I have had it up to here with people calling Wanderlei Silva (34-11-1-1) the underdog in his upcoming fight with Vitor Belfort (21-9), and because you’re reading this, you’ll have to take my word that my hand was high up when I said that first statement.
Sure, Wanderlei is in the latter stages of his career and sure, he has been a streaky fighter since his departure from Pride and throughout his entire UFC career. But this is not a man that you should count out, ever.
People seem to forget that during his reign as the Pride middleweight champion, he was talked about in the same way that Anderson Silva is today. Also, during his 20 fight win streak under the Pride banner, he set the record for most KO wins and most consecutive title defenses cementing himself as the greatest champion Pride had ever seen.
Meanwhile, Vitor beat less than impressive opponents and lost when it counted. He did claim UFC gold but only due to a cut, losing it the very next fight to Randy Couture.
This fighter still lies inside Wanderlei and judging from the fight with Cung Le, he has channeled that rage into a calculated game plan that slows down his aggression until his opponent is on the ropes, at which time he pounces on them only stopping when the referee has intervened.
The loss to Chris Leben really seemed to open Wanderlei’s eyes to the danger he puts himself in while unleashing an unwarranted flurry of punches. He will be even more aware when he fights Vitor for even more reasons.
First, Vitor punches harder and faster than Leben. He doesn’t wait to get hit before he throws but instead just attacks in a similar manner as Silva but with blinding speed and accuracy.
Second, Silva wants to get payback for his loss to Belfort in 1998 when Belfort dismantled him in just 44 seconds, and nothing says payback better than a brutal KO victory that gets immortalized in Wanderlei Silva highlight reels.
This is not a fight that can be determined on paper. Most believed that Silva and Leben would win fight of the year honors but instead fought for just under 30 seconds. MMA fans can’t just blindly pick Belfort because of a win streak or Silva’s sub-par record as of late.
We need to look at these fighters as two equally dangerous men who can beat one another at any point. This may soften the blow to the supporters of Belfort if, and when, Wanderlei lands his finishing blow earning redemption and possibly ending his career on what would be the biggest win of his UFC career.
Look for a violent Wanderlei only after he hurts Vitor, which he surely will. He is still an incredibly dangerous man who is smart enough to know how to beat Vitor, dropping him back down the ranks.
I usually don’t make picks for fights via article, but because I am a huge fan and Wanderlei, I’ll go second round TKO for the Axe Murderer.