UFC Fortaleza Aftermath: Where Do The Main Eventers Go From Here?

Constant pressure has always been Vitor Belfort's kryptonite—from his days as a young lion through the time of Hulk-like Belfort to ‘dad bod’ Vitor. But today, his limitations all-around are so severe, he looks like a dead fish on the ground and is dropped by every other power shot in the standup. Belfort still steps in the Octagon with the best of the best. Everyone knows about his power in the opening minutes, yet it is Belfort who has been pummeled by opponent after opponent. Out of his last five fights, Belfort lost four by TKO and only scored a win over then-44-year-old Dan Henderson.

Is he a shot fighter who cannot pull the trigger anymore? No. But while he was able to overcome his limitations when he was in his athletic prime, today’s version of Belfort looks old. His hands are still fast, but the rest of his body moves in slow motion. He has earned millions of Dollars throughout his 21-year long career. Thus it may be the right time to hang it up. And while Belfort had repeatedly talked about how much he enjoys fighting, his attitude seemed changed after the fight on Saturday against Kelvin Gastelum, which headlined UFC Fight Night 106 in Fortaleza, Brazil.

“I want to continue fighting, but I have to recognize there comes a time the training is very tiring for someone who’s been fighting 20 years,” Belfort said. “We have to reinvent ourselves, and it won’t be the first, it won’t be the last. I mean, I hope it is the last, because in July, I want to do the last fight of my contract. I think it’s my time to finish my chapter in this as a professional fighter.”

Belfort has been one of the most controversial figures in MMA, but two see him going out at UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in a few months could create a feel-good moment, even if he loses once again.
Meanwhile, Kelvin Gastelum, who won his fight with Belfort via TKO in the first round after knocking down his opponent twice, is putting a win streak together. As stated above, Belfort is not a top-tier middleweight fighter in 2017. That the UFC ranked him tenth prior to the bout on Saturday was either just a way to hype the fight or another sign how comically irrelevant these rankings are.

That said, Gastelum has now two wins over two well-known veterans in Belfort and Tim Kennedy on his record since joining the middleweight division. The UFC lost their patience when Gastelum, who had been considered one of the biggest talents at welterweight, failed to make weight on multiple occasions and forced to move up a weight class.

It is still somewhat questionable whether he can hang with the likes of Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman or Yoel Romero, against whom he would have a significant size disadvantage. Gastelum is in an odd spot at the moment. He has beaten two veterans and called out another one in Anderson Silva last night. A fight with “The Spider” would certainly fill Gastelum’s bank account, but you would expect it does not get him any closer to a title fight.

Apparently, the 25-year-old disagrees. That’s why he decided with his management to call out Silva. “Because what’s the point of having contenders, what’s the point of having rankings if we’re not going to follow the rankings, if we’re not going to follow the no. 1 contenders? It just doesn’t make any sense,” Gastelum said post-fight.  “Now, everybody wants those big ‘money fights,’ and it just doesn’t make any sense to have any rankings if we’re going to keep doing that kind of stuff.”

Who could blame Gastelum to try the same like many other fighters in the UFC? Maybe the promotion grants him his wish, and he could beat another legend. Or Gastelum will finally be tested against a younger middleweight, and we find out if he is legit in that weight class or has to go back into the sauna trying to cut down to 170 pounds. 

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