x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Belfort is ready for Silva now

Four years after his last UFC appearance, Vitor Belfort, a 12-year veteran of professional mixed martial arts, became the middleweight division's No 1 contender with a first-round stoppage of Rich Franklin at UFC 103 on Saturday night.

Four years after his last UFC appearance, Vitor Belfort, a 12-year veteran of professional mixed martial arts, became the middleweight division's No 1 contender with a first-round stoppage of Rich Franklin at UFC 103 on Saturday night. Very little happened in the catchweight bout's first 120 seconds, but then Belfort exploded into life. The Brazilian, a black belt jiu jitsu specialist renowned for lightening hand speed and strong boxing skills, sent in a flurry of blows, as the former middleweight champion Franklin crashed to his knees.

Belfort reined down brutal punches on the stricken Franklin's head, and the main event contest was stopped. "I missed the UFC, the vibe - I'm here for a reason," said Belfort, 32. "The glory is to die and I trained hard. God gave me the gift of speed and power and I thank Rich for the opportunity." The catchweight was supposed to suit Franklin, who weighed in at 195lbs, one less than his conqueror. Class, however, not weight, defined the fight.

"Once I got clipped, it went blank," said Franklin. "Losing was not part of my plan; I need to let the dust settle and see what's going on." Belfort left the door open to a fight with Silva, saying: "Anderson's my friend, but I'm ready to fight anyone in the ring." In the co-main event, heavyweights Mirko Cro Cop and Junior Dos Santos went toe-to-toe. Ten years the elder, Cro Cop - a head-kick master - represented a stern test for Santos.

A bloody contest saw both fighters cut above the eye in round one. With a judges' decision looking inevitable, Santos, 25, caught Cro Cop with a knee to the face and the Croat pointed to his bloody left eye and the fight was stopped. emegson@thenational.ae