Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight veterans Vitor Belfort and Nate Marquardt will battle this Saturday night (June 3, 2017) at UFC 212 inside Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Belfort has been referring to himself as an old lion since at least 2012. Five years later, Belfort is officially closing in on retirement, particularly since he has essentially lost four of his last five fights via stoppage. Marquardt is in a similar position. He hasn’t fallen apart quite as badly as Belfort — Marquardt alternated wins and losses in his last few appearances — but “The Great’s” time in UFC also appears to be coming to an end.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for both men:
Record: 25-13 (1)
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 in his old age, Belfort is a sneaky fast fighter with some serious knockout power in his punches and kicks. Before Kelvin Gastelum stopped him, Belfort was looking reasonably sharp.
On the whole, his defensive grappling has held up reasonably well, which should mean this is a stand up contest. In all honesty, the first solid punch that lands could end either man’s night. The major decline of both men has been durability, but they both pack enough power to end the other’s night quickly.
Luckily, Belfort has several advantages. For one, he’s a Southpaw, which is historically something that bothers Marquardt. Additionally, he is the better kicker of the two men, which means he can work from long range. Marquardt does not do well advancing through kicks. If Belfort starts punishing his legs and body with left kicks, Marquardt will either become hesitant or rush in, leaving himself open to Belfort’s counter punches.
Key Wins: CB Dollaway (UFC on FOX 17), Tyrone Woodley (Strikeforce: Rockhold vs Kennedy), Demian Maia (UFC 103), James Te Huna (UFC Fight Night 43)
Key Losses: Sam Alvey (UFC on FOX 23), Thiago Santos (UFC 198), Brad Tavares (UFC 182), Hector Lombard (UFC 166)
Keys to Victory: Currently in his 18th year as a professional fighter, it’s safe to say Marquardt has a bit of experience behind him. “The Great” is a skilled Brazilian jiu-jitsu player with a penchant for violence on the feet, even if he has slowed down a fair amount.
In this bout, patience is Marquardt’s enemy. Neither man appears to have a significant conditioning edge, but Marquardt does not want to end up stuck on the edge of Belfort’s kicks. It’s happened to him plenty of times before, and it usually results in a painful night of work.
Instead, Marquardt should force the issue immediately with combinations and takedown attempts. Belfort’s takedown defense is still reasonably good, but he’s shown little defense on the ground. By mixing power punches and shots, Marquardt gives himself a reasonable chance at catching Belfort with one or the other, and there’s a fair chance his opponent folds when that happens.
Bottom Line: If this isn’t a retirement bout, it’s damn close.
It’s hard for me to really get into the specific consequences of this bout. Win or lose, Belfort should retire. Win or lose, Marquardt should retire. Both men have been in the sport for a very long time and have absorbed a great deal of damage, which has taken a toll on their ability to fight.
Their longevity is impressive, but Father Time and combat sports still do not mix well ... at all.
Unfortunately, the more likely reality is that the winner will continue to fight at least until their next knockout loss. Belfort, at least, seems somewhat realistic about his situation, expressing a desire to compete against fellow older foes under safer rules. There may be a promotion willing to accommodate him, but his time in UFC is coming to a close.
At UFC 212, Vitor Belfort and Nate Marquardt will throw down inside the Octagon for perhaps the final time. Which man will have his hand raised?