UFC 152: Jones vs. Belfort Preview – A Card For Real Fans
My preview of UFC 152: Jones vs. Belfort, which is the first good UFC PPV card top to bottom since June.
Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort: I’d love to lie to you and tell you that this is an even fight and that if you count out Belfort then you’re an idiot, but I can’t. It’s no secret that Belfort hits hard and fast and if he connects clean on Jones then there’s a chance that Jones is put down and out. But the chances of that happening are very slim. In order for Belfort to land punches, he has to get past the length of Jones, which is something that much better fighters have had trouble doing. Jones may not use his jab as well as he should given his reach advantage, but he uses his kicks perfectly. If Jones wants to make things hard on himself, he’ll actually entertain Belfort on the feet and run the risk of getting caught, but if he wants to make things easy, he puts Belfort on his back and massacres him with elbows. It’s not as if Belfort as horrible takedown defense, but he’s much smaller and from the clinch, Jones can takedown anyone he faces. Plus we’ve seen Belfort wilt against the cage and in the clinch on more than one occasion. On the ground, Jones will have his way with Belfort. He’ll either pass to a better position or he’ll just brutalize him with elbows from guard. If Belfort tries to get to his feet, he runs the risk of getting caught in a choke. Once again, Belfort isn’t clueless on the ground, but Jones is just so dominating from the top position that it doesn’t matter who he faces, he can dominate them. If Belfort lands a big flurry, it won’t be as surprising as Matt Serra over Georges St. Pierre because at least we know Belfort has that kind of explosive power and he’s been in big fights before, but I’d say the odds of it happening are worse than St. Pierre vs. Serra because Jones is a more mature and complete fighter with more psychical tools than St. Pierre was at UFC 83. This fight might start slow with Jones feeling things out, but eventually Belfort will rush in or get too comfortable, and that’s when Jones will make him pay by clinching up, planting on him on the ground, and landing ground and pound until the ref stops the fight.
Prediction: Jones, TKO, Round 2
Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson: I like this fight and I think it’ll be a high paced affair between two well-rounded guys, but I can’t help but feel that Benavidez just does everything better than Johnson, which makes it hard for me to believe that Johnson is going to win this fight. Don’t get me wrong, Johnson is a good striker, a good wrestler, a good grappler, is good in the scrambles, mixes things up well, and is extremely quick, but Benavidez is just better. He’s the better striker who hits harder, he’s a better wrestler, grappler, and scrambler, he also mixes things up well, and if anyone can out-quick Johnson, it’s Benavidez. Johnson has never shown power in his hands, which is something Benavidez actually posses despite his size, and while he’s caught lesser fighters in submissions, you rarely see the Team Alpha Male guys end up in a bad position that they can’t work out of and make it look easy in the process. I expect Johnson to try and mix things up in order to keep Benavidez off balance, but that’s going to be easier said than done against someone with as good of takedown defense as Benavidez does. To Johnson’s credit, if Benavidez decides to go for a takedown, I think Johnson will be able to easily scramble back up to his feet, but he’ll have to protect his neck on the way up as Benavidez is known for having 1,000 different guillotine variations. I think Benavidez will likely keep this fight standing though as he’s the harder hitter, mixes things up better, and is just the more dynamic of the two. I fully expect this fight to go 25-minutes and be ultra-competitive for all five rounds, but in the end Benavidez will take a pretty clear decision.
Prediction: Benavidez, Decision
Brian Stann vs. Michael Bisping: This might be the fight I’m most looking forward to on the fight and not just because Stewart Lange and I broke this baby down battle rap style. I’m looking forward to this fight because it’s a title eliminator in the middleweight division and I really get a sense that we’ll see how good Bisping really is in this fight. Bisping usually thrives against mediocre fighters who can’t defend a takedown or can’t figure out his rather basic footwork, but Stann doesn’t fall into either category. His takedown defense might now be great and while Bisping has above average wrestling, I’m not sure it’ll be good enough to get Stann down. On the feet, Stann’s striking has some a long way since his days of just slugging it out and hoping for a knockout. He’s turned his slugging power into technical power and added extra pieces to his game, including some outstanding knees in the clinch. Bisping will likely implement his jab, jab-straight, and move game, but that might not be enough against Stann, especially given Bisping’s lack of power. Bisping would be best served to use his striking to set up his takedowns, but Stann seems pretty ready for that. Of course being ready and actually stopping it are two different things, but I think Stann will be able to fend off the majority of Bisping’s takedowns, especially considering that he’s not as strong or quick with his takedowns as someone like Chael Sonnen. I think Bisping will be forced to stand with Stann and eventually Stann will catch him clean, put him down, and finish him with a flurry of accurate punches.
Prediction: Stann, TKO, Round 2
Matt Hamill vs. Roger Hollett: THE HAMMER IS BACK! The only man to defeat Jon Jones is back on the warpath and it starts this weekend against Hollett. We already know what Hamill brings to the table at this point. He’s going to keep his hands low, throw a lot of stiff jabs, and maybe throw a right hand or head kick. It’s all really just to set up his takedown though, which is pretty good when he actually commits to his shot. Hollett is a decent striker and if Hamill decides to stand with him, he’ll probably eat his fair share of punches. I expect Hamill to shoot early and often though and more or less have his way with Hollett in the wrestling and grappling department. Maybe Hamill is able to force an anti-climatic stoppage, but I’m going the pessimistic route and say he’ll just win a decision.
Prediction: Hamill, Decision
Charles Oliveira vs. Cub Swanson: This is a great fight in the featherweight division. Oliveira was making some noise at 155 before running into two top guys, but now he’s down at 145 and proving that he’s as talented as they come. Swanson has been inconsistent and injury prone for much of his career, but he’s proved in his last two fights that he’s a dangerous fighter. Swanson has shown so much improved striking recently, but if Oliveira fights long and doesn’t decide to get into a brawl, which he has the tendency to do, he should be comfortable standing with Swanson as he is the more diverse striker. On the ground is where I think Oliveira will end up showing his superiority in this fight though. Oliveira is the much better grappler and is great in the clinch at getting takedowns and initiating scrambles. Oliveira has also proven that he has great killer instinct and if Swanson leaves an opening, Oliveira will attack and finish.
Prediction: Oliveira, Submission, Round 2