By Adam Martin
This weekend at UFC Fight Night 106, former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Vitor Belfort returns to the Octagon when he takes on emerging middleweight contender Kelvin Gastelum in the five-round main event in Fortaleza, Brazil. On the surface, it’s a fight between one fighter coming off of two straight wins and one fighter coming off of two straight losses, so in that respect it doesn’t make much sense. But if you look closer at the matchup it makes sense, and in a year when the UFC has made some very questionable matchmaking decisions so far, Belfort vs. Gastelum is smart matchmaking.
With Belfort, he’s 39 years old and clearly on the last legs of his Hall-of-Fame career. After all, he’s been knocked out in three of his last four fights, and the only man he’s beaten in the last three years is recently-retired Dan Henderson. It’s pretty fair to say that Belfort is nearly done at this point, but due to his popularity in Brazil, the UFC can still market him as a main event fighter despite his recent record. So even though his last two fights have resulted in him being knocked out, it’s still smart to headline a show with him in his native country of Brazil, because if he somehow does manage to pull off the win, then the UFC could be looking at a mega-fight rematch between Belfort and Anderson Silva in Brazil.
I’ve been very critical of the UFC’s matchmaking so far in 2017, and a fight like Cub Swanson vs. Artem Lobov that don’t make sense on any planet is an example of the shoddy matchmaking that I’m referring to. But a fight like Gastelum vs. Belfort is a fight that makes a whole lot of sense, and the UFC should get credit for booking this one. Now let’s just hope it’s not a snoozer like UFC 209’s Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson turned out to be.