Vitor Belfort will likely get another title shot. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Luke Rockhold will have to wait for his moment in the Ultimate Fighting Championship sun. Vitor Belfort’s left foot blotted it out.
Belfort knocked out the former Strikeforce middleweight champion with an exquisite spinning heel kick and follow-up punches on the ground in the UFC on FX 8 main event on Saturday at the Arena Jaragua in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil. The 36-year-old Brazilian drew the curtain on Rockhold 2:32 into round one, as he won for the ninth time in 11 appearances with an early frontrunner for “Knockout of the Year.”
Rockhold expected speed, power and precision from more traditional strikes, Belfort’s straight left chief among them. However, the kick, perfectly measured and accurately applied, came out of left field, and it did the job. Caught with his hands low, Rockhold absorbed the blow and fell to the canvas in a still-conscious state. He could not weather the swarm of punches Belfort levied against him next.
The win likely moves “The Phenom” back to the front of the line in terms of middleweight title contenders, with longstanding champion Anderson Silva -- the last man to defeat Belfort at 185 pounds -- set to defend his crown against the undefeated Chris Weidman at UFC 162 on July 6. Silva has held the championship since Oct. 14, 2006, defending it a record 10 times.
Rockhold, meanwhile, must patch up the damage and somehow revive the momentum that accompanied his arrival in the Octagon. The 28-year-old American Kickboxing Academy export saw his nine-fight winning streak grind to a halt, as he experienced defeat for the first time in more than five years. Still, Rockhold remains one of the sport’s most promising young middleweights and would seem a prime candidate to face the loser of the forthcoming Mark Munoz-Tim Boetsch matchup in July.
In the wake of UFC on FX 8 “Belfort vs. Rockhold,” here are five other matchups that ought to be made:
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Yushin Okami: Souza was nothing short of sensational in his promotional debut, as he choked the consciousness out of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 alum Chris Camozzi in the co-headliner. The 33-year-old former Strikeforce champion has finished his last four opponents, three of them inside one round, and could move fast within the UFC middleweight division. Okami last appeared at UFC on Fuel TV 8 in March, when he captured a split decision from onetime Bellator MMA titleholder Hector Lombard at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Only seven active UFC fighters have more wins inside the Octagon than Okami’s 13.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Donald Cerrone: Dos Anjos continues to hover on the periphery of the top 10 at 155 pounds. The 28-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt posted his fourth straight victory in a unanimous decision over Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts export Evan Dunham. Since losing his first two UFC bouts to Jeremy Stephens and Tyson Griffin, dos Anjos has quietly compiled an 8-2 mark and established himself as a player inside the promotion’s deepest division. Cerrone will return to the cage against former EliteXC champion K.J. Noons at UFC 160.
Iuri Alcantara vs. Eddie Wineland: Alcantara sliced through Iliarde Santos -- a natural flyweight who replaced Marcos Vinicius -- as he stopped his fellow Brazilian on punches in just over half a round. The potential withdrawal of injured interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao could leave Wineland without an opponent for UFC 161 on June 15. The rugged 28-year-old Duneland Vale Tudo representative secured his title shot with back-to-back wins over Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett.
Nik Lentz vs. Cub Swanson-Dennis Siver winner: Lentz has been nothing short of a revelation since downshifting from 155 pounds. The American Top Team product improved to 3-0 as a featherweight with a unanimous verdict over Nova Uniao’s Hacran Dias. Moreover, Lentz snapped the heralded Dias’ nine-fight winning streak as a short-notice replacement for “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 finalist Manny Gamburyan. All factors considered, his next call from UFC brass figures to pair him with a big-ticket player at 145 pounds. Swanson and Siver will meet in a high-stakes matchup at UFC 162 on July 6.
John Lineker vs. Jussier da Silva: Some project Lineker as a future title contender at 125 pounds, and the 23-year-old Brazilian did nothing to dispel those notions while dissecting Russian import Azamat Gashimov with a pair of vicious blows to the body -- one a kick, the other a punch. Lineker has won 15 of his last 16 fights, a guillotine choke submission loss to Team Tiger Schulmann’s Louis Gaudinot the lone hiccup. Once regarded as the world’s top flyweight, da Silva was impressive in his own right, as he put his prodigious grappling skills on display in a unanimous decision over the underappreciated Chris Cariaso.