Vitor Belfort is one of few remaining fighters from UFC’s days of yore. Belfort made a fast impression when he won the heavyweight tournament at UFC 12 when he was 18 years old. Belfort has made the tour of the MMA grounds, taking on fighters in Pride, Cage Rage, Affliction and Strikeforce bouts, and has had continued success with UFC. While falling short against current titleholders Jon Jones and Anderson Silva, each of these losses have been followed by decisive victories against Belfort’s consecutive opponents. It is this resilience that has kept Belfort in the running for rematches against the league’s champs.
On the complete other end of the spectrum — and the Octagon — is Luke Rockhold. Rockhold has hardly any experience in the UFC, having grown up solely within the confines of Strikeforce. That being said, he has been perfect in that arena. Rockhold has nine consecutive victories and is 10-1 overall, having lost to Tony Rubalcava by TKO in his second career bout at Melee on the Mountain. Some of those victories came against UFC competitors. But these instances pale in comparison to the undertakings of Belfort.
Rockhold can play all the mind games he wants. Earlier this week, the UFC debutant breathed insults to the media to raise suspicions about Belfort using steroids and his authenticity as a MMA fighter. In an interview with The MMA Hour, Belfort responded: “My conversation with him will be inside the cage. I don’t have to talk. We’re going to fight, and that’s what it’s about. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I did a lot of things for the sport, and I’m still doing. Facing these young guys, and I bring the heat, man. He’ll come to a jungle. He’ll face a lion.”
It is fair to speculate that Rockhold is resorting to these tactics because they are all he has in his arsenal that would give him an edge over Belfort. The UFC’s long-standing vet has experience, skills and home-field advantage: The two face off in Saturday night’s headline fight in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil.