A highly anticipated middleweight title clash between undefeated champion Chris Weidman and surging challenger Vitor Belfort will headline UFC 173 on May 24 in Las Vegas.
The undefeated Weidman is fresh off a second straight triumph over the legendary Anderson Silva when “The Spider” suffered a broken leg on a checked kick in the second round of their rematch at UFC 168. As for Belfort, he turned in a remarkable 2013 with three consecutive highlight reel head-kick knockouts of Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson.
Weidman, despite his victories over Silva, still doesn’t seem to be receiving the respect that he’s owed. The New York native will certainly get the chance to state his case for being among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the promotion if he can cool off the red-hot Belfort. Weidman has a terrific wrestling background and has shown an ability to finish fights, as he did against Silva at UFC 162 and in recording a brutal stoppage of Mark Munoz. He’s a perfect 7-0 inside the Octagon and has reeled off 11 straight victories to start his career. Weidman seems to be getting better with each passing fight and his confidence level has never been higher in dominating one of the sport’s legendary figures in Silva in two straight fights.
“The Phenom” became the first man to stop Henderson in his 40-fight career when he blitzed “Hendo” in the first round at Fight Night 32 in Brazil to secure his title opportunity. Belfort has added a brutal head-kick arsenal to his already impressive combination of punching power and speed. One of the intriguing storylines to follow with the fight being held in Las Vegas will be whether Belfort will be given a TRT exemption that he has enjoyed in his most recent bouts that have taken place in his home country in Brazil. Belfort failed a post-fight drug test in Las Vegas back in 2006 after his clash with Henderson at Pride 32. He was fined and suspended as a result of that violation.
If Weidman defeats Belfort, then the promotion will truly have a legitimate star on its hands and there will be no debate about him being the most dominant fighter in the weight class. A victory against Belfort would see Weidman knock off two Brazilian legends in less than a year. If Belfort is able to continue his remarkable run and unseat the undefeated champion, then the 185 pound division would be looking at its second major changing of the guard in the last three fights.
There’s plenty at stake with two competitors who are at the top of their games right now, and it could produce one of the more exciting matchups of the year as the new guard in Weidman looks to hold off the old one in Belfort.