UFC 212: Belfort edges Marquardt, calls for “five more fights”

All the talk beforehand was of this being Vitor Belfort’s last fight, but, following a tight decision win over Nate Marquardt in front of his home fans at UFC 212, the controversial Brazilian revealed he’s looking for not one, not two but five more outings before finally calling it a day.

You didn’t think you’d get rid of him that easy, did you?

Certainly, based on the performance against Marquardt in Rio de Janeiro, Belfort, having lost four of his previous five fights, still has something to offer. How much, of course, is open to interpretation, and will be judged against one one’s expectations, but, in winning tonight (June 3), Belfort at least showed the body and mind are still working in unison and that he can get the better of fellow veterans in low-paced fights.

That’s precisely what this was: a veteran match fought at a pace that suited both. Belfort, 40, and Marquardt, 38, have both seen better days – that’s not up for debate – but remain effective in their kind of fight. This, by the way, was their kind of fight.

A Marquardt trip takedown and some shoulder barges aside, round one featured little in the way of action. It was all feinting and measuring and waiting. It was two men wary of the other’s power, and perhaps wary of their own vulnerabilities, doing all they could to stay out of harm’s way unless it was completely necessary to cross that bridge and put themselves at risk.

As the fight progressed, however, the need to make something happen increased and so did the quality of the action. Belfort found his range in round two and launched a left hand at Marquardt which unsettled him against the fence. He was also teeing up head-kicks, a shot he has put to good use in a number of high-profile fights.

Marquardt knew better than to just be a sitting duck for Belfort in Brazil, mind. It was why he constantly moved and why he blocked near enough every one of Belfort’s high kicks with a well-placed glove or forearm. Not content just to defend, Marquardt then cut the Brazilian to close out round two and produced some good work of his own with body shots.

Heading into round three, the fight seemed up for grabs. It also seemed likely, based on the previous two rounds, that Vitor Belfort was about to go to a decision for the first time in ten years; owing less to Marquardt’s durability or Belfort’s newfound patience and more to the fact that both men fought, for much of the contest, as though they were scheduled for five rounds, not three. They took their time. They paced themselves. They fought the way two men in and around the age of forty are supposed to fight.

Belfort, in fairness, finished the fight on top, landing some nice kicks and a right hook in the final two minutes, but it was hard to say whether it was enough to warrant a decision after three rounds. In truth, neither man made much of a statement, nor an impression on the other. It just wasn’t that kind of fight. It never got going.

In the end, though, Belfort didn’t care much about that. Scorecards of 29-28 across the board let it be known he was still in the game. Just about.

“I’ve got five more fights to go, guys,” Belfort, 26-13 (1 NC), revealed. “I was very excited. Firas (Zahabi) told me to calm down a little bit. I’m sorry, I wanted to get a knockout tonight. I was satisfied with my performance but I wanted the knockout.”

The older a fighter gets, the more apologies they tend to make. To themselves, to others. But for as long as Vitor Belfort can prevent himself becoming a sorry sight on fight night, it stands to reason he will keep on fighting and we will keep on watching.