Commentary

Silva-Belfort: Who the pros are picking

Updated: February 4, 2011, 10:48 AM ET
By Mike Sloan | Sherdog.com

Super Saturday has often served as the staging ground for significant fights between high-profile UFC stars. UFC 126 "Silva versus Belfort" falls in line Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, as light heavyweight showdowns pairing Rich Franklin with Forrest Griffin and Jon Jones with Ryan Bader serve as the appetizers.

In the main event, two of the most dangerous and dynamic strikers in MMA history will vie for the UFC middleweight crown, as defending champion Anderson Silva puts his title on the line against Vitor Belfort.

Sherdog.com recently caught up with dozens of professional trainers and fighters to gauge their opinions on the long-awaited duel:

Tom Vaughn: Belfort has all the right tools but doesn't seem convincing against top competition. There will probably be a cautious feeling-out process out of mutual respect that should work in Silva's favor. Silva is great at dissecting an opponent over the duration of a fight. For that reason, Belfort should get on Silva from the start and hope he can land something big with his lightning-quick hands early in the fight. Don't think so; Silva by TKO in Round 3.

Jason Lambert: Hard to pick; very interesting matchup. Pick 'em.

Robin Black: This is either going to be a mind-blowingly exciting three minutes or a painfully excruciating 25 minutes. Let's hope for the former and a new champion.

Neil Melanson: Vitor is going to win.

Josh Thomson: Anderson by TKO in the second or third round.

Patrick Cote: I'll go with Belfort. I think he will be too fast for Silva, and he's a southpaw, like [Chael] Sonnen. Vitor will put a lot of pressure and catch him with a big left cross.

Nam Phan: I say Anderson Silva [wins].

Keith Berry: Wow, this is an explosive fight. I've trained a bit with both of these guys, and I have to say I think Vitor will pull off the upset. I think it's crazy to think he's almost a 3-1 underdog, but I'm going to say Vitor by third-round TKO.

Kit Cope: The "fastest hands Vitor" thing is overhyped. Anderson is too slick and doesn't move in straight lines. I'm callin' this one Silva with style. Do a little dance, make a little love and choke Vitor unconscious.

Travis Lutter: If this fight happened before the last fight [with Sonnen], I would have picked Anderson for sure, but that fight throws doubts. With that being said, I am taking Anderson in this one, but I'm not as sure as I was.

Mike Easton: Vitor, I think, is going to win.

Ray Elbe: Belfort by submission. Long live Carlson Gracie.

Gabe Ruediger: I'm going with Ruediger by finish in the first. Oh, you meant the actual main event -- Anderson by submission or TKO in the third round.

Benji Radach: I pick Belfort by TKO or KO in the first few rounds. Otherwise, I see Anderson turning it up in the later rounds for a decision win.

Stephane Vigneault: I [hope] Belfort wins because Belfort was my first idol and pretty much was the first idol of everybody after his debut in the UFC. But, realistically, if Belfort [does] not KO Silva in Round 1, Silva will win in Round 3 [by] submission or TKO. But I will scream "Let's go Vitor!"

Bill Mesi: Vitor looks for that opening to pounce and straight blast your face into Row 6, but I think he could be looking for his opening for quite some time. Anderson will melt him from the outside and try to engage as little as possible and grind out his trademark "Who cares anymore?" kind of decision.

Mike Ciesnolevicz: I would love to see Belfort win the title and shake up the division. Common sense tells me that Anderson is probably too much for him. Belfort always has a chance with a flurry of punches early in the fight, but I believe Anderson is the more well-rounded striker and will frustrate Belfort with kicks and footwork as the fight progresses. I think Belfort might hit some takedowns, but the BJJ will likely cancel each other out. Hmm … on second thought, Belfort by KO. Chael Sonnen landed some heavy shots on Anderson, so I think Belfort can do the same. New 185-pound champ.

Jason Dent: I'm a huge fan of both these guys. I'll be happy regardless of the outcome. However, I have been a fan of Vitor like forever and a day, so I'm pulling for him. Anderson is awesome, so if Vitor doesn't show up with his A-game, he's in trouble. I think Vitor has the hand speed to catch Anderson and possibly KO him, and I also think Vitor's takedowns are good enough to get Silva to the ground, as well. Vitor by TKO in Round 2 is my prediction. Can't wait for this fight. I love this matchup.

Cung Le: Silva by decision.

Rashad Evans: Victory by everybody. Good job, boys. I'm very proud of everyone.

Jonathan Goulet: Even if I really like Vitor, I hope Silva will win so we will be closer to see a fight against [Georges St. Pierre] and him. So let's say third round, Anderson by TKO.

Kultar Gill: I've always been a Belfort fan since he burst on the scene in the early UFCs. I don't see this fight going to the ground, so I have go with Anderson due to his reach and Muay Thai experience. Anderson by decision.

Bobby Southworth: This is a great matchup of two of the most gifted strikers to ever grace the Octagon. However, both fighters have exhibited the same weakness, and it doesn't lie in the area of conditioning or technical proficiency. It's the arena of the mind, which is 90 percent of the fight game. It's all about which fighter shows up mentally prepared for battle. If one doesn't, the fight will obviously play out in favor of his opponent. If both fighters show up, we'll be in for a treat. Both fighters are great strikers, with different styles but equal boxing ability. Anderson has the edge with Muay Thai. He can slow Vitor down with leg kicks, and when that happens he'll have the edge in speed. His reach and funky angles will come into play, and he can stop Vitor with strikes. For Vitor, I think this fight favors him if he takes it to the ground. His BJJ pedigree far surpasses Anderson's, and his wrestling is superior, as well. If he can get it to the ground, he can ground-and-pound or submit Anderson. Too tough to call.

Duke Roufus: Vitor has the best chance of winning the fight early, and Anderson does better as the fight goes on. It is going to be one of the best middleweight title fights of all time.

Ron Foster: On paper, this is one of the best fights in a long time. Both fighters are great strikers and BJJ black belts. The truth of the matter is this: Vitor Belfort is good boxer and Anderson Silva is a great MMA striker. I see Anderson easily avoiding the quick hands of Belfort by using a variety angles and low kicks, never allowing Belfort to set his feet long enough to throw any big shots. Anderson will either stay all the way inside, where he will punish Vitor in the Thai clinch, or all the way on the outside, where Silva will use his long reach advantage as well as kicks to keep Belfort at bay. I see this fight going like this: It starts off very slow-paced, with both fighters feeling each other out and Silva testing the distance with a few jabs and kicks. As the pace begins to pick up, Belfort is getting hit more and more and has no answers to "The Spider" Silva riddle. I see Vitor getting frustrated and going in for a desperation takedown and getting subbed late second or early third round. Let's be honest here, guys. Vitor Belfort is a great fighter, but styles make fights, and this is probably the worst possible matchup for him -- a much better striker with better cardio who is much better on the ground. Vitor Belfort has no more than a puncher's chance in this fight, and Silva will retain his title. Silva via sub or TKO, late second, early third.

Stav Economou: Such an interesting fight, but I just feel that Vitor has been inactive for too long, and the longer this fight goes, the better it will be for Anderson. If it goes past Round 2, then Silva will take it via TKO.

John Hackleman: I think this is an extremely interesting matchup of not only phenomenal talent and explosive knockout power but also incredible psyches. Depending on which psyche or straight left hand prevails, that will determine the winner. I think Anderson and Vitor, as talented as they are, their biggest foes thus far have been themselves. With their unlimited potential and knockout power, I think this fight will end in the first round with whoever lands the first straight left hand. So whoever lands that first left hand and whoever comes with his A-game is going to win.

Juanito Ibarra: I think Belfort has a shot, though not too many people are giving him a shot. He has the talent, and he has the ability. Silva, to me, is the best fighter in MMA right now pound-for-pound. He's an unbelievable athlete. Vitor does have the talent and the experience. My prediction is that he has to put the five D's together: dedication, desire, discipline, drive and determination. He has to keep that attitude, and he definitely has the ability. The three I's he must have: He must be intense, have integrity and intelligence. He has to concede in his mind and he has to truly believe in his heart that he can beat Anderson, and then he'll achieve it. I think everything has to go just like that for Vitor to win the fight. That's why I give him that shot, because he has all that. Now, will he do it? We'll see. I think it's going to be a fantastic fight. But again, you're going to see two of the best athletes in the world compete against each other -- experience against the best in the world. Vitor has to apply everything I spoke about in order to beat Silva.

Tom Gavrilos: The only way I see this fight going Vitor's way is if Anderson does not keep distance and focuses more on hands than kicks. I believe Anderson can be caught and put away in devastating fashion if he stays in the pocket with Vitor. I'm gonna take a chance and say Vitor by KO, Round 2.

Blake Bowman: We have the UFC doing their semi-traditional mega-badass card on Super Bore weekend. Topping it off are the fastest hands in MMA legends versus the most dynamic and overlooked standing striking defense in MMA. Two BJJ black belts who don't like to go to the ground. I'm picking Vitor by transformation to the olden days -- just because.

Pros who picked Silva: 12
Pros who picked Belfort: 9
Pros who could not decide: 10

Mike Sloan is a contributor to Sherdog.com. You can also contact Mike Sloan at www.facebook.com/mikesloan19.