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Sunday, September 20, 2009

UFC 103 Vitor Belfort Drops and Finishes Rich Franklin Highlights

It wasn’t a surprise when Vitor Belfort made a religious analogy to describe his return to the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday night.
Belfort (19-8), in his first match with the organization in four-and-a-half years, stopped Rich Franklin (27-5, 1 no contest), finishing the former middleweight champion in the first real flurry of the fight.
“The Bible tells the story that the story of the second house is greater than the first,” said the former UFC light heavyweight champion.
Belfort is a devout Christian, but it is his career that might more aptly be described as born again.
He stormed onto the scene and earned the nickname “The Phenom” in 1997 when he was a 19-year-old heavyweight, scoring flash knockouts against men much larger than himself, such as 300-plus pound Scott Ferrozzo and nearly 300-pound Tank Abbott, with the fastest hands ever seen up to that point in UFC competition.
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But he never reached the level of domination expected. While he had flashed of brilliance, he also had nights when he didn’t seem to come to fight, most notably a loss to Alistair Overeem in a Strikeforce main event three years ago.
But Saturday’s win was Belfort’s fifth straight, and fourth by stoppage from punches. It may signal the return of the “Old Vitor” fans have wanted for more than a decade, or it may simply be that the “New Vitor” is a fully matured fighter.
Little happened in the first 2:30 of the main event of UFC 103, with the packed house of 17,428 fans at the American Airlines Center starting to boo. Franklin reacted, wanting to pick up the pace to entertain the crowd, and Belfort responded by catching Franklin with a grazing punch. Franklin was a little stunned and Belfort then delivered a looping left hand that was the key blow, and after a few hard lefts on the ground, referee Yves Lavigne stopped the fight at 3:02.
The show, the UFC’s first in the market, drew a $2.4 million gate, the largest for any sporting event ever in the building.
The win impressed UFC president Dana White enough that he was already talking of Belfort as being in the mix for the next shot at middleweight champion (185 pounds) Anderson Silva, even though this fight was at a catch weight of 195 pounds and Belfort needed several attempts to make weight.
White, though, will have to sort out issues involving Silva and potential challengers Dan Henderson and Nate Marquardt before deciding whom Belfort will next fight.
“Dan Henderson fought Anderson Silva and took him down in the first round and put his hand over Silva’s mouth, and then in the second round, Anderson finished him,” said White about their fight in March, 2008.
“Silva finished Nate Marquardt in the first round (in a July 2007 title match). I want to put Dan Henderson against Nate Marquardt with the winner getting the shot at Silva.”
White said he would be meeting with Henderson in the next week, whose contract has expired and is currently a free agent. Henderson has said that he was promised the shot at Silva, which Silva doesn’t want, noting he had beaten Henderson last year. Henderson had agreed to a rematch with Franklin which was the original main event on this show, but that fell apart when initial fan response was negative and White acquired Belfort’s contract after Affliction folded in July. Henderson has declined requests to face Marquardt, feeling he’d be risking a title shot he had already earned.
But White said in the interim, he may put Silva against Belfort, a match he had talked about back in June on Spike TV before Belfort was even in the organization, with the winner then facing the winner of Henderson vs. Marquardt. Or he may wait and put Belfort against the winner of Silva against the Henderson-Marquardt winner, depending on how things work out.
White said earlier in the week that Silva would be undergoing minor elbow surgery and be out of action for a few months. Silva himself had claimed this past week he was completely healthy, he had no injury and that nobody had hurt him.
Another UFC official said that Silva’s camp had wanted to keep the surgery quiet and not let people know there was an injury. However, since the word got out, and since Silva wasn’t going to fight in the next few months, they weren’t going to deny the story.
Belfort, known from the start for his quick, accurate hands and good grappling skills, credited something new in his training, even though it wasn’t obvious to the fans watching.
“My new weapon is karate,” said Belfort, noting it is teaching him to not waste energy and make every blow count. “I want to use it. As soon as I saw something and attacked, I wanted to take his zip code, area code and social security number.”
As for Franklin, the loss seems to put his career as a pay-per-view headliner in limbo. It’s his second loss in three fights, having lost to Henderson in January, and followed with a win over Wanderlei Silva in June. He’s been used this year largely as utility main event material, a name fighter who headlines shows when no champions are available.
White noted that Franklin was one of the fighters who helped build the company, being middleweight champion and the second season Ultimate Fighter coach when the sport hit television.
“He’ll always have a place with us,” he said.
Franklin said he wasn’t exactly sure what happened in the fight because he didn’t remember a lot.
“I just remember the kick I threw and he caught my leg,” he said. “I remembered the fans booing and thinking I needed to push the pace of the fight. I assume I got caught.”
Dave Meltzer covers mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Send Dave a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

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UFC 103 Fight Card

Rich Franklin Vs. Vitor Belfort
Vitor Belfort Wins by Knock Out at 3:02 of round one

Mirko Cro Cop Vs. Junior Dos Santos
Junior Dos Santos Wins by Technical Knock Out at 2:00 in the 3rd round

Martin Kampmann Vs. Paul Daley
Paul Daley Wins by Technical Knock Out at 2:31 in the 1st round

Josh Koscheck Vs. Frank Trigg
Josh Koscheck Wins by Technical Knock Out at 1:25 in the 1st round

Tyson Griffin Vs. Hermes Franca
Tyson Griffin Wins by Knock Out at 3:26 in the 2nd round

Efrain Escudero Vs. Cole Miller
Efrain Escudero Wins by Technical Knock Out at 3:36 in the 1st round

Drew McFedries Vs. Tomasz Drwal
Tomasz Drwal Wins by Submission (Choke) at 1:03 in the 2nd round by rear naked

Jim Miller Vs. Steve Lopez
Jim Miller Wins by Technical Knock Out at 0:48 in the 2nd round. Steve Lopez had to stop due to a shoulder dislocation

Rafaello Oliveira Vs. Nik Lentz
Nik Lentz Wins by Unanimous Decision at 5:00 in the 3rd round

Rick Story Vs. Brian Foster
Rick Story Wins by Submission (Choke) at 1:09 in the 2nd round by arm triangle

Eliot Marshall Vs. Jason Brilz
Eliot Marshall Wins by Split Decision at 5:00 in the 3rd round

Vladimir Matyushenko Vs. Igor Pokrajac
Vladimir Matyushenko Wins by Unanimous Decision at 5:00 in the 3rd round

Rob Emerson Vs. Rafael Dos Anjos
Rafael Dos Anjos Wins by Unanimous Decision at 5:00 in the 3rd round

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