Michael Bisping’s UFC title dream was sent crashing to the canvas by one supremely timed Vitor Belfort head kick as the Brit was stopped in the UFC on FX 7 main event on Saturday.
Belfort served warning of the fight-ending blow when he caught Clitheroe’s Bisping late in round one, but there would only be one let-off for England’s figurehead star as the Phenom ended things at 1.27 of the second round.
With Bisping looking to jab, weave and plot his way past one of the sport’s most legendary knockout exponents, he never truly managed to apply any pressure as Belfort pounced for the finish, forcing a quick stoppage from referee Dan Miragliotta.
Saturday was all about Bisping, who was guaranteed to book a middleweight title shot at Anderson Silva with victory.
The same scenario is unlikely to now play out for Belfort – due to his previous loss to the champion.
Bisping has been in ‘final hurdle’ territory before, losing to Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen with Silva waiting behind the next door.
He started confidently enough, however, the Brazilian found his range midway through round one and rocked Bisping with a high kick to signal his intent.
Standing with leg and left hand on the trigger in round two, Belfort swaggered around the Octagon as Bisping began to work his jab once more, eating a body kick as Belfort set up the fight-ending blow. The next time he threw his left leg, it was to the temple of Bisping, who collapsed to the canvas to suffer several follow-up blows as Miragliotta stepped in.
Bisping admitted: “I was confident but he was the better man than me.”