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History in the Making: 'The Phenom' Vitor Belfort's greatest hits

Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell have retired. Wanderlei Silva seems to be on the verge of joining them.

Frank Shamrock, Pat Miletich, and Don Frye enjoy cushy commentating jobs with varying degrees of success.

While others -- such as Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock -- still parade around the country, fighting on Indian reservations, making a living off their past glories.

Of all the fighters from the early UFCs, only two remain with the promotion. The suddenly once-again relevant Tito Ortiz and "The Phenom" Vitor Belfort.

Because a stubborn case of the "what have you done for me lately's?" seems to constantly afflict the mixed martial arts (MMA) fanbase, the memory at the forefront is of the Brazilian getting front kicked into unconsciousness by Anderson Silva.

And while Belfort was on the receiving end of a brutal knockout that night, he's also dished out his fair share in his career. He's set to take on Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 133: "Evans vs. Ortiz" this Saturday (August 6) so let's take a stroll down memory lane and check out a few of those beauts. 

Dive in!

vs. Tank Abbott (UFC 13: The Ultimate Force, 5/30/97)

You ask any long-time fan of the UFC which fighter got them into the sport and they'll likely answer one of two ways: either the skillful technique of Royce Gracie and his unique brand of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) or David "Tank" Abbott who looked more at home in a bar brawl than the Octagon.

While Gracie was turning the fight game on its head by winning despite being relatively lean and unassuming, Abbott was like an MMA "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

Tough, grizzled and seemingly the fighter who would do shots of tequila with you after a bout, he instantly became a fan favorite despite having a less-than-stellar record.

His four losses to six wins didn't seem impressive but three of those defeats came after the brawler fought for at least 15 minutes straight. There were no rounds in the early UFCs so they fought and fought until there was a winner.

"Tank's" quickest loss came at right under 90 seconds to Don Frye via rear naked choked in the finals of a one-night tournament.

Suffice to say, Abbott wasn't known -- at least not then -- for getting finished quickly.

Belfort, on the other hand, was known exactly for doing just that. His first three MMA bouts clock in at right over two minutes combined. And he kept that streak up against the American.

52 seconds it took "The Phenom" to convince the referee to halt the bout. He immediately swarmed on his opponent and refused to relent. Once he got Abbott to the mat, he rained down punches from every possible angle until the fight was stopped.

It would end up being one of only two losses via strikes "Tank" would suffer during the first decade of his career.

vs. Rich Franklin (UFC 103: Franklin vs. Belfort, 9/19/09)

"The Phenom" made his second return to the Octagon after a nearly five-year hiatus in 2009 and took on the former middleweight champ Rich Franklin in a catchweight bout of 195-pounds.

Why? Apparently Belfort asked for the specific weight despite having fought two times prior at 185-pounds. But for "Ace," it was nothing new as he was coming off a win over Wanderlei Silva at the same weight.

Headlining the UFC's Dallas, Tx debut, the two fighters spent the first half of the round feeling each other out, trying to coax the other into making the first mistake.

Finally, a hook from the Brazilian grazes Franklin enough to wobble his knees. Normally, a fighter of "Ace's" caliber would recover from that blow and survive through defense. But "The Phenom" is anything but normal.

He immediately pounces and lands an uppercut -- not unlike the one that Dan Henderson caught Fedor Emelianenko with -- that nearly flattens the American on the mat.

Several punches to the prone former champ later and Belfort earned himself a shot at Anderson Silva's title.



vs. Marvin Eastman (UFC 43: Meltdown, 6/6/03)

And now time for Belfort's FIRST return to the UFC. Technically, the Brazilian returned to the Octagon at UFC 37.5, a last-minute card that was put together to take advantage of The Best Damn Sports Show Period on Fox Sports Net agreeing to air a UFC bout.

"The Phenom" lost a unanimous decision to Chuck Liddell and worse yet, the fight the talk show ended up airing was Robbie Lawler against a scrub.

Needless to say, Belfort was eager to get back to his winning way while also venting a little bit of frustration. And unfortunately for Marvin Eastman, it was all going to get taken out on him.

Eastman was one of those "built like a Mack truck but not all that great"-type of fighters that litter the regional MMA scene. But back in 2003, a few good wins got you into the UFC and thrown in with the likes of a heavy handed Brazilian who almost literally destroys his opponents.

"The Beastman" tries to close the distance on Belfort who immediately latches onto a Thai clinch and delivers two brutal knees. Eastman slumps against the cage where the former light heavyweight champ unloaded with a barrage of punches that forced the referee's hand.

When the fallen fighter finally got back to his feet, we were treated this to sight:



vs. Matt Lindland (Affliction: Day of Reckoning, 1/24/09)

In 2006, Belfort's career was at an impasse. A loss to Dan Henderson combined with a steroid bust following the bout kept him on the sidelines for nine months. And when he returned, he took fights in the small, English Cage Rage promotion.

He would end up winning the company's light heavyweight title but it wasn't until 2008 when Affliction decided to take on the big, bad UFC that his career got its second wind.

He cut down to middleweight and took on Terry Martin in the promotion's first event. He knocked out the UFC vet in the second round and earned himself a spot against Matt Lindland on the next card.

Lindland -- at the time -- had two losses in the last four years and neither of them were at 185-pounds. One was to Quinton Jackson and the other to Fedor Emelianenko. To some, he was the uncrowned UFC champ, cut from the promotion for not toeing the company line.

It only took "The Phenom" 30 seconds to catch the American wrestler with one of those legendary strikes that have felled so many fighters. So devastating was the ensuing ground and pound, that Lindland's leg began to shake involuntarily while he was unconscious.



vs. Wanderlei Silva (UFC: Ultimate Brazil, 10/16/98)

What more needs to be said that hasn't already been said in the past 13 years?

Silva committed a cardinal mistake in moving directly backwards after absorbing the first strike and Belfort's machine gun-like striking did the rest.




A rematch seemed likely after "The Axe Murderer" dropped down to middleweight but his devastating knockout loss to Chris Leben might have put the kibosh on that fight and on Silva's career in general.

Belfort will try to get back on track after being thoroughly embarrassed by "The Spider" by defeating Akiyama. The heavy-handed Brazilian is only 34-years old. But he has been fighting for nearly half of his life.

Is the clock ticking on "The Phenom"?

We'll find out Saturday.

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