This Saturday, Vitor Belfort (HM) will step into the octagon to face Kelvin Gastelum (#10) in Fortaleza, Brazil. We have two of the best writers arguing who they think is going to win. Zak Katine is the current Great Debate Champion, facing challenger Justin Peck. Let’s see who gets it correct.
Why Kelvin Gastelum Will Beat Vitor Belfort (Zak Katine):
This is 2017. Vitor Belfort is 39 years old, has been fighting for 20 years, and is TRT-less. His time has come and gone.
Is he still one of the most dangerous guys in the UFC? Yes, for about 2 minutes. After that he doesn’t have much left in the tank. His heart has always been a weakness in my opinion. If Belfort can’t knock you out in the first round, and if the fight starts to get a little gritty, he seems to just give up. This fight is a fight to send Belfort into retirement while helping a young up and comer in Gastelum make a leap.
Gastelum is just 25 years old, 14 years younger than Belfort, and has all the tools to be a champ in the future. He has good stand up with a high-pressured pace. His bread and butter is his grappling, which is great, his strongest skill. On the flip-side Belfort’s weaknesses are Gastelum’s strengths. All Kelvin must do to win this fight is weather the storm, be patient, and when moment is right secure a takedown on Belfort. Once on the ground, he can do what he does best; control and dominate the top position.
I see the first few minutes of the fight playing out as follows. In the first round Gastelum will be patient, Belfort may have a few blitzes, and then Kelvin will take him down and start pounding away. In round 2 Kelvin will still be fresh while Belfort will be looking for a way out. Gastelum will again take Belfort down with ease and pound him out for a TKO finish. This will catapult him up the Middleweight rankings. Gastelum will make his second consecutive opponent retire.
Prediction: Kelvin Gastelum TKO Rd2.
Why Vitor Belfort Will Beat Kelvin Gastelum (Justin Peck):
Let’s just get this out of the way now. This fight will not go to decision. Win or lose, someone is getting finished. You have to go back to 2007, 14 fights ago, to find the last time Vitor Belfort was in a fight that went to decision. Of his 38 professional fights, only 9 have gone to decision.
Both fighters are very good strikers and I expect this fight to remain on the feet. I give the edge in striking to Vitor, even at his age based on pure explosiveness. This is not the same Belfort that we saw back when he was dominating, but to sleep on his power, even now, would be a huge mistake for Gastelum.
Many are quick to point out that Belfort has lost 3 of his last 4 fights, but he lost to elite talent. Chris Weidman, Jacare Souza, and Gegard Mousasi are all fighters ranked in our top 6 and are all championship contenders. I believe Gastelum would have lost to each of them as well.
Gastelum will not have the same power at Middleweight as he did at Welterweight and will have a hard time knocking our Vitor. Yes, he is coming off of a finish of Tim Kennedy at Middleweight, but Kennedy hadn’t fought in 2 years prior to that, plus Kennedy was beating him in the early stages of the fight. Gastelum has never fought someone who hits as hard as Vitor Belfort and will have his chin tested early and often.
Most spectators are giving the grappling edge to Gastelum, but this won’t be as much of an advantage as you’d think. Many forget that Belfort is a BJJ and Judo Black Belt. Belfort will be able to keep Gastelum honest and keep him on his feet. Kelvin comes out slow and pays for it, and Belfort will add one more to his UFC record for most first round finishes in front of his home crowd audience.
Everytime Belfort has been counted out and people were talking about retirement, he somehow bounces back again. Belfort is bigger, faster, quicker, uses his feet better, has more experience, and will have the Brazilian crowd on his side. He has beaten some of the best MMA fighters of of All-Time (Wanderlei Silva, Rich Franklin, Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, Dan Henderson, etc). Belfort was also close to knocking out Chris Weidman for the middleweight crown not too long ago. The Brazilian legend shouldn’t have any trouble with the undersized Gastelum. I’m not saying the old (young) Vitor will be back for good, but he will be back for at least Saturday Night.
Prediction: Vitor Belfort KO/TKO Rd 1.