It seems as if this matchup between two of Brazil’s favourite sons should’ve occurred in both savage strikers primes, nevertheless, former UFC heavyweight king Vitor ‘The Phenom Belfort meets Karate practitioner Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida in the opening main card clash of UFC 224, in the homeland of the compatriots.
Vitor managed a controversial decision against the recently retired Nate Marquardt in his last UFC outing, while former fellow gold holder Machida impressively overcame the up and coming Eryk Anders at UFC Fight Niight Belem after a brutal knockout defeat to the powerful Derek Brunson. Both men are two of the most decorated and feared strikers to ever step foot out of South America, but in the twilight of both men’s careers, it’s a shame it’s taken this long to come to fruition.
One of the UFC’s most recognisable and deadliest finishers of all time, the aggressive Vitor Belfort undeniably holds a spot in the UFC Hall of Fame upon his timely retirement. A star studded career spanning 22 years, brutal KO striker holds career highlight victories over the likes of Wanderlei Silva, multiple victories over Dan Henderson, and two brutal head kick stoppages over Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold (dislodging the Brit’s retina). In addition, Vitor scored arguably his most highlight reel-worthy stoppage yet, landing a lightening fast wheel kick on technician Luke Rockhold sending him to the canvas.
Coming in at a close second as Vitor’s most terrfiying knockout was his 2003 knee strike stoppage over the slick Marvin Eastman. A familiar “Vitor’esque” barrage seen Belfort land a huge knee, opening one of the worst cuts in octagon history above the left eyebrow of the Eastman, obviously bringing a sudden end to the meeting.
A real innovator of the karate style upon his UFC debut, Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida embarked on a successful quest to the UFC light heavyweight championship. He proved himself as a hugely complex puzzle to solve for the likes of Sokoujou and Tito Ortiz. Thiago Silva and ‘Suga’ Rashad Evans also suffered knockout losses to the Bahia native, with Rashad losing his 205lbs crown to the striker. Defending the title once against compatriot Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, Lyoto was then stopped by Rua in the pair’s rematch. Machida went winless until his match with pioneer Randy Couture, landing a highlight reel crane kick sending ‘The Natural’ into retirement.
In my opinion, this meeting comes down to whether Vitor can do as he’s done countless times before – land an early barrage of strikes putting his opponent on a dramatic trip to the canvass. If he can in his somewhat out of form and “after-prime” condition, he may be able to steal the W in this one in the early opening of the fight. However, if Lyoto can keep his fellow countryman at bay during these early, dangerous moments with kicks from range (particularly with front kicks), his “safety first” approach might eek out a win on the scorecards.
Official pick: Vitor Belfort via knockout.