In February of 2011, Anderson Silva defended his UFC middleweight title against Vitor Belfort. He did so with a perfectly-timed, first-round front kick to the chin, in a performance that immediately stood out as one of the defining moments of his legendary career. Since that unforgettable kick, however, Silva and Belfort, now 40 and 38 years old respectively, have diverged on very different, very turbulent trajectories.
After defending his title twice more against Yushin Okami and Chael Sonnen, and dominating in a light heavyweight bout against Stephan Bonnar, Silva found himself on the receiving end of a Chris Weidman knockout in one of the sport’s most historic upsets. From there, things got even hairier as he experienced a severe leg break in a bid to reclaim his title from Weidman. And finally, after over a year on the shelf, Silva’s career took its most recent ugly turn, as he tested positive for Drostanolone after a tepid defeat of Nick Diaz in his comeback fight. As punishment, he was handed a one-year suspension, retroactive to the January 31st fight. Needless to say, the former champ has experienced quite a fall from grace.
During the same timeframe, Belfort experienced plenty of ups and downs of his own. First, he rebounded from his loss to Silva with a pair of finishes over Yoshihiro Akiyama and Anthony “Rumble Johnson.” Next, he lost a last-minute title bout with then UFC light heavyweight champion, Jon Jones. Then, he embarked on his infamous, TRT-fueled destruction tour, kicking the consciousness out of Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson in a span of just 11 months. Then came the UFC’s TRT ban, which caused Belfort to deflate like a punctured tire. And finally, after a first-round title loss to Chris Weidman, he recently rebounded with a second head-kick knockout of Dan Henderson. So, while he’s managed to keep himself relevant, his highly-publicized, highly-controversial love affair with TRT has cast a shadow over his recent career, leaving his rep no healthier than Silva’s.
Well, it now looks as though Silva and Belfort will have a chance to repair their public image in the new year. After being hinted at by UFC president Dana White, it’s now been reported by Brazil’s Jornal O Globo and Bloody Elbow that the two Brazilians will rematch in the main event of UFC 197. The card will take place at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro on March 5 of the new year.
It’s a risky fight for both men. While their 2011 encounter was hardly competitive, Belfort has enjoyed far more recent success than Silva has. Furthermore, as Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza has implored, Silva has spent the majority of the last few years on the shelf, while Belfort has kept very active. Indeed, the former champion’s return to competition will not be an easy one. Then, again, we’ve seen what Silva is capable of doing to Belfort, and it’s absolutely possible he could achieve the same result this time around. So, while Belfort has managed to regain some traction with his win over Henderson, he may well find himself kicked back down the ladder by Silva—a dangerous possibility at this juncture of his career.
Whatever the outcome of their rematch, however, it’s likely to be and exciting one. As their 2011 weigh-in encounter showed, they’re not exactly fans of one another. And though neither man is quite as ferocious as they were a few years back, they’re both still venomous finishers. Most importantly, however, this rematch marks the chance for these two aging legends to redeem themselves, and just maybe, kick off the final title runs of their long and illustrious careers. As such, we can expect both Silva and Belfort to come out guns blazing in Rio.
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