Vitor Belfort (20-9, 9-5 UFC).(10-3, 7-3 UFC) meets
Belfort is currently sitting at number five at middleweight on the USA Today/BE Consensus Rankings. This was supposed to be Johnson's first fight at middleweight, but he was sitting at number 10 at welterweight beforehand. This won't be a true middleweight fight (Johnson has a stip that he has to be 205 when he enters the cage) so the rankings theoretically shouldn't be affected. The voters are fickle though, and if Rumble wins, expect Vitor to tumble and Johnson to set up camp in the top 15 at MW. Even though this isn't at 185. This rumbleweight fight will be the first co-main event on the main card, and will be aired live on pay-per-view. The PPV broadcast begins at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
How do these two stack up?
Johnson: 27 years old | 6'2" | 78" reach
Belfort: 34 years old | 6'0" | 74" reach
What have these two done recently?
How did these two get here?
Anthony "Rumble" Johnson had just three pro fights before he got the call from the UFC. The former Juco wrestling champion and disciple of Cung Le made a big splash with a 13-second KO of Chad Reiner, but was brought back to earth when Rich Clementi submitted him at UFC 76 (despite Rumble being like two weight classes bigger than No Love). An epic destruction of Tommy Speer and a weird couple of bouts with Kevin Burns was enough to make an imprint on avid UFC fans, and a string of big KO's after that just added to his mystique. Josh Koscheck threw a wrench in the Rumble hype train in another weird fight, but two more wins cemented his status as a contender. He is a huge man though, and had trouble making welterweight, so he moved up to middleweight for this bout with Belfort. And couldn't make that limit either. "Weird" might be the most defining word of Johnson's career thus far.
Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort has a long and storied history in MMA. He's a former UFC heavyweight tournament winner and former UFC light heavyweight champion amongst other things. It's sometimes hard to believe that he's been fighting since 1996. His biography is full of tragedy and triumph, and he's arguably the most popular MMA fighter in Brazil. He was fast-tracked to a UFC middleweight title bout with Anderson Silva last year, but was famously knocked out with a swift kick to the face. He rebounded with a decimation of Japanese superstar Yoshihiro Akiyama, but a quick analysis of his finishing methods (he has landed multiple shots to the back of the head in his last two wins) has led to some questions about the validity of The Phenom in today's UFC. Belfort's next bout (against Wanderlei Silva) is booked win or lose, but Vitor hasn't fought in his home country in over 13 years. He has something to prove tonight against the
Why should you care?
You'd have a hard time finding a fight with more storylines. Due to Johnson's weight issues, this fight will always be looked upon as an outlier. Nonetheless, it's all sorts of interesting. Can Rumble KO The Phenom? Will a huge AJ get caught by the uber-quick Belfort? Will Johnson choose to stand with Belfort, or will he take it to the floor and try to tangle with a black belt? So many questions will be answered in a few short hours.
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