Vitor Belfort has seemingly been around mixed martial arts (MMA) forever.
Since breaking onto the scene in early Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Pride FC events, he has faced high-quality opposition, including Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva, Kazushi Sakuraba and Chuck Liddell, among others. Perhaps one of the most well known and still relevant of his former opponents is Dan Henderson, who he will fight for a second time tonight (Sat., Nov. 9, 2013) at UFC Fight Night 32, which takes place from Goiania Arena in Goiania, Brazil.
With their first bout ending in favor of the American by way of unanimous decision, what has changed since their first bout? Both have become drastically more experienced, fought even more top-shelf opposition, and even now, they manage to compete near the top of their weight classes. Indeed, even at the ages of 36 (Belfort) and 43 (Henderson), these men are formidable and very skilled and their rematch will likely be one for the ages.
Belfort has a lot riding on this fight. Not only has he made a name for himself as a contender in the seemingly contender-less Middleweight division, he has the opportunity to get revenge for one of his most high-profile losses.
And he has all the tools to win this fight.
In addition to his new, synthetically-enhanced athleticism, Belfort has made huge improvements to his mixed martial arts (MMA) game over his last few fights, and a fighter who was once lauded for raw, blistering attacks is now one capable of a measured, composed style. He hasn't gotten any less violent, as seen in his victories over Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold, but he has made vast improvements to his skillset, which make him a tough fight for anyone placed in front of him.
The difference in this Light Heavyweight match will be how Belfort decides to approach Henderson. The style he used to systematically hunt down and destroy his last two opponents will serve him well against "Hendo," but that isn't to say that he is incapable of screwing up at any moment. Belfort is a great fighter, don't get me wrong, but he is an inconsistent one, too.
He is by no means unhittable, and against a power puncher like Henderson, one clean shot could be game over.
Belfort has to fight Henderson with every new skill he's picked up over the years. We saw the Belfort of old lose to Henderson long ago and he needs to approach this fight in a very different way if he wants to reign victorious. The win could mean a title shot at Middleweight after Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva go at it again this December, and the timing would match up fairly well, being that these fights are just over a month apart.
"The Phenom" has always been a very relevant fighter and this fight will catapult him back into title contention if he comes out on top. With a vastly improved game, he could surprise "Hendo" in many ways later this evening on FOX Sports 1, and I think we may see that happen.
Belfort has a lot riding on this fight, and with the proper planning, he will punch his championship contender ticket for early 2014. Meanwhile, a loss would be nothing short of disaster, considering -- for all intents and purposes -- Belfort hand-picked Henderson rather than accepting a match in his weight class against Tim Kennedy and/or Lyoto Machida.