By Jaime C. Feal
Tomorrow night on Pay-Per-View, the UFC puts on an event in Toronto headlined by a man who was supposed to fight at UFC 151. As fans and pundits alike are well aware, UFC 151 was completely scrapped due to Dan Henderson sustaining an injury and Jon Jones refusing to fight Chael Sonnen. Now Jones will finally defend his light heavyweight title against Vitor Belfort, who surprisingly was thrust into the spotlight after both Lyoto Machida and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua turned down a shot at Jones. Also on the card is the UFC flyweight title bout between Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson.
Middleweight Division (185 lbs.):
Brian “All-American” Stann (12-4, 6-3 UFC) vs. Michael “The Count” Bisping (22-4, 12-4 UFC)
Stann, a former American war hero, loves to stand and bang with his opponents. When Stann is allowed to engage in a striking match, his ferocious power and aggression usually turn the bout in his favor. As we saw when Stann fought Chael Sonnen, however, a top-tier wrestler is a nightmare matchup for Stann. Luckily for him, Bisping is a stand-up fighter himself, and an egotistical one at that. Always brash and cocky, Bisping has assumed his familiar bad guy role for this fight. “The Count” would be wise to attempt takedowns and use his wrestling against Stann, but the more likely scenario is a stand-up war.
Bisping likes to stick and move, often fighting to score points and win a decision. If he does in fact keep this fight standing, this stick-and-move strategy will be optimal. He will be circling away from Stann’s power, jabbing and picking him apart with superior footwork and hand speed. Stann always has a puncher’s chance, and if he connects with one good right or left hook it could be lights out for Bisping, as was the case when Dan Henderson landed his infamous “H-Bomb” right hand on Bisping at UFC 100, knocking him out cold. Expect Bisping to learn from that mistake and fight a cautious, tactical bout, ultimately earning a hard-fought decision.
Prediction: Michael “The Count” Bisping wins by unanimous decision.
UFC Flyweight Championship (125 lbs.):
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (15-2-1, 3-1-1 UFC) vs. Joseph Benavidez (16-2, 3-0 UFC)
Originally the scheduled main event for UFC 152, this Flyweight title bout now moves down to co-main event status with the addition of Jon Jones to the card. Still a very intriguing matchup, the fight is primarily Johnson’s speed against Benavidez’s size. “Mighty Mouse” is probably the quickest fighter in the UFC, and he uses this speed to hop around, darting in and out of range while landing combos. Benavidez, a natural bantamweight, moved down to flyweight so he could use his athleticism and strength against his opponents. So far it has worked. Benavidez scored a sensational KO in his flyweight debut, and his strong wrestling pedigree has served him well
Johnson is simply outclassed in terms of size, strength, and power. Johnson will not be able to take Benavidez down. “Mighty Mouse” must also be conscious of Benavidez’s shot – if he is not careful he will wind up on his back being beaten on for five rounds. If Johnson can successfully turn this into a striking battle, he could come out on top. Cardio shouldn’t be an issue for either fighter if the fight remains standing. This appears to be Johnson’s only path to victory, as he doesn’t have the power to finish Benavidez, nor the wrestling to grind him down.
Benavidez is the more complete fighter, and fights out of a wrestling-based camp in Team Alpha Male. That will serve him well as his corner will no doubt tell him to constantly look to grapple and take down Johnson. Expect a frenetic pace early, but Johnson will fade late as Benavidez wears him out with takedowns and ground and pound.
Prediction: Joseph Benavidez wins by unanimous decision.
UFC Light Heavyweight Championship (205 lbs.):
Jon “Bones” Jones (16-1, 10-1 UFC) vs. Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (21-9, 10-5 UFC)
The most skewed betting matchup in years, Jones comes in at an astounding 7:1 favorite. Jones, an enormous light heavyweight with the largest wingspan in UFC history, and the youngest champion in UFC history, deserves to be such a heavy favorite. Jones is facing a 35 year old Vitor Belfort, a career middleweight, who is far smaller and less skilled at this stage of his life. Jones is essentially an undefeated fighter, having only “lost” by a questionable DQ to Matt Hamill.
In tomorrow night’s main event, Bones Jones will come out as he always does, measuring the distance and using his crazy length/reach advantage. According to nearly every one who has analyzed this fight, Belfort has only one way to win: get inside with one of his lightning quick combos and touch Jones on the chin. Easier said than done.
Jones has a Greco-roman wrestling background and can probably take Belfort down whenever he wants. His size and strength should allow him to control all grappling battles, which will make him even more comfortable in the fight. Belfort’s best chance at success may be to literally bum rush Jones and throw caution to the wind, immediately trying to get inside the pocket and in range to throw bombs. The longer the fight goes the more Jones’ natural advantages will render Vitor’s chances useless, so Belfort must start fast and explosive. In the end, he doesn’t have nearly enough tools to compete with Jones, who will come out highly motivated and looking to silence his critics with an emphatic win.
Prediction: Jon “Bones” Jones wins by TKO, Round 2.