February 1, 2011 – In what I believe to believe to be the strongest UFC card since last October, UFC 126: Silva vs. Belfort is set for a go this Saturday, February 6th from Las Vegas. Emanating from the Mandalay Bay, the event is packed with star power from the headlining bout all the way down to the prelims.
Headlining the event, long-time reigning UFC middleweight champion and arguably pound-for-pound top fighter in the world Anderson Silva taking on resurgent phenom Vitor Belfort. This matchup has actually been a long time in the making as the two were originally set to clash in April of last year at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi; UAE prior to a shoulder injury sidelining the challenger. That particular event would go on to be characterized by a controversial decision win by Silva, if only because he appeared more intent on showboating instead of finishing the fight against replacement Demian Maia.
Now while “Spyder” Silva has proven his fighting spirit in his last fight, a comeback victory over Chael Sonnen, he likely won’t run into any problems finding yet another war to appease fans against the man known as “The Phenom.” Currently on a five-fight winning streak including four knockouts, the fast-punching prodigy is considered by many to have the best chances in the division of dethroning the dominant champion.
Next up on the card is a battle between two UFC poster-boys in the ever-popular Forrest Griffin taking on former Ultimate Fighter coach and Rich Franklin. Both guys are looking to make a run here after wins over legends Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell respectively in their last bouts. A win in this fight could mean possible title contention at 205 for the winner within their next two bouts provided they keep winning while the loser could be relegated to gatekeeper status for tomorrow’s up-and-comers at light-heavyweight.
Speaking of which, another matchup on this card features two fighters just aching to break into the top-five status in that division. Fans have watched for over three years now as blue-chip prospects Jon Jones and Ryan Bader have ran roughshod over their competition. “Darth” Bader is undefeated, having most recently dispatched of Antônio Rogério Nogueira while “Bones” Jones last took out Vladimir Matyushenko and Brandon Vera and would also be undefeated were it not for a disqualification loss to Matt Hamill in a fight he was well on his way to winning. Needless to say, the winner of this bout will definitely come out of the event as a top-5 UFC light-heavyweight, nipping at the heels of whomever the champion is come late-2011.
Also on the card is the popular Miguel Angel Torres. A long-time dominant force and former bantamweight champion in the WEC, Torres has been known more recently for his witty comments on Twitter but this move to the UFC may have revitalized the former Carlson Gracie protégé. That estimation will be put to the test in this event as he takes on scrappy veteran Antonio Banuelos.
Filling out the main card is a matchup between tough Nebraskan Wrestler Jake Ellenberger taking on undefeated Brazilian prospect Carlos Eduardo Rocha, who makes his octagon return after submitting former TUF cast member Kris McCay in his UFC debut.