With over 16 years of professional experience at the tender age of 36, it doesn't appear Vitor Belfort is slowing down one bit following his incredible spinning head kick knockout of Luke Rockhold (watch it here) in the UFC on FX 8 main event Saturday (May 18, 2013) night in Santa Catarina, Brazil.
Under almost any other circumstances, Belfort would be the clear-cut No. 1 contender in the middleweight division after earning back-to-back "Knockout of the Night" wins over opponents the caliber of Michael Bisping and Rockhold; however in this case, a title shot for "The Phenom" is all but set in stone.
Why? You may ask.
The answer is simple. At UFC 126, only five fights ago, 185-pound champ Anderson Silva obliterated Belfort with a front kick to the chin in one of the greatest knockout in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history. Moreover, it was Silva's shortest middleweight fight since taking the belt from Rich Franklin in 2006.
Granted, a Silva vs. Belfort rematch could do astronomical numbers in Brazil due to Belfort's current run and the fact the two fighters being among the most popular in the country, but from a pay-per-view (PPV) standpoint it's unlikely very many people outside of Brazil would be willing to pay top dollar for part two.
More importantly than if the fight will draw on PPV; Silva is at the stage in his career where people want to see him take on new challenges, and a rematch with Belfort would be the opposite of that.
So with that said, what do you do with Belfort?
A rematch with Silva may not be in the cards just yet, but that doesn't mean another impressive win or two won't get him there. In the event "The Spider" is dethroned by Chris Weidman at UFC 162, Belfort's chances of fighting for the belt would significantly increase.
For now, though, Belfort's two best options are to fight Ronaldo Souza or Yushin Okami -- two men who sit in the top-10 of the official UFC rankings and are primarily ground fighters; a style Belfort has not had to deal with in recent years.
Facing Okami would be a bit of a step back for Belfort, but anyone who has followed the career of the wily veteran knows he is not in the business of turning down fights.
If Belfort isn't going to get a title shot, his role would be best served as someone to match up against fighters on the verge of a title shot -- much like his most recent fights with Bisping and Rockhold.
Souza is a good example of a fighter in such a position and following his submission of Chris Camozzi in the UFC on FX 8 co-main event, a win over a legend like Belfort would go a long way in proving his legitimacy as a threat to the champion.
As for Okami, "Thunder" is currently the only fighter aside from Weidman in the top-five of the 185-pound rankings who Belfort has not faced. The Japanese grappling specialist is currently awaiting his next match up after a decision win over Hector Lombard last March and pitting him against Belfort would be a legitimate No. 1 contenders bout for both men.
Who would you like to see Belfort face next? Let us know in the comments section below.
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