Among all the action that went down on March 5, 2012, the performance of Middleweight Alan Belcher at UFC On FOX 3 astonished everybody as he beat the odds and bested his dangerous opponent in his own area of expertise. At this event Belcher was matched up against dangerous Brazilian leg-lock specialist and ADCC 2011 Silver medalist Rousimar Palhares, an opponent that other competitors were avoiding because of his unavoidable submission game. Willingly stepping in to take on the dangerous BJJ black belt it was no surprise when Belcher came in as the heavy underdog as a striker who prefers to keep the fight standing rather than engage his opponents on the ground. What made present spectators rise from their seats in the IZOD Center was that Belcher willingly stayed on the ground and battled Palhares after being taken down while he was attempting his signature heel-hook submission repeatedly. After a most intense display of submission grappling and submission defense, Belcher escaped the leg-lock position and ended up in Palhares’ guard where he chose to stay and landed powerful strikes that forced the stoppage at 4:18 of the first round, a round I believe contends for “round of the year” thus far in 2012. With this one victory Belcher has proven he is truly a well rounded fighter with a ground game that can take on one of the best submission grapplers in the division, he has earned a victory over an elite ranked contender, and has made one of the biggest career comebacks in MMA.
What makes this one of the biggest career comebacks in the sport? Well how about the fact that Belcher was considered never to be able to compete again not so long ago. While preparing for a main event bout on a Fight Night card in September of 2010 against 1x title challenger Demian Maia, Belcher suffered an eye injury that caused serious damage and required emergency surgery. With this injury hindering his training and possibly being permanent, Belcher sat out of action for more than a year and had to watch as the Middleweight field continued on without him. After allowing plenty of recovery time and finally able to get back into training, he returned to competition sixteen months since his last bout in May 2010 when he took on submission specialist Jason MacDonald in September 2011. Having remained out of action and training for some time, Belcher appeared as if he had improved as he put on a perfect performance as he went to the ground with MacDonald and literally beat him into submission as he tapped out to strikes at 3:48 in the first round. Making a comeback from a career threatening injury Belcher immediately began targeting the big names as his win over MacDonald also put him on a three fight win streak that included a Rnd1 TKO over Wilson Gouveia and a Rnd2 Submission over 1x title challenger Patrick Cote. Calling out big names in the division with Michael Bisping among the list, Belcher stepped up for a chance in the spotlight as he accepted a match-up with Palhares that would be televised on FOX for all to see. Now with this win over Palhares, Belcher has a combined four fight win streak with all four victories coming by way of stoppage. With a record of 9-4 in the octagon, only one of his victories has gone to a decision in what was an entertaining back and forth exchange that could have gone either way. Now defeating a contender that some analysts considered possibly superior to champion Anderson Silva on the ground, Belcher has a list of elite competitors in his path to the title with even one victory over any of them possibly accelerating him to his goal.
What makes any potential matchmaking up in the air at this time however is the fact that every contender among the top 10 rankings are currently scheduled to compete within the coming months. Those upcoming match-ups include the long awaited rematch between former Light Heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort and former PrideFC Middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva (UFC 147 in June), undefeated wrestler Chris Weidman taking on heavy hitting wrestler Mark Munoz (UFC On FUEL TV 4 in June), TUF3 winner Michael Bisping taking on heavy hitting grappler Tim Boetsch (UFC 149 in July), and former WEC Light Heavyweight champion Brian Stann taking on now former BellatorFC Middleweight champion Hector Lombard (UFC On FOX 4 in August). These bouts listed don’t even include the long awaited rematch for the division title when longtime champion Anderson Silva faces his biggest rival Chael Sonnen (UFC 148 in July). Immediately following the victory over Palhares, fans and analysts went into matchmaking mode already plotting match-ups with a consensus agreeing that the winner of Stann vs Lombard would be a level opponent. That bout is currently agreed upon to take place on August 4 as part of the upcoming UFC On FOX 4 card. In that bout Lombard will make his long awaited debut in the octagon while Stann will be his welcoming party to the elite world class roster of the UFC. Debates are already underway on who would win between Lombard and Stann, with arguments that include questioning if Lombard is even a legitimate contender having never earned a victory inside the octagon. One match-up that especially intrigues fans is with Stann, especially seeing that he matches Belcher in size and strength as well as utilizing a kickboxing style that could make the match-up an interesting exchange in the stand-up. However, should Lombard earn a victory over Stann, he is considered by UFC President Dana White to possibly earn an immediate title shot or be one fight away, which could open the opportunity for Belcher to step up yet again to face a dangerous opponent now for a shot at the title.
Against other opponents listed, Belcher could without a doubt make out to be a tough opponent for all. From Belfort vs Silva, Belfort is widely known to possess some of the fastest hands in the sport and has a dangerous BJJ game that is rarely seen but was proven to be a threat in his previous outing, and Wanderlei Silva while a heavy underdog against Belfort is a wildly aggressive striker that can cause problems for many fighters and also has a dangerous BJJ game. From Weidman vs Munoz, Weidman is a wrestler and submission grappler with a stand-up game while still developing is nothing to look past, and Munoz is an elite wrestler as well who packs a lot of power in his punches that can floor many opponents with one shot. From Bisping vs Boetsch, Bisping was a regional kickboxing champion in the UK before getting into MMA and has a grappling game that is also unseen except for his strong counter-grappling game that can keep a fight standing, and Boetsch is a powerful heavy hitter with a grappling game that can dominate opponents on the ground. With a kickboxing game of his own that can either knockout his opponents or send them crumbling to the ground, and a grappling game that is now proven against one of the elite BJJ aces in the division, Belcher has proven that he is worthy of being matched against some of the division’s elite and be considered a legitimate Middleweight contender.
Written by @mmafanhq