Will Belfort remain undefeated in Brazil?

The UFC on FX 8 main event sees Brazilian Vitor Belfort fight former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold on May 18th in Brazil. Can Rockhold win on his UFC debut or will Belfort claim another victory on home soil?

Rockhold favourite for UFC debut


Luke Rockhold (10-1-0) is the 1.840* favourite with Pinnacle Sports to win on his UFC debut against Brazilian Vitor Belfort. Rockhold is undefeated in his last nine fights, having been forced to relinquish his Strikeforce middleweight title after the organisation closed at the start of the year.


Both fighters will enter the cage at the peak of their careers – Belfort has never looked as good as he did in his fight against Michael Bisping, while Rockhold has looked consistent during his wining streak and will hope to carry that momentum into the fight.


The 28-year-old has youth on his side over the 36-year-old Belfort, but doesn’t have the experience of his opponent or as many big-name opponents in his win column.


Can Belfort continue 100% record on home soil?


Vitor Belfort (22-10-0) returns to his country of birth for the fourth time in his career and the third time in four fights. The Brazilian is yet to taste defeat on home soil – winning all three bouts before the third round.


Despite his 100% home record Pinnacle Sports have Belfort as the 2.080* underdog. This could be down to his history of wilting under pressure during key fights – his record shows multiple losses to Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones.


With that said, he is still considered one of the toughest middleweights in MMA history since making his 185-pound debut in 2008. It is no coincidence that he has won every fight at middleweight – winning inside two rounds – except against Anderson Silva.


In his last fight “The Phenom” looked sharp at 185 pounds as he stopped Bisping in the second round at UFC on FX 7.


Expect explosive striking


At 6’3 and with a reach of 77”, Rockhold has a slight size (3”) and reach (3”) advantage, which he will look to utilise when both fighters are on their feet.


However, Belfort has held his own against much taller and rangier strikers in the past, so he should have the skills to adapt against the American.


Belfort is a remarkable boxer and has won 68% of his bouts through KO – in his one professional boxing fight in 2006 he knocked out his opponent in the first minute. The Brazilian has lightning fast hands, and burst on to the scene with a string of blistering sub-one-minute knockouts.


Now at 36, the southpaw boxer hasn’t lost any of his power, while his decisive one-kick knockout of Bisping in his last fight proves how versatile he is on his feet.


His opponent also has a strong stand-up game but doesn’t possess the explosive brutality of the Brazilian – winning just 20% of his fights through striking. He was, however, able to knockout veteran Keith Jardine inside the first round when they fought last year, and his fight against Ronaldo Souza, which secured him the Strikeforce middleweight belt, showcased his Muay Thai skills.


Belfort’s strike statistics shows he lands 1.41 strikes per minute with an accuracy of 46%, which is significantly less than Rockhold, who throws 3.37 strikes a minute albeit with 41% accuracy.


Importantly for Rockfold – who will look to avoid the powerful strikes of his opponent – he has the better strike defence.


The debutant absorbs just 1.63 strikes per minute with a 63% defensive success rate, compared to Belfort who gets tagged 2.16 times on average per minute and repels 54% of his opponents’ strikes.


However, it is worth noting that Belfort has fought at heavyweight and against a higher calibre of opponents. Rockfold lost his only fight by KO, while Belfort has been KO’d in 30% of his defeats.


How do both fighters grappling & submissions skills compare?


Neither pugilist is best known for there wrestling skills, but both have shown the ability to mix it with high-level grapplers.


When Rockhold won the Strikeforce title he beat Ronaldo Souza – renowned to be one of the most dangerous grapplers in MMA – by rebuffing his takedown attempts to win the fight on his feet.


The American averages 0.21 takedowns per 15 minutes with an accuracy of 25% but has a solid 70% takedown defence.


Likewise Belfort has a solid takedown defence (50%), however, in his last fight against Jones he was repeatedly taken to the mat where he was finally finished in the fourth round – but Rockhold is no Jones. The Brazilian averages 1.29 takedowns per 15 minutes with an accuracy of 60%.


Despite averaging 0.77 submission attempts per 15 minutes and with just 14% of his wins coming via submissions, we saw against Jones how lethal Belfort can be off his back – his first round armbar attempt was the closest anyone’s come to beating the young light heavyweight champion.


But Belfort hasn’t made submissions an integral a part of his game like Rockhold. The American, who attempts 0.86 submissions every 15 minutes, has won 60% of his fights by grappling submissions and has never tapped-out – Belfort has tapped twice in his career.


Will time catch-up with Belfort?


Throughout his career Belfort has rarely completed three rounds – he usually wins by finishing the fight early.


However in the fights that have gone into the third round and beyond he has lost six out of seven times – 50% of his defeats have come on the judges scorecards.


Rockhold on the other hand, has looked strong from bell-to-bell in his two decision wins. In his last title defence against Tim Kennedy he maintained his dominance for the entire five-round contest.


Unless Belfort can finish the fight early, the advantage may swing towards the younger Rockhold as the fight progresses.


Click here to see the latest UFC on FX 8 odds


(Source: Pinnacle)




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