By Thomas Gerbasi
DALLAS, September 19 – Who said you can’t go home? Tonight, in his first UFC bout since 2005, former light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort showed a glimpse of the speed and finishing power that made him one of the most beloved fighters in mixed martial arts as he knocked out Rich Franklin in the first round of the UFC 103 main event Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
It was Belfort’s third straight knockout win, and first in the UFC since he halted Marvin Eastman at UFC 43 in 2003.
“I miss this I miss this vibe, and I’m here for a reason,” said Belfort. “I trained so hard and I’ve been away from my family or three months.”
The training showed, as his timing was on when the opening presented itself against the former middleweight champion. Initially, the two southpaws circled each other at close range, with both Franklin and Belfort throwing out the occasional range-finding punch or kick. After a tense few minutes, the two exchanged blows, with Belfort landing a left to the top of the head that took Franklin’s legs out from under him. Belfort, showing the quickness that first got him dubbed ‘The Phenom’ as a 19-year old in the UFC, pounced and scored with a left to the jaw that really rocked Franklin, with referee Yves Lavigne intervening to stop the fight at 3:02 of the opening round.
“Once you get clipped everything kinda goes blank,” said Franklin of the final sequence.
Tonight’s bout was held at a catchweight of 195 pounds. Belfort’s plan is to move back down to the middleweight division to pursue current 185-pound boss Anderson Silva.
“I’m here to work,” said Belfort, now 19-8. “Anderson is my friend and I like him as a fighter, but I’m here to fight anybody.”
Franklin, 27-5, 1 NC, who has lost two of his last three, will take some time to figure out his next move.
“Losing wasn’t part of my plan, so I’m going to let the dust settle and see what’s going on,” said Franklin.