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What to do about Vitor Belfort?
That made it four straight victories in scheduled middleweight fights (one, against Anthony Johnson, became a catchweight after Johnson missed weight) since Belfort lost to champion Anderson Silva via knockout at UFC 126.
Is that enough to make Belfort, whose success has been controversial due to his use of testosterone replacement therapy to go along with a prior steroid suspension, the top contender to Silva's UFC title? According to the latest SBNation poll, the answer is yes, by a whisker.
Belfort finished with 51 points in this month's poll after defeating Rockhold, whose only career win over a Top 10 middleweight was against current No. 8 Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. Chris Weidman, who challenges Silva for the title in the main event of UFC 162 in Las Vegas on July 6, dropped a spot to No. 3 with 49.
The breakdown: Belfort had an even split of three second-place votes and three thirds. Weidman also had three seconds, to go with two thirds and one fifth-place vote, which made the difference.
This month's middleweight poll featured the same 10 fighters as the last time we ranked the 185 pounders, but the deck was shuffled a bit. Rockhold's loss dropped him a spot from six to seven, which bumped Costa Philippou up to six. And Souza is up two places to eight after his impressive UFC debut, which dropped Mark Munoz (9) and Tim Boetsch (10) down a spot apiece.
(Scoring: Fighters are given 10 points for a first-place vote, nine points for a second, etc., down to one point for 10th place. The results are then tallied up and presented here. Official SB Nation rankings policy: Fighters under commission suspension are ineligible to be ranked during the duration of their suspension or if they have licensing issues. This does not affect any middleweight fighters under consideration at the moment).
1. Anderson Silva (33-4, 60 points): Among the records Silva looks to extend when he meets Weidman at UFC 162 is his company win streak (16 straight) and most succesful title defenses (10).
2. Vitor Belfort (23-10, 51 points): Will be interesting to see what happens should Silva defeat Weidman. Will Silva be interested in a rematch with another TRT user (after also defeating Sonnen last year?) Or would this be the impetus for Silva to take another title shot with Jones.
3. Chris Weidman (9-0, 49 points): Weidman has been out of action nearly a year and suffered a shoulder injury in the interim. That's a tall order against a fighter like Silva.
6. Costa Phillippou (12-2, 1 NC, 24 points): No word on a next fight for Phillippou, who is on a five-fight win streak, but had to pull out of his planned fight with "Jacare" due to an eye injury.
7. Luke Rockhold (11-2, 23 points): The former Strikeforce champ became the latest contender to become "TRT'd" out of UFC title contention.
9. Mark Munoz (12-3, 15 points): A year ago, it would have been hard to imagine that a Munoz-Boetsch fight would be one to determine who stay relevant at middleweight. But that's the case when they square off at UFC 162 in Munoz's first fight in a year.
10. Tim Boetsch (15-6, 8 points): Has slowly slid down rankings since his loss to Costa Phillipou. A loss to Munoz would make Boetsch's four-fight win streak a distant memory.
Matt Serra always thought he'd come back, if only for one last adrenaline rush, one last moment of glory. But now, at the age of 38, health complications have caused the owner of the greatest upset in UFC history to call it quits.
"It's hard to say it," Serra told Newsday. "It's like you can't say it, even though it probably is true. I would love to put closure on my career with one last fight at the Garden, but at the same time, if that doesn't happen, I definitely consider myself done. It's hard to say the 'R word.' I might never say the 'R word.'
"I really think I'm walking away. I'm going to be 39, I just had my rib taken out. I'm having my third kid. My schools are doing well. What am I doing, looking for another pay day? It's not really for that. I mean, it doesn't stink, but it's not really for that. Am I still trying to hold on for the glory? Glory is a drug, dude. I'm telling you, that's the problem. It really is. I know why guys can't walk away. I absolutely get it."
The rib Serra is referring to is the first rib on his left side, which doctors removed last month after two blood clots in Serra's arm and another in his lungs nearly killed him, if not for a lucky 2 a.m. hospital visit.
"I got freaked out," said Serra. "You don't catch that [and] after the lung, that stops your heart or your brain. Then you're done. I'm very fortunate to, basically, be here. Sounds kind of morbid. If I didn't catch that -- I was about to go to bed. I'm like, man, something's not feeling right."
Serra must now inject the anticoagulant Lovenox into his stomach every day to curb the damage, and he'll continue doing so for the next three months. The surgery to remove his rib, however, was a bit more gruesome.
"They had to cut me open through my armpit and cut through whatever they had to cut through and get my rib out," said Serra. "It's definitely strange and I'm feeling it in there."
Serra retires with a mixed martial arts record of 17-7. He racked up a 7-7 record in the UFC, culminating in a stunning first-round TKO victory over Georges St-Pierre to seize the UFC welterweight strap, after earning an automatic title shot via TUF 4, The Ultimate Fighter's lone comeback season.
"I know I can be beat by some of these guys, but I know I can still knock some of these guys out and be a threat on the ground," Serra said. "But at the same time, it used to be that the thing that made me happiest was the next fight. Now, I whistle to work going to my schools. I love hanging out with my kids, my family. That's something you never really anticipate or understand it until you have a family.
"An aging fighter?" finished Serra. "You know, it's like an aging stripper, but not as funny. Not a lot of people want to see that."
5 MUST-READ STORIES
Overeem vs. Browne. A heavyweight bout pitting former DREAM/Strikeforce/K-1 champion Alistair Overeem against Travis Browne has been scheduled for UFC on FOX Sports 1 at the TD Garden in Boston, MA on August 17, 2013.
Bellator's British invasion. A trio of English prospects inked long-term promotional agreements with Bellator MMA. UFC veteran Paul Sass, knockout artist Rob Sinclair, and TUF 9 alum Martin Stapleton are all expected to make their promotional debut this fall.
Volkmann out to 'expose' UFC. In an interview with Above and Beyond MMA, former UFC lightweight Jacob Volkmann claimed the UFC treats 95-percent of its fighters poorly, and ripped into the UFC's wage scale and healthcare plan.
Lowe files lawsuit over penis gel. Something pretty terrible happened to former UFC fighter Waylon Lowe. Just read this.
Cain Velasquez may have been the least impressed person in the arena when 'Bigfoot' Silva unleashed the fury.
Power vs. Power. Get excited, folks.
Check out the slickest 11-second jiu-jitsu escape you'll see all day.
Okay, this one surprised me. Just wait for it.
Dang, Dana doesn't hold back.
END OF THE TERROR
Thanks for the get well wishes & complements! The fans have always been great to me just like the @ufc has! Appreciate it!!! All my best!!!— Matt Serra (@MattSerraUFC) May 22, 2013
HARSH WORDS FOR PATINO
So its been 11 days n I havent heard if Jorge has accept the rematch. So I will continue fighting once he Grow some he knows where 2 find me— Efrain Escudero (@effyescudero) May 22, 2013
Hearing some talk about my fight with Belfort being a fix. No amount of money would make me even consider taking a fall. I got caught I lost— Luke Rockhold (@LukeRockhold) May 22, 2013
@bradtavares social media is out of hand— Luke Rockhold (@LukeRockhold) May 23, 2013
Josh Barnett (@JoshLBarnett) May 22, 2013
@migueltorresmma The cage will overflow with blood and gore...which we will use to make a delicious menudo mi amigo.— Josh Barnett (@JoshLBarnett) May 22, 2013
Announced yesterday (Wednesday, May 22, 2013):
- UFC on FOX Sports 1: Alistair Overeem (36-12) vs. Travis Browne (14-1-1)
FANPOST OF THE DAY
Today's Fanpost of the Day sees Florence Romeo return with: Mark Hunt; and, a UFC Dream
"E toa e le loto, a e pa le noo. (Strong in heart, but broken in the back. Of a man whose will is stronger than his body.) - A Samoan proverb
Mark Hunt will fight Junior Dos Santos in a title eliminator at UFC 160 in Las Vegas, Saturday.
Let me repeat, Mark Hunt will vie for a chance at a heavyweight title fight, Saturday.
That's right, the Mark Hunt.
The one who in 2010 boasted a record of five wins and seven losses. The fighter who in September of that same year lost to Sean McCorkle, a veritable no-name, extending his losing streak to six. A man who was one of the only mixed martial artists who was asked by UFC officials to accept a sum of money instead of a contract.
Everyone had all but given up on the "Super Samoan."
But, then came a walk-off knockout win over Chris Tuchscherer at UFC 127 and a unanimous decision victory over Ben Rothwell at UFC 135.
Fans and critics reveled in the flash of Hunt's former striking ability, but largely believed his career was still on the decline.
And, then Hunt knocked out Cheick Kongo.
The MMA community seemed torn between lauding his efforts and scratching their heads. It wasn't so much the finishing punch Hunt delivered to Kongo at UFC 144, it was the manner in which he fought. Hunt appeared to have drastically honed his head and foot movement at the age of 38.
Was there was something left in the former K-1 Grand Prix champion? Or were the MMA gods giving the world one last show?
Those questions seemed to be answered at UFC on Fuel TV 8, when Hunt knocked out Stefan Struve with a left hook in the third round.
The winning streak, now at four, took on mythical qualities.
Fans and critics, alike, begged Dana White and the UFC for him to get a title shot. Videos were made. Articles were published. A hashtag (#rallyformarkhunt) was born.
So here we are, days away from the biggest fight in Hunt's career, and it only seems right for the MMA gods to pull off yet another miracle. Another shock. Another knockout. The MMA community wants it and, above all, Hunt deserves it.
But perhaps Hunt won't conjure the spirits of MMA. Maybe he won't need them. Maybe he can win on his own.
Because, in essence, there is no such thing as MMA gods. There never was.
There is just a man with a dream and an undying will to live it.
Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me on Twitter @shaunalshatti and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.
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Saturday night's final UFC main card on FX did right at the viewership average for that type of show.
UFC on FX 8, from Santa Catarina, Brazil, headlined by Vitor Belfort's first-round TKO of former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, averaged 1.3 million viewers for the two-hour prime time broadcast. The number is identical to the average of the previous seven main cards in prime time on the network. If including the other three main cards on the station, all Ultimate Fighter finals, the average is still 1.3 million viewers.
Belfort headlined UFC on FX 7, on Jan. 19, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, in a fight with Michael Bisping that set the series record with 1.86 million viewers. The other live main cards on the station have ranged from just under 1 million viewers to 1.4 million.
With the move to Fox Sports 1 in August, FX has only five UFC broadcasts remaining, which are the prelims leading to four pay-per-views, the next being Saturday's UFC 160, and prelims for the July 27 show from Seattle on FOX.
The three hours of prelims on Fuel drew a 0.35 rating and 156,000 viewers. The previous prelims on Jan. 19 drew a 0.47 rating and 255,000 viewers. But Saturday's figure was up 18 percent from the 132,000 viewer Fuel prelims before FX shows had averaged over the past 17 months since UFC's contract with FOX went into effect.
UFC 160 videos are your home for pre-fight and post-fight interviews, highlights, Dana White vlogs and much more for the UFC 160 fight week. In the UFC 160 main event, Cain Velasquez will try to defend his UFC heavyweight title against Antonio Silva.
In Dana White's first vlog for UFc 160, it shows behind the scenes at UFC 159. Check out the video above to see Bryan Caraway and Pat Healy taking about submission of the night, Michael Bisping, Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones before their fights, and much more.
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However, it will not serve as the event's headlining bout, according to MMA Junkie who first reported the story. MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani has confirmed the booking.
UFC on FOX Sports 1's first event takes place at the TD Garden in Boston, Mass. on Aug. 17th. The event is part of the launch of the new sports channel, which goes live and operational that day.
Browne, 30, most recently competed for the UFC in April where he defeated Gabriel Gonzaga by first-round knockout at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada. While the win was controversial due to the location of some of Browne's elbows to the back of Gonzaga's head, and Gonzaga formally protested the result to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the win was not overturned. Browne is 5-1-1 in the UFC and 14-1-1 in professional MMA.
Overeem, 33, last competed at UFC 156 where he was upset in a stoppage loss by Antonio Silva in the third round of their February tussle. The Blackzillian is 1-1 overall in the UFC with his lone victory being a first-round TKO stoppage of former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar at UFC 141 in December of 2011. He is 36-12 with 1 no-contest in professional MMA.