The anticipation for UFC 200 has created a lot of buzz in the MMA world, and there is no shortage of fighters seeking a spot in that legendary card. However, there are a lot of interesting fights scheduled before July’s UFC 200. The most notable ones being Jones vs Cormier II, Weidman vs Rockhold II, Faber vs Cruz III, among others. All of those fights are amazing in their own right, and so are the cards for UFC 197 and 199. The problem is that the best card prior to UFC 200 just might be 198, and there is not a whole lot of people talking about it. The card is full of fresh, exciting, and fan friendly fights involving some of the biggest mixed martial arts fighters of all time. The event is scheduled to take place May 14th in Curitiba, Brazil. In addition to the great fights, the event will be held at Arena da Baixada, which will be the first UFC stadium event in Brazil. 

The undercard will likely have some main card worthy fights, such as Cris Cyborg’s UFC debut, and hot prospect Warlley Alves taking on Bryan Barberena. Rumors of Cyborg’s potential UFC debut have been thrown around quite a bit over the past few years. The speculation is over as she has been added to UFC 198 to fight Leslie Smith at a catchweight of 140 pounds. The anticipated match up with Ronda Rousey will not happen at her debut, but it is a huge step towards that potential fight. Cyborg has dominated Invicta FC’s featherweight division, and hopes to shake up women’s MMA in the UFC. Smith fought recently at UFC Fight Night Hunt vs Mir, and beat Rin Nakai via unanimous decision.  

On the other hand, the undefeated top prospect Warlley Alves is looking to move up the rankings in the very tough Welterweight division. Alves has finished his last two fights by submission both being guillotines, including the first round stoppage of Colby Covington at UFC 194. The talent of Alves is undeniable, but can he make some noise in one of the most stacked divisions. Bryan Barberena is no stranger to undefeated hot prospects, since his last fight was against Sage Northcutt. Barberena pulled a big upset against Northcutt, by submitting the young phenom in the second round. The question is can he do it again, or is Alves too skilled? 

Things get very interesting in the main card with important fights like Demian Maia vs Matt Brown, Anderson Silva vs Uriah Hall, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs Vitor Belfort, and the heavyweight championship bout between Stipe Miocic and Fabricio Werdum. As mentioned before, the Welterweight division is super deep with talented young fighters as well as tough and skilled veterans. A clash of top ten ranked veterans could have title shot implications, as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu wizard Demian Maia faces “The Immortal” Matt Brown. Brown has gone the distance against the last two Welterweight champions in the past, and he is looking to build on his latest submission win over Tim Means. He has a very tough task in the form of Maia, and this should be a very entertaining fight to watch. The winner will likely enter the top five and put himself in the position of fighting for a shot at UFC gold. 

If you enjoy striking battles, then you should love the matchup between Uriah Hall and Anderson Silva. It might be safe to say that nobody is shooting for a takedown in this on, but you just might see a knockout of the year candidate. Both fighters are coming off disappointing losses, but they are still top ten in the Middleweight division. The winner would take a step closer to a shot at the winner of  UFC 199’s main event, and most likely a spot in the top five. The fight should be very fan friendly and thrilling from start to finish, so make sure you don’t blink during this one.

The next fight has even more influence on the Middleweight division, as it should definitely provide the next number one contender. The number two ranked middleweight “Jacare” Souza will meet number three ranked Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort in the co-main event. Two guys with major knockout power, so this could easily be a quick one. There is nobody currently at middleweight or maybe even the entire UFC roster who has better Brazillian Jiu Jitsu than Souza, so If the fight goes to the ground he will certainly have the advantage. Souza lost his last fight to Yoel Romero in a very controversial fight, but he is looking to finally get that shot at the belt. Vitor’s last fight was a first round KO of Dan Henderson, and he hopes to get a rematch against either Weidman or Rockhold.

The main event is the Heavyweight championship of the world, as Fabricio Werdum defends his title for the first time against Stipe Miocic. Werdum was scheduled to fight Cain Velasquez in a rematch earlier this year, but Cain suffered a back injury. The UFC offered Miocic as a replacement to Werdum, but the champ was also injured. Nonetheless, they will fight in May and it should be a great fight between two warriors. Both men are very well trained and they can hit, so this could also be a quick fight as are most Heavyweight bouts. Fabricio’s tremendous ground game could be the x factor in this matchup, but it is not a grappling match so anything could happen. Two of the baddest men on the planet fighting for glory is a great way to close out an amazing card of fights. It is a great time to be an MMA fan, and the future looks very bright for the sport. 

Joao V. Gomes

Pro Fighting Fans Staff Writer

It was just easier to choose two recipients for our fighter of the year award for 2013, especially when the year in MMA was full of angry Brazilians, California kids, a mighty flyweight and of course an all-American who dethroned a certain king.  There were so many great individual performances that having just one winner didn’t seem right.  Here are Pro Fighting Fans’ choices for 2013’s Fighter(s) of the Year.

Demetrious Johnson (UFC Flyweight Champion)

He’s little but there is nothing little about the huge year that Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson had in 2013.  It was his first full year as a UFC champion and he certainly made it count.  He started it off by getting a unanimous decision victory over TUF 14 winner John Dodson.  Johnson was pushed to the limit in the bout and was even dropped at one point.  However, he persevered and his hand was raised when the final bell sounded.

Then in July the flyweight champion had another stiff test in relative newcomer John Moraga.  Johnson was winning the fight soundly, and when most fighters would have been happy with coasting the rest of the fight, he was still looking for the finish in the 5th round.  Well, he found the finish and locked up an impressive armbar that forced Moraga to tap with less than 3 minutes to go in the last round.

He could have taken some time off and his bosses would have probably been ok with that, instead Johnson decided to give Joseph Benavidez the rematch he so deserved.  The two had met in 2012 to determine the inaugural flyweight champion and obviously Johnson came out on top.  Heading into their 2nd bout many people thought Benavidez would be able to make the necessary changes to be crowned the 125lb champion.  Once again Demetrious Johnson silenced his critics with a shocking knockout of Benavidez in the very first round.  The victory gave him his third successful title defense in a year and was definitely enough to secure him as Pro Fighting Fans Fighter of the Year.  We can’t wait to see what he can accomplish in 2014!

Vitor Belfort (UFC Middleweight Contender)

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, 2013 was a year for angry Brazilians and one in particular, Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort.  Before I recap his impressive year I must say this, sure Belfort uses TRT, and that very well could give him an edge, but until it is banned from the sport it is legal.  I also don’t think it should overshadow the incredible year Belfort had.

In January 2013 he faced Michael Bisping at UFC on FX 7 in Brazil.  Bisping was looking to catapult himself back into the 185lb title picture, and Belfort didn’t get the memo.  Vitor came out in the 2nd round headhunting and found what he was looking for less than 2 minutes into the round.  He landed a perfectly placed head kick that put Bisping on his back and allowed Belfort to secure the TKO finish.

So, with one contender down, Belfort then focused his attention on former Strikeforce Middlweight champion Luke Rockhold.  Once again the bout took place in Brazil. Yes it did seem the UFC was hiding Vitor there all year, more on that to come.  However, he one-upped himself by landing another head kick but this one came in the form of an amazing spinning heel kick that had Rockhold out before his head hit the canvas.  It was one of the best finishes of Belfort’s career, and that is filled with highlight reel knockouts.

When Vitor faced off against Dan Henderson in November, no one was thinking he could pull off a third head kick finish.  Well, we were all proven wrong once again.  Sure, Henderson is way past his prime, but he’s still a tough out for anyone and it didn’t help that Vitor was fighting at 205lbs, a weight that has not always been kind to him.  Plus, Henderson had never lost by knockout in his whole career.  Vitor wasted no time putting an exclamation mark on his year, when very early in the first round he rocked “Hendo” and just as he was getting back to his feet “The Phenom” planted a brutal kick right to the kisser.  He did the seemingly impossible by stopping a man who was thought to be unstoppable when it came to knockouts.

There is no denying that 2013 might have been the best year in Vitor Belfort’s entire career and instead of staying in Brazil, it looks like the UFC will bring him to Las Vegas in 2014 to fight for the middleweight title against Chris Weidman.  Whether or not he gets a TRT exemption from the Nevada State Athletic Commission is yet to be seen, but either way he should give the young champion a run for his money.

Honorable Mentions:

As I’ve mentioned before I’m not a huge fan of giving out honorable mentions when it comes to awards.  However, both Chris Weidman and Urijah Faber deserve at least that.  Weidman of course is coming off two victories against longtime pound for pound king Anderson Silva, even if the 2nd one wasn’t really a win, as we all know Silva was forced to quit when he snapped his leg.  Chris did go undefeated against Silva in 2013 and that’s something no one else could ever do.  Then there is Faber, he seems to be the go to guy when it comes to short notice fights in the UFC’s bantamweight division.  He won four fights in 2013, all of them quite decidedly and those wins have earned him another shot at the UFC bantamweight title in 2014.

There you have it, Pro Fighting Fans choices for the 2013 fighter of the year.  Continue to check back for more awards updates and also keep your hands up fight fans 2014 will be another wild ride in MMA.

Brent Haugh

Pro Fighting Fans Staff Writer

Before I turned off last night’s UFC on FX 8 broadcast Luke Rockhold had regained consciousness.  For his sake, I hope he’s fully awake by now, so he doesn’t miss this week’s edition of three stars.  I can’t say the fight card was amazing, but for the most part it was entertaining, and in a world where fight fans are increasingly critical, entertaining is all we can ask for.  Here are my three stars from UFC on FX 8.

Third Star: Fabio Maldonado

I will agree, Maldonado’s battle with Roger Hollett was no fight of the year candidate.  But, there is a method to my madness and a reason why I chose the Brazilian as my third star.  After the epic beating he took at the hands of light heavyweight contender Glover Teixeira last October, it is incredible that Maldonado was able to fight just seven months later.  Not only did he fight, he was willing to stand toe to toe with Roger Hollett for most of their three round fight and came out with a victory.  Because of the heart he has shown, Maldonado has earned my third star for UFC on FX 8.

Second Star: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza

In my preview of Saturday night’s fight card I encouraged fight fans to watch Ronaldo Souza take on Chris Camozzi, if for no other reason than the fact that you never know when you might get another chance to see such an accomplished BJJ practitioner inside the octagon.  Sure, Souza is only 33-years-old and the likelihoods of him retiring any time soon are pretty slim, we should still take every opportunity we get to watch this master at work.  Don’t be fooled, Souza’s opponent Chris Camozzi is no slouch.  He came into Saturday night on a four fight win streak and was more than happy to take on such a dangerous ground fighter on short notice.  However, the good news ended there for Camozzi, as Souza made it look very easy when he locked in an arm triangle choke and put Camozzi to sleep in the first round.  As an MMA fan I hope I get to see Souza again, as soon as possible, as a journalist covering the sport, I hope I get to continue writing about him for years to come.  Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is my second star for UFC on FX 8.

First Star: Vitor Belfort

After his performance last night, there is no possible way I could leave Vitor Belfort out of my three stars column.  TRT or no TRT, we cannot deny that Belfort is continuing to improve every time he steps in the cage.  Only two men have defeated him since 2007, they are both current UFC champions, Jon Jones and Anderson Silva.  Anyone else who has faced him has been met by a focused and determined Belfort.  It was no different for Luke Rockhold.  No one could have predicted that Vitor would have landed or even attempted a spinning heel kick.  But, he did and the result was a TKO victory over a talented middleweight contender in Rockhold.  The win could possibly get Belfort another shot at Anderson Silva.  The UFC can’t deny him much longer if he keeps knocking off contenders the way he has as of late.  Is he a phenom or a young dinosaur?  Who cares, all I know is Vitor Belfort is a dangerous opponent for anyone at 185lbs and I love watching the guy fight!

Well, there you have it, another UFC event has come and gone and we are almost half way through 2013 already.  It’s been an interesting year so far and hasn’t come without controversy for the MMA giant.  I still think the year has been a success so far.  So continue watching and keep your hands up fight fans!

Brent Haugh

Profightingfans.com Staff Writer

 

Sometimes that low budget flick that no one wants to see turns out to be a gem.  Or the book by the author you’ve never heard of becomes a best seller.  In that spirit, every so often there comes a fight card full of unknowns that ends up being a highly entertaining evening full of great matchups.  I guess you can say I’m a believer.  Despite its lack of star power, I think this weekend’s UFC on FX 8 will be worth watching.

First of all, the event takes place in Brazil, the birthplace of many of MMA’s greatest warriors.  Not only that, but Brazilians continue to be some of the most rabid fight fans in the world.  There is a certain level of excitement that comes from watching Brazilians fight in Brazil.  It is probably the reason why the UFC continues to stack its Brazilian cards with guys fighting in front of their fellow countrymen.  And UFC on FX 8 is being headlined by one of the most idolized Brazilians in the history of MMA, Vitor Belfort.

Sure, not everyone will know Vitor’s opponent Saturday night, but do not let that fool you, Luke Rockhold is a legitimate middleweight contender.  He was the last man to hold the Strikeforce middleweight title.  Rockhold also happens to be completely against the use of Testosterone Replacement Therapy by professional athletes.  So I imagine that Rockhold was more than happy to get the chance to trade punches with TRT posterboy Vitor Belfort.  This storyline alone will make for an intriguing main event, and one worth watching.

In the past many highly skilled athletes have stepped inside the UFC octagon, including a few BJJ world champions.  But, I’m not sure if any of them are as accomplished and decorated as Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, who makes his UFC debut this weekend against Chris Camozzi.  If you want to see a true master go to work, watch this fight!  If Camozzi escapes Brazil with all of his limbs intact that should be considered a huge personal victory for the American and a disappointment to the Brazilian fans in attendance.

If the co-main and main events weren’t enough to convince you that UFC on FX 8 is a good card, this next fight should do it.  For years Rafael dos Anjos and Evan Dunham have been tough fights for anyone in the UFC’s lightweight division.  Saturday night these two will finally square off inside the octagon and there is a really good chance that there will be fireworks when they do.  A victory for either man could be the push they need towards the top of the 155lb division and a loss could be devastating.

This fight card is full of up and coming Brazilian fighters.  Plus, there are some other recognizable names like Nik Lentz and human punching bag Fabio Maldonado.  The card is free, so there should be no excuses, check it out.  Who knows, you might see something historical, even if it is just a young dinosaur.

Brent Haugh

Profightingfans.com Staff Writer

The UFC returns to Brazil once again, this time for UFC on FX 8, which takes place May 18th.  The event is being headlined by a very intriguing middleweight matchup between Vitor Belfort and UFC newcomer Luke Rockhold.  Belfort (22-10 MMA, 11-6 UFC) is coming off a TKO victory over Michael Bisping in January.  Meanwhile Rockhold (10-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) has won 9 straight fights and was the last man to hold the Strikeforce middleweight championship.  Whoever wins this fight will take a giant step forward in the UFC middleweight rankings.  Who has the advantage?  Let’s take a look.

Although he hasn’t used his ground game a whole lot in his professional MMA career, Vitor Belfort is no slouch on the mat.  That was evident when he almost shocked the world against Jon Jones, sinking in a deep armbar early in the first round of their UFC 152 matchup.  Way back in 2001, he even won a bronze medal at the ADCC submission wrestling championships.

Luke Rockhold is also an accomplished BJJ practitioner, having won two IBJJF world jiu-jitsu championship gold medals in 2007.  Not to mention 6 of his 10 MMA victories have come via submission.  I’m not sure if the competition he has faced is on the same level as Belfort, but Rockhold should be able to hold his own if the fight hits the ground.

I’m going to throw the experience factor out the window and say that Rockhold has the advantage on the ground.  He may want to take a page out of Jon Jones’ book and beat up his older opponent with elbows to soften him up for a submission attempt later in the fight.  If he goes with that strategy he should find success in using his size to control Belfort.

There is no doubt that Vitor Belfort still has knockout power, TRT or no TRT, the guy has heavy hands and feet.  In his last fight he took out a game Michael Bisping with a head kick.  He’s actually won 4 of his last 5 fights by TKO or knockout. He’s going to show up in shape and ready to fight May 18th, Luke Rockhold better do the same or he will be in for a really long or short night.

The former Strikeforce champion is going to want to use his 3 inch reach advantage and fight tall against Belfort.  I’m not sure if Rockhold has fought anyone with as much power as Vitor, the only guy close would be Keith Jardine, and Luke finished him in the first round.  He needs to strike from a distance and use his jab to stop Belfort from charging forward.  If he can do that for 5 rounds he could get a decision victory.

I can’t go against Belfort in the standup department.  This is where Vitor’s experience is going to come into play.  He has been in wars with some of the greatest fighters to ever step inside a cage.  Rockhold might try and keep this fight at a distance, but Belfort is going to throw big punches at some point and if any of them land it will be over in an instant.

Vitor has ten losses on his professional record.  These are the men those losses came against, Randy Couture twice, Alistair Overeem twice, Sakuraba, Liddell, Ortiz, Henderson, Silva and Jones.  Is Luke Rockhold on the same level as any of these names?  In my opinion, not yet.  One day Rockhold will probably fight for a UFC title, however, he must learn a few more lessons and this time around Vitor Belfort will be his professor.  I am predicting Belfort by TKO in the first or second round and the Brazilian fans will go nuts!

Belfort vs. Rockhold is the main event for UFC on FX 8.  The co-main event is a middleweight matchup between Ronaldo Souza and Chris Camozzi.  The other two main card fights are Rafael dos Anjos vs. Evan Dunham and Rafael Natal vs. Joao Zeferino.  The event will be broadcasted from Brazil on May 18, 2013.  Keep checking back to Profightingfans.com for updates.

Brent Haugh

Profightingfans.com Staff Writer

You’ll have to forgive me as I attempt to comprehend the reasoning behind the Michael Bisping verses Vitor Belfort match up. I’m a little behind on this column so bare with me – I’m behind mainly due to my propensity to over analyze everything. As I sit in front of my overpriced MacBook Air, I do so baffled at the UFC’s attempt to formulate a number one contender within the middleweight division. I’m no Joe Silva but I’m starting to wonder if the UFC is losing sight of its own needs. Someone has to answer my questions and there’s only one person that will or can, me.

I’m going to ask three questions that keep revolving around in my mind regarding the UFC on FX 7 bout between middleweight contenders Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort. I’ll then attempt to answer the very questions I posed – which is not the best situation but the only one I have at the moment.

Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts, theories or general platitudes.

Why would you pair two fighters together and not reward either fighter with the same opportunity if victorious?

This question goes beyond the UFC on FX 7 match up and dives directly into the heart of the UFC’s matchmaking philosophy. Why would you pair two fighters together and not reward either fighter with the same opportunity if victorious?

By pairing fighters together who obtain the same opportunity if victorious the UFC could eliminate a growing concern regarding the sport’s integrity among fighters and fans alike.

Bottom line the UFC has done a terrible job of providing a frame work towards becoming a number one contender. UFC President Dana White likes to use the term “in the mix” but what that really means is “who we want will be next.” Case in point GSP vs. Nick Diaz. The UFC must do a better job at establishing a frame work for matchmaking and becoming a title contender.

Why did the UFC pair Michael Bisping with such a dangerous opponent in Vitor Belfort?

I’m still scratching my head over this one. Two opportunities were riding on this fight; a number one contenders spot and a chance to see Anderson Silva fight before the end of the year. One high kick saw both of those washed down the drain instantly. I’m not inferring Bisping should question his opponent choice nor blame anyone else for the loss except himself, but why fight Belfort?

Vitor’s coming off a submission loss to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 152 in September. Less than five months later he stands across the cage from Bisping who, if victorious, will get his first opportunity at UFC gold. As it just so happened Belfort beat Bisping at UFC on FX 7 with a TKO victory 2:27 into the second round. My thought now – Why was Vitor ever asked to be apart of this fight?

What will happen to the UFC middleweight division now?

A great question Scott (inner dialogue: thanks Scott, those are the only ones I have). What will the UFC do with the middleweight division and middleweight champion Anderson Silva? The division is in the same state as it was before the Bisping/Belfort fight, static.

It’s clear the UFC isn’t going to give Belfort a second go-around with Silva just yet. In all fairness, Belfort asked for Jones instead of Silva during his post-fight interview. Did Belfort truly believe his plea would be granted by Dana? It’s Chael P. Sonnen were talking about, the greatest showman in UFC history. For now the middleweight division will continue to act like a sifter eventually grinding out a contender with enough name recognition to warrant a second look by champion Anderson Silva.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: This could take a while.

By Scott Levesque (@scottlevesque)

ProFightingFans.com Staff Writer

After waiting an extended period of time for a shot at Anderson Silva, middleweight contender Michael Bisping was knocked out of his place in the front of the line in terms of potential challengers for the UFC middleweight champion with a loss to Vitor Belfort at UFC on FX 7. Bisping was heavily favored in his bout against Belfort, but it was the veteran Brazilian who was able to earn a TKO victory that started with a head kick. Belfort isn’t guaranteed a shot at Silva, but with a lack of challengers, he could be a long-shot candidate to earn a title shot. Belfort earned a $50,000 bonus for “knockout of the night” with his win.

In the co-main event, middleweight CB Dolloway survived a tough fight against debuting Brazilian Daniel Sarafian to take home a split decision. For their fight, Dolloway and Sarafian took home the “fight of the night” bonus award. Also on the main card, Brazilian heavyweight Gabriel Gonzaga choked out Ben Rothwell in the second round, and Khabib Nurmagomedov moved his unbeaten record to 19-0 with a TKO over veteran Thiago Tavares. Debuting Brazilian Ildemar Alcantara earned the “submission of the night” for his kneebar submission over Wagner Prado in the night’s opening bout.

Bellator gets a ‘spike’ in debut on new home

Bellator 85 marked the start of the organization’s eighth season, which was also the first on its new home at Spike TV – the former home of competitor UFC. Thanks in part to a lead-in from TNA Wrestling, the organization’s debut event more than tripled the previous record audience for a Bellator event with almost a million viewers. Both featherweight champion Pat Curran and lightweight champion Michael Chandler successfully defended their titles against tournament winners Patricio “Pitbull” Freire and Rick Hawn, respectively, giving the organization a great jumpstart into what is likely to be its most successful season to date. Despite a razor-thin split decision between Curran and Pitbull, the organization won’t be able to set up an immediate rematch because of an already-backlogged featherweight division. Daniel Straus has already earned a title shot with his victory in the Season 6 tournament, and Shah Shamhalaev will battle Rad Martinez for the place in line behind Straus. Freire could be a favorite to re-enter an upcoming featherweight tournament for another shot at the title, though.

The light heavyweight tournament also kicked off, as Russian Mikhail Zayats upset UFC veteran Renato “Babalu” Sobral to earn a semifinal spot. Also, Californian Emanuel Newton made it to his second tournament semifinal with a submission over debuting Bulgarian Atanas Djambazov, and Tennessean Jacob Noe stopped veteran Seth Petruzelli with a TKO to earn the night’s third semifinal berth. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Pryzemslaw Mysiala will battle at Bellator 86 this week for the final spot in the semifinals.

Quick Hits

Former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi will take on Alexander Gustafsson in his UFC debut at UFC on FX 9 on April 6 in Sweden…Top Canadian organization MFC will debut its 135-pound bantamweight class beginning with its May show…Big-show veterans James Krause and Brock Larson earned decision victories at Resurrection Fighting Alliance 6 in Kansas City…A pair of Strikeforce champs will have their UFC debuts on FOX, as Gilbert Melendez will challenge Benson Henderson for the lightweight title at UFC on FOX 7 in April, and heavyweight Daniel Cormier will make his debut against former UFC champion Frank Mir.

Michael Bisping: Bridesmaid never a bride. That seems to be the reality for the 33 year-old Brit every time he fights in a title elimination bout. Come on you guys you know I’ve got the stats to back up my claim.

Bisping has fought Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen and now Vitor Belfort for the opportunity to square off against long standing middleweight champion Anderson Silva. I’ll let you guess how many times he’s come up with the “W.” That’s right you guessed it, zero.

This brings us to Saturday night and the UFC on FX 7 in Sao Paulo, Brazil where Vitor Belfort (22-10) defeated Michael Bisping (23-5) by second round TKO. Let’s review some of the action.

Both men started the fight tentative as the feeling out process between the two began early on. It was Bisping who pushed the fight early in the first round, connecting with sharp combinations while keeping Belfort off balance.

The momentum quickly shifted with 30 seconds left in the first round when Belfort connected with a high kick sending Bisping flailing across the mat. Belfort – as we’ve become accustomed to seeing from him – swarmed in for the finish. There was only one problem time was running thin and Bisping was able to survive the onslaught and make it out of the first round.

As they squared off in round two, Bisping appeared to recover nicely from the beating he took late in the first round. At the onset both men managed to find their range and began to trade punches back and forth. However at 1:20 of the second round Belfort caught Bisping with another well placed high kick – this time catching Bisping flush on the temple – which sent the Brit crashing to the mat. There was nothing the clock could do for Bisping as Belfort rushed in for the finish via technical knockout.

During the post-fight interview Belfort declined to challenge current middleweight champion Anderson Silva, instead opting for a rematch with light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. With a muddled middleweight division Belfort’s challenge to Jones couldn’t have come at a worse time. Now the UFC must cryogenically freeze Silva. His refusal to fight contender Chris Weidman has left the UFC stuck between a rock and an Anderson Silva (which is not a place they want to be).

The lingering question coming out of UFC on FX 7 has nothing to do with anyone fighting in the event. The question moving forward is this: “What does the UFC do with Anderson Silva now?” Now that Bisping is out of the title picture, who’s in line for a shot at the champion? While UFC President Dana White has never broached the idea of a Silva/Belfort rematch, maybe it’s time to start thinking about it.

Silva’s unwillingness to fight “unknowns” for the title has left the UFC scrambling to make super-fights and number one contender bouts in search of an opponent for Silva. On Saturday night Vitor destroyed the UFC’s pick for a number one contender to face the middleweight champion. Perhaps the UFC “accidently” found the guy their looking for in Belfort, perhaps.

For Bisping it’s all the same as he watches, yet again, from cage side.

By Scott Levesque (@scottlevesque)

ProFightingFans.com Staff Writer

After a nice build-up for the grudge match between middleweight contenders Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort, the first UFC event of 2013 is finally here. It will also test the theory of whether the organization can continue to put B cards in booming outlets and continue to grow a fan base. Brazil will get its first dose of what is sure to be a healthy helping of UFC events this year, as the organization has already promised at least two more before the calendar turns once again.

To build the base, the UFC will institute a tried and true method that help build its fan base in the U.S.: continue to build fighters who competed on The Ultimate Fighter by putting them on second-tier cards for free, hoping to build a few stars who will eventually compete for titles down the road. It’s like a built-in minor league for the organization, and it is only likely to increase in size before it decreases.

UFC on FX 7 takes place in Sao Paulo, Brazil and will be shown on the FX Network in the U.S. with the main card beginning Saturday night at 9p.m. Check out our breakdown for each of the event’s fights below.

Wagner Prado vs. Ildemar Alcantara

After injuries forced his previously scheduled opponents out of his UFC on FX 7 preliminary card bout, Wagner Prado (8-1, NC) will now meet promotional rookie Ildemar Alcantara (17-5) in a light heavyweight clash.

Prado, 26, is a Brazil born mixed martial artist who fights out of Team Noguiera.  The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt made his professional debut in October of 2009 and won his first 9 bouts while touring the Brazilian regional circuit.  The 6’0” knockout artist made his way into the UFC in 2012 and suffered a no contest at UFC on Fox 4 this past August after being poked in the eye by his opponent Phil Davis.  The two 205-pounders rematched in October at UFC 153 with Davis finishing Prado this time via submission.

Alcantara is a Brazilian based mixed martial artist who fights out of the Frankiko Team.  The 6’1” light-heavyweight made his professional debut in June of 2005 and went 8-4 until joining the Jungle Fight roster in 2010.  Since joining Brazil’s top regional promotion, Alcantara has won 9 of his 10 bouts with only one of his wins during that span coming from decision.  Alcantara had an exceptional 2012 going 4-0 which included a December Jungle Fight 47 TKO victory over Itamar Rosa.

PREDICTION – PRADO TKO

Yuri Alcantara vs. Pedro Nobre

Yuri Alcantara (27-4) will welcome Pedro “The Rock” Nobre (14-1) into the octagon at UFC on FX 7 in a bantamweight bout positioned on the preliminary card portion of the event.

Alcantara, 32, is a Brazil based mixed martial artist who fights out of Pattaya Fight.  The 5’6” bantamweight made his professional debut in March of 2004 and won 24 of 27 while competing in his home country for multiple regional organizations.  After capturing a pair of titles in minor organizations, Alcantara was brought into the WEC 53 event and left with an impressive KO finish of Ricardo Lamas.  With the WEC transitioning into the UFC in 2011, Alcantara won his first two bouts in the octagon with wins over countryman Felipe Arantes and Japanese veteran Michihiro Omigawa.  He had his 13 fight winning streak snapped in his most recent fight at UFC 147 this past June losing via unanimous decision against Hacran Dias.

Nobre, 26, is a Brazil native who fights out of the Brazilian Top Team.  The 5’5” Nobre made his professional debut in March of 2009 and went unbeaten through his first 12 fights while fighting for several regional organizations across his native country.  After dropping his first career bout in September of 2012, “The Rock” rebounded to win his last two to finish 2012 with a 4-1-1 record.  Nobre has participated for Bitetti Combat over his last four fights.

PREDICTION – ALCANTARA DECISION

Francisco Trinaldo vs. CJ Keith

The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil competitor Francisco “Massaranduba” Trinaldo (11-2) fights CJ Keith (8-1) in a UFC on FX 7 preliminary card bout that will be contested at 155 pounds.

Trinaldo, 34, is a Brazil native who fights out of the Brazilian Top Team.  “Massaranduba” made his professional debut in May of 2006 and won his first six bouts while fighting in regional organizations across Brazil before losing against UFC veteran Yuri Alcantara in 2010.  After suffering his first defeat, Trinaldo won his next four bouts while fighting for Jungle Fight and earned a spot on the TUF Brazil cast.  While competing on TUF Brazil, Trinaldo won his elimination round bout to earn his way into the TUF house, but was defeated in his first round fight ending his chances to win the first season of TUF in Brazil.  He returned at UFC 147 and defeated fellow TUF Brazil fighter Delson Heleno while competing as a middleweight but was defeated at UFC 153 this past October in his lightweight debut.

Keith, 26, is a California based mixed martial artist who fights out of the Pro Buhawe team.  The 6’0” lightweight made his professional debut in 2007 and won his first eight bouts to begin his career while competing for California based organizations like Gladiators Challenge and The Warriors Cage.  After finishing five of his first eight opponents, Keith lost at UFC on FX 4 this past June via 1st round TKO against Ramsey Nijem.

PREDICTION – TRINALDO TKO

Edson Barboza vs. Lucas Martins

A lightweight bout featuring Edson Barboza (10-1) and Lucas Martins (12-0) will be positioned on the UFC on FX 7 preliminary card.

Barboza, 26, is a Brazil born mixed martial artist who fights out of The Armory in Florida.  The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt made his professional debut in 2009 and went on to win his first 6 bouts fighting in regional organizations like Ring of Combat and Renaissance MMA.  The UFC picked up Barboza in late 2010 and the 5’11” striker compiled four straight victories over Mike Lullo, Anthony Njokuani, Ross Pearson and Terry Etim before suffering a TKO defeat against Jaime Varner at UFC 146 in May.

Martins, 24, is a Brazilian based mixed martial artist who fights out of the legendary Chute Boxe team.  The 5’9” Martins made his professional debut in September of 2011 and has easily defeated his first 12 opponents while touring the regional circuit in his native country.  The hard hitting Martins has finished 11 of his 12 opponents which includes 8 TKO/KO finishes and 3 submissions.  Martins has won an impressive 10 bouts in 2012 including his most recent on December 13th at Jungle Fight 46 where he picked up a head kick KO victory over countryman Oberdan Vieira Tenorio.

PREDICTION – BARBOZA TKO

Diego Nunes vs. Nik Lentz

Both Diego Nunes (18-3) and Nik Lentz (22-5-2, NC) will try and collect their second straight win inside the octagon at UFC on FX 7 in a featherweight bout that is slotted for the preliminary card.

Nunes, 30, is a Brazil based mixed martial artist who now fights out of the Nova Uniao team.  A purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Nunes made his professional debut in 2004 and posted a perfect 11-0 mark while fighting his early career in his native country’s regional scene.  The 5’6” Nunes signed with the WEC in 2010 and went 4-1 before migrating into the UFC a year later.  Victories over Mike Brown and Manny Gamburyan were followed by a loss to Denis Siver at UFC on Fuel TV 2 this past April.  Nunes bounced back in his most recent fight three months ago at UFC on FX 5 via unanimous decision against Bart Palaszewski.

Lentz, 28, is a Texas born mixed martial artist who now fights out of Minnesota with the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy.  A former NCAA Division I wrestler, Lentz made his professional MMA debut in 2005 and won 16 of his first 20 while fighting for multiple regional organizations across the Midwestern United States.  Lentz made the move into the UFC in 2010 and went unbeaten through his first six inside the octagon with victories over the likes of Tyson Griffin and Andre Winner.  Lentz suffered setbacks versus lightweights Mark Bocek and Evan Dunham before making the move down to 145 pounds.  In his featherweight debut this past August at UFC 150, Lentz picked up an impressive TKO stoppage victory over Eiji Mitsuoka.

PREDICTION – LENTZ DECISION

Ronny Markes vs. Andrew Craig

Rising middleweights Ronny Markes (13-1) and Andrew Craig (8-0) will meet in a UFC on FX 7 preliminary card bout.

Markes, 24, is a Brazil based mixed martial artist who fights out of the Nova Uniao team.  The 6’1” Markes made his professional debut in January 2007 and won his first seven before suffering his only career defeat in an October 2010 regional fight in his native Brazil.  After the loss, Markes rebounded to win his next four fights including an April 2011 bout over former WEC Champion Paulo Filho to secure a roster position in the UFC.  After joining the UFC in late 2011, Markes won his UFC on VS 5 debut with a unanimous decision victory over Karlos Vemola.  In his latest fight Markes picked up a split decision win against Aaron Simpson at this past February’s UFC on Fuel TV 2 event.

Craig, 26, is a Houston, Texas based mixed martial artist who fights out of Team Tooke.  The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt made his professional debut in May of 2010 and won his first six fights while fighting in regional promotions like Bellator and Legacy FC, where he held the company’s Middleweight belt before leaving this past year for the UFC.  In his UFC on FX 2 debut this past March; Craig won easily via unanimous decision over Kyle Noke.  He made his two for two inside the octagon at UFC on Fuel TV 4 this past July with a head kick KO victory over Rafael Natal.

PREDICTION – CRAIG TKO

Godofredo Castro vs. Milton Vieira

The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil veterans Godofredo “Pepey” Castro (8-1) and Milton “Miltinho” Vieira (13-7-2) will meet in a UFC on FX 7 featherweight bout that is positioned for the preliminary card.

Castro, 25, is a Brazilian born mixed martial artist who fights out of the Marcio Cupim Team in Fortaleza.  The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt made his professional debut in December of 2003 and won his first three bouts spanning a four-year period.  He hit the MMA scene full-time in 2010 and won his next five before joining the TUF Brazil cast.  A member of Team Vitor and Team Wanderlei, “Pepey” advanced into the Featherweight Finals at UFC 147 but suffered a unanimous decision defeat this past June against Rony “Jason” Mariano Bezerra.

Vieira, 34, is a Brazilian based mixed martial artist who is trained by former UFC veteran Murilo Bustamante.  “Miltinho” made his professional debut in 2001 and won 13 of his first 21 by touring organizations in Russia (M-1 Mix Fight), Brazil (Bitetti Combat MMA), Japan (DEEP), and the United States (Strikeforce).  Viera joined the TUF Brazil fighters this past year, however was ousted early in the tournament.  He returned at UFC 147 and fought Felipe Arantes to a DRAW this past June.

PREDICTION – “PEPEY” SUBMISSION

Thiago Tavares vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Thiago Tavares (17-4-1) will attempt to win his third straight bout inside the octagon when he welcomes unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov (18-0) in a UFC on FX 7 lightweight bout that will be part of the events’ main card.

Tavares, 28, is a Brazilian born mixed martial artist who fights out of the Brazilian Top Team.  The 5’7” lightweight made his professional debut in November of 2003 and went 10-0 fighting in regional promotions across the United States, Brazil, England, and Holland.  Tavares transitioned into the UFC in 2007 and won three of his first four before losing back to back bouts in 2008.  His career has been resurrected as of late winning 4 of his last 6 including his last two against Spencer Fisher at UFC 134 in August of 2011 and Sam Stout at UFC 142 last January.

Nurmagomedov, 24, is a Russian born mixed martial artist who fights out of several gyms across the world including the Red Fury Fight Team and AMA Fight Club.  The 5’10” Nurmagomedov made his professional debut in 2008 and went unbeaten through his first 16 bouts while competing in both Russian and Ukraine promotions like Pro FC and the M-1 Challenge.  The well rounded lightweight made his way into the UFC in 2012 and submitted Kamal Shalorus at UFC on FX last January and picked up a unanimous decision victory over Gleison Tibau at UFC 148 this past July.

PREDICTION – NURMAGOMEDOV DECISION

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Ben Rothwell

Former Heavyweight Challenger Gabriel Gonzaga (13-6) is attempting to get back to that status starting with “Big” Ben Rothwell (32-8) when the two meet at UFC on FX 7 in a main card bout.

Gonzaga, 33, is a Brazil born mixed martial artist who fights out of Massachusetts with his Team Link.  The 6’2” 250-pound heavyweight made his professional debut in 2003 and produced a 4-1 mark while fighting in Brazilian regional promotions.  He signed with the UFC in 2005 and won his first four inside the octagon to earn a title opportunity against then-Champion Randy Couture.  Couture finished Gonzaga at UFC 74 in August 2007 ending his title chances.  After the loss to Couture, Gonzaga went on to win only three of his next seven bouts under the UFC banner before being released from his contract.  Gonzaga wasn’t out of the promotion for long; he defeated his only opponent in a Connecticut-based regional organization before earning another invite from the world’s largest promotion.  In his return at UFC 142 last January, Gonzaga won via submission over Ednaldo Oliveira.

Rothwell, 31, is a Wisconsin based mixed martial artist who fights out of his own Rothwell MMA team.  The 6’4” former kickboxer made his professional MMA debut in 2001 and won 30 out of his first 36 while touring mid-level promotions like the IFL, Affliction, and King of the Cage.  Rothwell made his way into the UFC in late-2009 and has split his four bouts in the octagon up to this point.  After losing his UFC debut, Rothwell has rebounded to win two of his last three including an upset at UFC 145 last April winning via 1st round KO over Brendan Schaub.

PREDICTION – GONZAGA TKO

Daniel Sarafian vs. CB Dollaway

The Ultimate Fighter Brazil finalist Daniel Sarafian (7-2) finally makes his Octagon debut at UFC on FX 7 against veteran middleweight CB Dollaway on the events’ main card.

Sarafian, 30, is a Brazilian based mixed martial artist who fights out of American Top Team in Florida.  The 5’9” middleweight made his professional debut in 2006 and won three of his first five bouts dropping a Bellator 1 bout along the way.  He rebounded from his BFC loss with wins in his next four fights which included three submissions.  The submission based fighter spent 2012 on TUF Brazil where he advanced into the finals before an injury took his chance of a six-figure UFC contract.  The UFC signed the Team Vitor fighter anyway and put him up against a formidable opponent for his debut.

Dollaway, 29, is an Ohio born mixed martial artist who is now based out of Arizona with Power MMA and Fitness.  “The Doberman” made his professional debut in 2006 and won his first six bouts fighting in multiple regional organizations.  Dollaway earned a spot on TUF 7 and advanced into the Finale where he was eventually defeated by Amir Sadollah.  Dollaway won five of his next six bouts and picking up two “Submission of the Night” bonuses along the way.  His momentum was stopped in 2011 after dropping back to back bouts.  In 2012, Dollaway rebounded to win his only fight at UFC 146 this past May by picking up a lackluster decision victory over Jason Miller.

PREDICTION – SARAFIAN DECISION

Vitor Belfort vs. Michael Bisping

The UFC on FX 7 main event features Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (21-10) against Michael Bisping (23-4) in a middleweight clash.  Bisping will earn a UFC Middleweight Title opportunity with a victory over the former Champion.

Belfort, 35, is a Brazil native who now fights out of the Jaco Hybrid Training Center.  “The Phenom” made his professional debut in 1996 and won 6 of his first 7 including a 5-1 run in the early years of the UFC.  Belfort moved over into the PRIDE organization in 1999 and won four of his five for the Japanese based organization before returning in 2002.  In his second UFC stint, Belfort won the light-heavyweight title before leaving once again in 2005.  This time Belfort remained out of the organization fighting for Cage Rage, Affliction, PRIDE, and Strikeforce before returning for a third UFC stint in 2009.  His current stint in the octagon has produced a 3-2 mark with his only losses coming in title bouts.  He dropped a UFC 126 fight with Anderson Silva for the 185-pound title and in his most recent fight lost to Jon Jones for the 205-pound title this past September at UFC 152.

PREDICTION – BELFORT DECISION

By Nick Russell

ProFightingFans.com Staff Writer

Posted in UFC.