Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight bruisers Vitor Belfort and Kelvin Gastelum will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Mar. 11, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 106 live on FOX Sports 1 from inside Centro de Formacao Olimpica do Nordeste in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Belfort has fought for the title at multiple weight classes, most recently in a failed bid opposite then middleweight king Chris Weidman. However, prior to that fight, Belfort stepped up on short-notice to fight then light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in a matchup billed as an “Old Lion” opposite the young star. That fight took place nearly five years ago, so it’s safe to say that Belfort is near the very end of his career.
Meanwhile, Gastelum is one of the most dangerous young fighters in the sport. The former welterweight contender may struggle at the scale, but he has nevertheless put on some superb performances and proven himself a budding title threat.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Luke Rockhold (UFC on FX 8), Michael Bisping (UFC on FX 7), Anthony Johnson (UFC 142)
Key Losses: Gegard Mousasi (UFC 204), Chris Weidman (UFC 187), Ronaldo Souza (UFC 198), Jon Jones (UFC 152)
Keys to Victory: Even as time has taken its toll, Belfort has remained a very dangerous striker with pretty decent takedown defense. He’s not quite as good in any one area as he used to be, but the remains of his game still make him a solid fighter.
On paper, though, the 2017-version of Belfort has no easy path to victory opposite Gastelum.
Belfort has been reliant on landing his left hand counter to sleep his opponents throughout his entire career, and that will be especially true in this match. Belfort doesn’t have the option to attempt to land a flurry on Gastelum, as his opponent’s wrestling is too big of a threat.
For Belfort, this bout will almost certainly be a left hand/kick counter knockout or loss.
Key Wins: Johny Hendricks (UFC 200), Tim Kennedy (UFC 206), Rick Story (UFC 171), Uriah Hall (TUF 17 Finale)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 183), Neil Magny (UFC Fight Night 78)
Keys to Victory: Gastelum is a well-rounded athlete with great instincts. In recent fights, he’s relied on a sprawl-and-brawl style to batter and pick apart the competition.
Opposite Belfort, Gastelum needs to be careful even if Belfort is less dangerous than before. If he slips up defensively, Belfort is one of the best at finishing a wounded foe with quick, violent shots.
In this match up, Gastelum’s jab will be a serious factor. With both men working as Southpaws, there will be many openings for Gastelum’s jab, which will keep Belfort stuck on the outside. Once Gastelum is controlling the fight with range, Belfort will quickly fall into a defensive shell.
If anything on the feet makes Gastelum uncomfortable or if he’s hurt, the takedown is always a great fallback option. At most, Belfort has a round-and-a-half to land something significant before he slows, and wrestling will only accelerate that problem.
Bottom Line: This is an important bout for both athletes.
Win or lose, Belfort’s career is likely coming to an end very soon. If he loses, that option slips from his hands, as the UFC won’t let him take hard losses forever. Should Belfort come out on top, however, he has more options. Retiring after a major victory on a high point would always be nice, but Belfort could also pursue more fights and more paychecks.
The power would be in the Brazilian’s hands.
Meanwhile, Gastelum can continue his run towards the middleweight title if he wins this main event scrap. He already took out a stiff test in Kennedy last year, but another win will propel him up the ladder further and set him up for a top five opponent next.
A loss really messes things up for the up-and-comer. Gastelum was close to a title fight at 170 pounds before he was forced to move up, and this is his chance to regain that type of position. If he can’t hack it opposite the middleweight division’s elite fighters, then it puts even more pressure on him to receive permission to return to welterweight.
TONIGHT at UFC Fight Night 106, Kelvin Gastelum and Vitor Belfort will duel in the main event. Which man will have his hand raised?