In his youth, Belfort was a titan, both in the heavyweight and lightheavyweight divisions.
When I started following the UFC events, Vitor Belfort (19-8 MMA, 8-4 UFC, #8 IWMMAR)
was already a legend. He emerged at UFC 12 and 13, where he crushed three substantial heavyweights. He was touted as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu monster, but he came out throwing bombs, and nobody even saw him throw on a submission until UFC: Ultimate Japan, when won with an armbar. That submission followed his first loss, at the hands of future Hall-of-Famer and fellow up-and-comer Randy Couture (16-10 MMA, 13-7 UFC, #5 IWMMAR)
Joe Rogan has compared the way we looked at Vitor to the way people looked at Mike Tyson, and that’s a fair comparison. Vitor was 19 at the time of his UFC debut, and was one of the fighters who game in as a part of the true second generation, following the first ten UFC’s, guys with real athleticism, many of whom still had pure style backgrounds, but understood the need to truly mix martial arts, and Vitor, along with Couture, was truly a pioneer in that respect.
No Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter, up to that point, had thrown bombs like Vitor, and perhaps no one has since. The boxing and handspeed Belfort produced, as well as the respect he earned as a legitimate Carlson Gracie blackbelt. The fight with Joe “The Ghetto Man” Charles (6-13 MMA, 2-3 UFC)
, Vitor’s first submission win, came without any of the explosive striking Vitor was known for, but the hallmark of his career has been his power, and any conversation about Vitor should be qualified with the statement: “if he lands the big punch, his opponent’s going to sleep.”
Well, Vitor’s back, and from the sound of Dana White’s prefight hype, he’ll be stepping in for a title shot against Anderson Silva pretty soon.