<
>

UFC Fight Night predictions: Vitor Belfort-Dan Henderson

Legendary martial artists Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson collide for the third time overall this weekend. They'll fight in the main event of UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The matchup is even at 1-1, with each holding a convincing win over the other.

Henderson took Belfort the distance in their first fight in 2006. Belfort required only 77 seconds to knock out Henderson in the second fight in November 2013.

As always, I'm here to break down the main event and provide my picks for the entire UFC card. Don't agree with some of my predictions? Let me know on Twitter: @bokamotoESPN.


Main event

Vitor Belfort (24-11) vs. Dan Henderson (31-13)
Middleweight

Odds: Belfort -360; Henderson +300

Belfort's last fight, a submission loss to Chris Weidman at UFC 187 in May, lasted a mere three minutes. In other words, not a whole lot to break down.

That's worth noting, because that loss is the only fight Belfort has been in since testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT) was widely banned in early 2014. No three letters will end a conversation faster with an MMA fan than TRT. Everyone is sick of it and I'm sorry to bring it up here, but for the sake of breaking down this matchup, it's relevant. We still don't know, completely, what Belfort looks like off his treatment. That loss to Weidman doesn't prove much. Belfort looked good until he was taken down and then the fight ended very quickly.

If Belfort turns out to be an absolute shell of his former self now that he's (presumably) off TRT, that's obviously good for Hendo. If Belfort still resembles himself, then I see this fight being similar to the one two years ago, when Belfort knocked out Henderson in 77 seconds with a head kick.

That's because the challenges for Henderson in this matchup are still virtually the same as they were in 2013. His wrestling isn't a major threat anymore. His ability to throw opponents to the floor from the clinch or to pounce on a single leg have been weighed down with age. At this point in his career, he's exclusively relying on that H-Bomb right hand -- and landing it on a seasoned striker like Belfort is going to be very tough to do.

What's Henderson's favorite combination? If you've watched his career you know immediately. He throws that inside lead kick to his opponent's left leg and then immediately throws his weight into the overhand right. OK, here's the bad news. Belfort is a southpaw. Basically, Henderson's favorite technique is unavailable to him from jump street, because Belfort stands right-foot forward. Against a southpaw, Henderson tends to throw the low kick from his back leg, which takes longer to arrive and doesn't set up his right hand. Not a deal breaker, but it's significant.

And it will be on Henderson to engage. Belfort is a patient striker. Some opponents have used that against him in the past, but in a fight against Henderson it's a good quality to have. Henderson would love it if Belfort agreed to fight him in tight quarters. Gives him more opportunity to land that right hand. As long as Belfort stays on the outside, however, Henderson has to stalk him and cut off the cage, which he's not necessarily incapable of doing, but that plays into Belfort's speedy counter game. The last time they fought, Belfort knocked Henderson down in the very first exchange.

Prediction: Sort of plays like a heavyweight fight, in that if it doesn't end in the first round, things could start to look ugly. Henderson is legend among legends, but he's fairly predictable at this point and he's lost a step -- two things Belfort should be able to take advantage of. BELFORT KO, FIRST ROUND.