Phenomenal Hand Speed and Knock out Power: the Best Fights of Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort’s Career

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Vitor Belfort was the first true young star of the UFC. He came to the United States (he is originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) at the ripe age of 19 in order to compete in MMA. Nicknamed “The Phenom,” Belfort made an immediate impact and those fans who have been with the UFC since its inception know exactly what type of gifted fighter he was. He was known for his lightning quick hands (arguably the fastest in UFC history) and highlight reel knockouts, many of which occurred early in the first round as he overwhelmed opponents.

Although Belfort still competes in the UFC he is merely a shadow of his former self. ESPN has him ranked as the #5 Middleweight so he is by no means a bum! That just goes to show you how good he once was. He was the best; the champion at 19 years old. He still possesses a great punch and great hand-speed, but he has slowed quite a bit and at 35 years old he has a lot of wear and tear. Nobody was quicker or more than explosive than Belfort. If you looked away to take a swig of your beer during Belfort’s early fights there was a chance that you missed a knockout. Yes, he was that explosive!

Current MMA fans that are new to the sport might see Belfort as a contender or even a stepping stone for the true champions. They see him presently getting knocked out by Anderson Silva or submitted by Jon Jones. These fans have no idea that they are watching a legend in a steep decline that is managing to beat most fighters and still competing with the top two fighters in the UFC. They have no idea that “The Phenom” in his heyday would have given these guys hell, and possibly beat them. There is no way that you can count a prime Belfort out against any fighter in any era. Although he is still actively competing in the UFC, it is a great time to rank his top five fights since he is nearing the end of his career. And surprise, surprise, they are all knockouts. These are Vitor Belfort’s Top 5 fights:

5 Vitor Belfort vs. Marvin Eastman

It was June 6, 2003 at UFC 43. Belfort was coming off of his third career loss to rising star Chuck Liddell. It was a decision loss but it was a huge fight and a devastating loss nonetheless for “The Phenom.” He needed a win to regain his confidence. He showed up with long, curly hair and a surprising handlebar mustache. He looked like a true veteran. Well, mustache or not, Belfort regained his confidence quickly. He dropped Eastman with two knees and jumped on him, unleashing those famous hands, marking the fight (and Eastman’s face) with one of the nastiest cuts in the history of the sport.

4 Vitor Belfort vs. Tank Abbott

Immediately after becoming the Heavyweight Champion, Belfort was thrown into the fire and pitted against the consummate tough guy, Tank Abbott on May 30, 1997 at UFC 13. Abbott outweighed Belfort by 55 pounds and was known for his heavy hands (and heavy belly), and rock solid chin as he had never been knocked out or hurt during any fight. In a test to see if “The Phenom” was really ready at just 20 years old, Belfort completely dominated a bigger Abbott en route to a 52 second knockout.

3 Vitor Belfort vs. Rich Franklin

This fight was important because it put Belfort back in the picture in the UFC. He disappeared from the UFC for four and a half years and when he resurfaced many wondered ‘why?’ Is he broke? Will he get seriously hurt? Is he going to embarrass himself? How much does he have left? Because those who saw him before knew that if he still had half of the skills he owned previously he was still a threat to anybody in the sport. Well he came back on September 19, 2009 at UFC 103 to fight former Middleweight champion, Rich Franklin (just for some perspective, his first UFC debut was UFC 12, 11.5 years before). They both showed each other much respect for about the first three minutes. Then Vitor landed a quick left that dropped Franklin and Belfort jumped on him and swiftly ended the fight at the 3:02 mark. Belfort displayed his trademark hand-speed and showed the masses that he still had plenty left, which helped setup big fights with Anderson Silva and Jon Jones.

2 Vitor Belfort vs. Wanderlei Silva

This super fight took place on October 16, 1998 at UFC Brazil and was Silva’s first ever UFC fight, so he had yet to earn the title of “The Axe Murderer.” Silva was only 22 years old and Belfort was only 21 when this event took place — kids by today’s standards! Silva landed just one low kick in the fight before Belfort landed his vaunted straight left and followed with a furry of punches as he pounded Silva on his way to a stoppage.

1 Vitor Belfort vs. Tra Telligman

Vitor Belfort vs. TraTelligman, then Scott Ferrozzo — Yes this is a two-fight series! This was Belfort’s debut for the UFC at 19 years old on February 7, 1997 at UFC 12, which was back when they fought more than one fight in a night. Belfort made a first impression that will never be topped when he knocked out Telligman in 1:17. In his second fight that night, he came out blazing once again and knocked out Scott Ferrozzo in 43 seconds to become the youngest UFC Heavyweight Champion of all time.

Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort is definitely one of the all-time greats in MMA history. His longevity in this gruesome sport speaks volumes to the type of fighter and individual he is. Even today at age 35, he is still knocking guys out with those infamous hands. His explosiveness was new to the sport and nobody had ever won in the fashion that he was winning. Today, we see more fighters in the mold of “The Phenom” and we should absolutely thank him for paving the way. These are Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort’s Top 5 fights. Wouldn’t you agree?

Rolando Rodriguez is a California State University alumni. He is currently a freelance writer for the Daily Breeze where he covers local high school sports. Mr.Rodriguez is an avid sports fan who closely follows MLB, NBA, NFL, MMA and boxing.

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