Vitor Belfort wants to make a legitimate return to the UFC’s Octagon, and he marked a line in the sand by calling out Tito Ortiz. On December 13th, TAGG Radio had Vitor on their show where he confirmed that he had spoken with Zuffa officials regarding a possible return to the UFC. He said that a deal is very possible and that he would like redemption against Tito Ortiz. Can the “Phenom” really make an impact in the new Light Heavyweight division that the UFC has put together? To give us a sense of where Vitor is currently at in his career, let’s take a small look at his most recent fights.
Vitor’s recent conquests
Vitor has recently fought two battles in the British promotion, Cage Rage. He defeated Ivan Serati by TKO in April and won with a somewhat lackluster performance against James Zikic to obtain the Light Heavyweight Cage Rage title. Many fans have been very critical of his bout with James Zikic in particular. Vitor’s performance was considerably less eventful than you may be used to, but James Zikic is not a slouch. Zikic has draws against great ground fighters such as Fabricio Werdum and Jeremy Horn. If you watch the fight, Vitor basically plows into Zikic and tries to pound him, and Zikic is able to make Vitor miss and maintain a very good defense to Vitor’s offense. Vitor did more on top and was able to win the victory, but the only real story that came from the fight was that Belfort didn’t look good in his performance.
Belfort still defeated a fairly strong Ivan Serati, went to decision with a heavy-handed Dan Henderson, lost by decision to a very lengthy Alistair Overeem, and lost by a close split decision to Tito Ortiz. Although Serati isn’t in the same realm as far as ability of those other names, Belfort still had a decent run in 2006. He may not have won most of those fights, but hanging with Henderson and not being incapacitated is a feat in itself. If Vitor can stay steroid free and begin to see real gains in his power again, we could see at least a mid-echelon fighter with the ability to upset some upper-echelon fighters.
What can Vitor do in the UFC?
Vitor can do a lot in the UFC. First, he can lend credibility to some of the mid to upper echelon fighters trying to make their way up to the top. Beating someone who has been in the business of MMA for a long time and was successful goes a long way in building a champion-like résumé. Secondly and tied to the first advantage, he can keep the fighters who just aren’t ready for the upper-tier of competition down where they belong. He can act as a gatekeeper for the upper portion of the division. Not only does this help those fighters who can’t get past someone like Vitor realize that they must improve in certain aspects of their game, but it again adds to a fighter’s record if they do overcome his skillset.
Lastly, Vitor can break out of that gatekeeper mold with a good string of solid performances. We never know what can happen in a mixed martial arts fight, but Vitor Belfort does have the skill to produce upsets. He always has that element of power in his hands that can beat anyone. A slick ground game and a black belt in jiu-jitsu along with some great boxing technique is a formidable obstacle for any up-and-coming fighter. As a gatekeeper to the top dogs or a legitimate contender, Vitor can serve a purpose and produce exciting fights with some motivation in his training.
Tito vs. Vitor?
People love to hate Tito Ortiz, but that’s exactly what the UFC and Tito want. As much as many hardcore fans hate to admit it, Tito Ortiz is recognizable to the casual fans and people still pay to see him get beatdown, which never really happens. Tito could sell this fight. It’s a rematch of a close decision win for Tito, and he would spin the matchup with a mean streak, most likely telling fans that Vitor doesn’t deserve a shot at him and that he already beat him. If Vitor comes back with the same venom, fireworks could erupt and that’s what the UFC wants. Hell, even hardcore fans may want to see an amped up Tito vs. Vitor Belfort matchup. Any fight is better with the increased tension and animosity between the combatants.
Can this fight work? Yes. Can it sell? To an extent, Yes. It won’t be a huge blockbuster pay-per-view matchup, but it most certainly should be in the interests of the UFC to bring Vitor to the UFC as a mid to upper echelon gatekeeper with the possibility of being a real contender. The Tito Ortiz fight alone could definitely be a refreshing splash back into the days when Ortiz amped up fights by getting his opponent to fire back at him with anger. Let’s see it happen, why not!?