautiously leave their respective corners and Wanderlei uncorks a low kick that swings wide. Silva slowly walking him down and slaps a leg against the thigh of his Brazilian rival and Belfort answers with a lunging jab.
"The Axe Murderer" retreats and "The Phenom" meets him in the center of the Octagon.
Then, disaster strikes (literally) for Silva.
Wandy lumbers in with bad intentions but inexplicably stops short without throwing a punch. Confused and flat-footed, just inches from his sneakered assassin, Silva gets driven in reverse by a powerful combination of punches. Despite his manic retreat, Belfort follows him to the cage, fist-first, and drops him into a pulverized heap.
McCarthy waves off the attacker at the 0:44 mark of round one.
In less than 48 hours, Belfort will return to Sao Paulo nearly 15 years later to try to replicate his performance and finish his opponent inside the first round.
Can he do it?