UFC Middleweight Contender Vitor Belfort (-140)
Profile: The legendary Vitor Belfort (22-10) first made waves in the MMA world when the sport was still in its infancy. Making his UFC debut as an 18-year old and winning the UFC 12 Heavyweight tournament in only his second career fight, Belfort took the fledgling sport by storm. His first loss was delivered to him by Hall of Famer Randy Couture at UFC 15, but he continued on undeterred. Twenty fights later, including stints with Pride, Cage Rage, Affliction and Strikeforce, the 35-year-old Brazilian has come full circle and calls the UFC home once again. Belfort’s return fight was a memorable first-round TKO of Rich Franklin at UFC 103, which led to him earning a title shot against middleweight champion Anderson Silva at UFC 126. Despite suffering a first-round knockout to Silva by front kick and punches, he has since strung together two quick wins with a first-round KO of Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 133 and a rear-naked choke submission victory against Anthony Johnson in front of a Brazilian crowd at UFC 142. He bounced back from a tough fourth-round submission loss to light heavyweight champ Jon “Bones” Jones at UFC 152 by scoring a second-round TKO of Michael Bisping on January 19th.
UFC Middleweight Contender Luke Rockhold (+100)
Profile: Luke Rockhold (10-1) is riding a nine-fight winning streak since losing to Tony Rubalcava by TKO during his second Melee on the Mountain event back in 2007. All nine wins have been in Strikeforce, including a first-round TKO of former UFC light heavyweight contender Keith Jardine. Eight of Rockhold’s ten bouts overall have been decided in the first round, as he has submitted six of his opponents and knocked out two. The 27-year-old Rockhold won the Strikeforce middleweight title with a five-round unanimous decision victory against Ronaldo Souza last September 10. He was originally expected to face Tim Kennedy last year, but a series of injuries kept him from competing for nearly 19 months. When Rockhold finally met Kennedy on July 14, he grinded out a unanimous decision victory to defend his title for the second time. Since Strikeforce folded back in January, he has anxiously awaited his opportunity to compete in the UFC and is now set to make his debut in the organization this May in Brazil against Belfort.
Opening UFC on FX 8 Odds Analysis: MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas made Belfort a small -140 favorite (bet $140 to win $100) while Rockhold opened as a +100 underdog (bet $100 to win $100) at 5Dimes sportsbook. This is obviously a big test for Rockhold, who not only has to fight a top middleweight contender but also do so in hostile territory. Belfort had the Brazilian crowd behind him against Bisping, and it turns out that was not the only advantage he possessed. It was later revealed that Belfort was granted a TRT exemption prior to the bout, and he responded by defending himself in saying “don’t fight me if you’re going to use this as an excuse.” Rockhold is not crazy about the situation, but he also said he will take more satisfaction from beating Belfort knowing that he tried to gain an edge. The problem is, what if Rockhold loses? Will he use it as an excuse like Bisping? Regardless of the TRT debate, Belfort is a far more accomplished fighter who has battled many tough opponents throughout his career. He is seven years older than Rockhold with more than twice as many wins. Not to take anything away from the former Strikeforce champ, but he has not really been tested by anyone like Belfort until now. This will be his chance to show he belongs among the Top 10 MMA middleweights, and a victory would prove he is for real.
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