20 years ago: Carlson Gracie walks Vitor Belfort through an armbar in the UFC

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Belfort and Carlson. Marcelo Alonso

At just 20 years of age, Vitor Belfort was already making it clear that he would become one of the biggest MMA fighters in the world. Twenty years ago, on Dec. 21, 1997, Belfort showed the world that his jiu-jitsu was as refined as his boxing skills, and Grandmaster Carlson Gracie played a big part in his performance.

It was the UFC’s first-ever event in Japan, held in Yokohama. Right after losing a shot at a title fight as Randy Couture dealt him his first defeat, Belfort had a lot riding on this one.

Joe Charles, an American wrestler and judoka, was his adversary. Belfort did not throw a single punch in the fight. He closed the distance, took Charles down and got to work on his transitions.

An interesting detail of the tape, which you can check out below, is that Carlson Gracie was right next to the microphone. His precise instructions, and his constantly telling Belfort to only use jiu-jitsu, make it all that much more remarkable.

Four minutes into round one, Belfort sets the winning armbar. Now watch and listen to a couple of giants of the sport in action.

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