One of the most anticipated rematches in MMA history is in the books, and the result ended a defining chapter in Anderson Silva’s storied title reign. The rivalry came and went, and Silva’s next challenge remains unclear. One thing is almost certain: barring a career-ending injury or dramatic personal event, Silva will fight again. Even at 37 years-old, the Champion looked as masterful as ever in performances against Vitor Belfort, Yushin Okami and Chael Sonnen. Over the next couple of weeks, MMA-Fighter.com will preview the title candidates in the middleweight division and break down their potential matchup with The Spider.
MMA Record: 18-6
Streak: 4 Wins
Fighting Out Of: Roufosport – Biloxi, M
Photo courtesy of Tracy Lee of Yahoo! Sports and CombatLifestyle.com. UFC on Fox 3 photos
Belcher has long been one of the division’s most curious subjects. By day, he’ll knock Jorge Santiago’s head off his shoulders or pound Rousimar Palhares’ face into the canvas. By night, he’ll appear lethargic and outmatched in bouts with Kendall Grove and Jason Day. His skill, knockout power, and athleticism have never been in question, but his preparation and game-day readiness were areas of concern. With six years of Octagon experience under his belt, The Talent appears to have shed whatever remained of his nighttime persona as he enters the prime of his competitive career. He has been utterly devastating during his current four-fight win streak, earning stoppages in each of those victories. Although he is primarily recognized as a Muay Thai specialist, Belcher’s grappling acumen gained considerable attention after he escaped the certain-death scenario known as a Rousimar Palhares Leg Lock. He also owns a recent submission victory over tough-to-crack veteran, Patrick Cote. With his graduation from inconsistent prospect to legitimate divisional threat, Belcher has established himself as one of the most dangerous middleweights in the sport.
How he’ll earn his shot
Although he’s unlikely to be next in line, Belcher could be one “name” win away from earning his right to challenge Silva. He has a fan-pleasing style, an impressive highlight reel, and he’s shown well-rounded skills. Both Silva and Belcher are finishers, so the fight will be easy to promote.
Why he can beat Silva
The scariest part of Belcher’s arsenal is that we don’t yet know how extensive it is. He’s a physical specimen with great speed, and he has more documented punching power than anyone Silva has faced over the past four years (with the possible exception of Vitor Belfort). If he remains composed, he could surprise Silva with his footwork. Although his takedowns, ground-and-pound, and top control may not be on par with Chael Sonnen’s, Belcher has shown an ability to put the fight away when his opponent is hurt. Given his track record for unpredictability, he may be a difficult target for even Silva to read. Whether his gameplan will be striking or grappling-first is difficult to say; but if he mixes it up and keeps Silva guessing, he could find the opening for an upset.