If it wasn’t for Jon Jones refusing to fight Chael Sonnen and the resulting cancellation of UFC 151, then this weekend’s UFC 152 card in Toronto, Canada, would not be getting the attention it deserves. Sonnen was keen to take the place of the injured Dan Henderson across the ring from Jones and even now is waiting in the wings should Belfort be forced to pull out.
Jon Jones now takes on Vitor Belfort this Saturday night instead. Of course any event which includes the light-heavyweight champion is going to be considerably more successful, from a financial point of view. However his fight with the Phenom is far from the sole reason to stay up in to the wee hours on Sunday morning.
Arguably a more significant fight is that between Demetrius Johnson and Joseph Benavidez. The winner of this clash will be crowned as the inaugural UFC Lightweight champion, adding another layer to the expanding talent pool at Dana White’s finger tips.
Michael Bisping v Brian Stann
Michael “The Count” Bisping may not be the most popular fighter within the ranks of the UFC but has proven himself capable of mixing it with the best. However despite a commendable record of 12-4 in the UFC the British fighter has still yet to land himself a title shot in either of the divisions he has competed in.
Bisping came close in his title eliminator against Chael Sonnen last time out, which he arguably should have won on points. That performance earned him some brownie points with Dana White but even a win over Brian Stann tonight is unlikely to get him in date in the octagon with the middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Bisping has fought at a higher level than his opponent Brian Stann over a longer period. Both men have faced Chael Sonnen in recent bouts with Bisping losing a narrow 5 round decision whilst Stann was submitted in the second round. There’s only so much that can be taken from fights against the same opponents but Bisping’s big fight experience could be telling and is certainly a factor in him being the 8/15 favourite.
Since his knockout loss to Dan Henderson, Bisping has been more considered in his approach during fights so we may not see a rock’em sock’em stand-up brawl.
Both men have the ability to finish the fight early but if Bisping fights tactically then he could grind out a points victory at evens.
Demetrius Johnson v Joseph Benavidez
This fight will decide who will become the first ever UFC featherweight champion and would have been the main event but for the late addition of Jones versus Belfort.
However losing top billing may be a blessing in disguise as more fans are likely to pay for a card which contains the enigmatic Jones. Some fans may not be expecting much from this fight. They’re going to be in for a very pleasant surprise.
Both of these fighters have been plying their trade in the heavier bantamweight division and were it not for Dominick Cruz both men could have held world titles by now.
At their more natural weight we should see the best of both men. Johnson is likely to be the quicker fighter and his constant movement will make it difficult for Benavidez to land. However if he does land he has the power to put Johnson to sleep. As he displayed in his last win over Yasuhiro Urushitani. Benavidez to win by KO is 7/1.
Neither man has ever been stopped before and being a five round fight they’re more likely to pace themselves, which could result in a slightly more cagey affair than a three round fight would provide. Over 4.5 rounds is 7/5.
Benavidez is the favourite for this fight at 4/11 and if he gets his timing right with his strikes then he should have a little too much power and guile for Johnson.
Jon Jones v Vitor Belfort
Any fight with Jon Jones in it is a super-fight these days. Even if it’s not quite the fight everyone was expecting or even wanted.
Vitor Belfort is a former champion who has been in against the top names in the division over the past decade and a half. Nicknamed the Phenom, the Brazilian has lightening quick hands and when he’s on form he can be explosive. If that Vitor shows up tonight then Jones could be in for a shock Belfort to win by a KO is 11/2. He’s 18/1 to win by submission and 19/1 to win on points, which says a lot about what kind of chance the odds compilers give him. A puncher’s chance and little more.
Belfort has put in some poor performances over the years and if he starts this fight too slowly then he may not make it out of the first round. Jones to win in the first round is 13/5. That being said, the Brazilian has lost just once in his last eight fights and that was against Anderson Silva. Which doesn’t really count because, well, it’s Anderson Silva.
Jon Jones has often been spoken of in the same breath as the long-reigning middleweight champion Silva but the 22-year old American still has a lot to prove before he deserves such comparisons. There is reason to believe that his recent personal issues and the furore over his refusal to face Chael Sonnen could have effected his build-up to this fight. If Jones isn’t fully focused then Belfort could well catch him cold and cause an upset at 5/1.
There’s no proof that this will be the case and going on recent performances Jones is justifiably a big odds-on favourite at 1/8. What we should see is Jones sizing up Belfort in the first round, avoiding the Brazilians flurries, before settling in to his rhythm in round two. The challenger isn’t known for his stamina so he’s likely to try and finish the fight early.
A shock is certainly on the cards but if things go to plan for the champion then Jones to win in round 2 at 10/3 or in round 3 at 4/1 won’t be too far from the mark.