SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT 3/12: Opposite Paths – The Rise of Kevin Gastelum and the Decline of Vitor Belfort

By D.R. Webster, MMATorch Specialist

Vitor Belfort (photo credit Per Haljestam © USA Today Sports)


Last night’s UFC Fight Night in Fortaleza, Brazil saw Kelvin Gastelum continue to rise as a future star in the UFC and also the possible end for a legend, Vitor Belfort.

Belfort against Gastelum in his home country of Brazil was looking a win after three consecutive losses. Gastelum had other ideas and continued his win streak after taking out Tim Kennedy and Johny Henricks in his previous two fights.

Gastelum looked impressive against the aging legend, taking him out in the first round via TKO.

The Ultimate Fighter 17 winner connected with a big right hand early in the round and dropped Belfort leading to some ground and pound. However, the veteran Belfort managed to survive and continue fighting. Gastelum continued his onslaught and landed a few more heavy right hands on the jaw of Belfort followed by another short burst of ground-and-pound which ended the fight.

Gastelum is now 14-2 with ten finishes in his career and, while he has hinted that he may not be done at Welterweight, he has his sights set on another Middleweight legend for his next fight.

After his win, Gastelum called out Anderson Silva. “There’s a guy I really want,” he said. “I’m on a legends ass whuppin’ tour. June 3 maybe, Anderson [Silva] in Rio?”

Since his move up to Middleweight, things are only getting bigger and better for Kelvin Gastelum. A win over Anderson Silva would only further propel him to new heights of stardom.

For Vitor Belfort, it’s the opposite. His career is close to the end with his glory days now behind him. Belfort made his UFC debut in February 1997 at UFC 12, winning two fights in one night against Tra Telligman and Scott Ferrozzo.

Belfort went onto defeat the likes of Tank Abbott and Wanderlei Silva before moving onto Pride where he won four out of his five fights before returning to the UFC and eventually winning the UFC Light Heavyweight Title. He would go on to appear for Pride again as well as Cage Rage, Strikeforce, and Affliction between 2005-2009 before returning to the UFC permanently later in 2009.

He has fought the best throughout his career and boasts wins over former world champions such as Luke Rockhold, Michael Bisping, Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin, Randy Couture, and Wanderlei Silva, as well as other big names such as Matt Lindland and Anthony Johnson.

He has had a long and legendary career, but every fighter has their decline and their career comes to an end at some point. Belfort is reaching that point.

After last night’s fight, despite questions about retirement, Belfort indicated that he wants to fight at least one more time. “I have one fight on my contract,” he said in the Octagon afterward. “I’d like to fight in my hometown of Rio and then we’ll see from there.”

The UFC is scheduled to return to Belfort’s hometown of Rio De Janeiro on June 3 for UFC 212.

Belfort claimed that he will retire after fighting at this event. However, he would reconsider this stance if the UFC created a legends division. “Unless they create this legends’ division, then we can continue a little longer. But training for five-round fights is too much for the body. I was in great shape, but he connected some good strikes and it was his night.”

He got reflective. “It’s time to end this chapter as a professional fighter,” he said. “My body is not the same anymore for training. It’s too much pain. I did more than 14 surgeries. I left everything in the Octagon. I’m sad because I didn’t give the win to my fellow Brazilians, but it happens.”

Belfort said that he had decided that his next fight would be his last one, even before the Gastelum fight was announced. He ruled out a rematch with Anderson Silva at UFC 212.

“I don’t have any names off the top of my head,” Belfort said. “I just don’t want to fight a Brazilian in Brazil. We have to sit down with the UFC and see which opponent would be an interesting fight. I never turned down fights, always fought the toughest ones in the division, but the last fight has to be special for the fans. Let’s see if that’s possible.”

UFC 212 in June could see Gastelum and Belfort on the same card again, this time for Belfort swan song in his hometown and, if Gastelum fights and beat the legendary Anderson Silva, then it will be his crowning achievement so far.

NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S ARTICLE: THE SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT: Examining George St. Pierre facing Michael Bisping in his UFC return and why that fight was made

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