After a lengthy absence, the UFC returns to pay-per-view, as UFC 152: Jones vs. Belfort is set to go down Saturday night from Toronto. FightLine will be providing you complete, ongoing coverage of the entire card beginning with the prelims.
First, we have Jon Jones defending his UFC light heavyweight title against former UFC champion Vitor Belfort. Jones (16-1) will be seeking a fourth successful title defense vs. Belfort (21-9), who has worn the UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight titles in the past.
In the co-main event, Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson will meet to declare the first-ever UFC flyweight title. Benavidez (16-2) is on a four-fight win streak, while Johnson (15-2-1) is 5-1-1 in his last seven.
Finally, middleweight contenders Michael Bisping and Brian Stann square off in what should be nothing short of fireworks. Both believe they are nearing a future UFC 185-pound title shot, as Bisping (22-4) has gone 8-3 at middleweight, while Stann (12-4) is 4-1 in the division.
Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort
Dana Becker: Vitor Belfort may not be Dan Henderson, but he is just as dangerous of an opponent for Jon Jones. The added time between the UFC 151 fiasco and this fight, however, should have allowed for Jones to prepare mentally to meet Belfort. During this past week, Jones has seemed to have his head on straight, and I feel as though he will actually feed off the negative crowd responses better than he would positive ones. Belfort has one-punch power, but the reach advantage Jones holds will not allow him to get inside close enough to land. Look for Jones to pick Belfort apart, use his wrestling and finish him on the ground with a smooth submission. Jon Jones via third round submission
Joseph Lisnow: Heading into this fight, Belfort has spoken about how this is the “old lion” vs. “new lion.” The problem is that Jones is young and with his freakish reach advantage seems unstoppable for the moment. I give all the credit to Belfort for stepping up (when many other fighters declined) to accept this fight. Belfort is on role, with the exception of that loss to Anderson Silva, but he needs more then momentum to stop the Jones era. This should be Jones easiest challenge to date since winning the championship and look for him to make a statement as a way to put doubt in his critics. Jon Jones via second round TKO
Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson
Dana: Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson are sure to put on a show, as both men, despite saying otherwise, have to feel a little slighted by being removed from the main event of his card. Both are proud fighters, and wanted to display the flyweight division in the bright lights of the main event. Benavidez has more knockout power in his hands, while Johnson is the more complete fighter. Look for Benavidez to storm out of the gates and land some heavy blows to “Mighty Mouse” before finishing him with some ground-and-pound. Joseph Benavidez via second round TKO
Joseph: Both Benavidez and Johnson will make history at UFC 152. One goes down as the inaugural UFC flyweight champion and the other as the fallen challenger. I’m expecting this to be the fight of the night. Two hungry fighters who love to throw down could make this five rounds of excitement. The action might be so quick that all the punches and kicks delivered could be missed if only watched once, so don’t expect lack of energy to be an issue. This is a real toss-up one, but Johnson gets the nod. Demetrious Johnson via decision
Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann
Dana: These are two proud fighters who want nothing more than to put on a performance for the fans. Michael Bisping and Brian Stann showed their intensity during weigh-ins on Friday, and that is only going to grow when they step inside the Octagon. Chael Sonnen pegged Stann as the fighter with more power, and I have to believe the man who has fought both men. Stann needs to finish this one to be declared the winner, as if it goes three rounds, Bisping will score more points. Michael Bisping via unanimous decision
Joseph: It seems like Bisping is one of those fighters who always manages to stay in the headlines, despite never earning a championship shot. While a win for Bisping doesn’t guarantee him the next shot, it certainly helps his reasons for one. If Bisping can avoid Stann’s knockout ability, then he should be fine. Add in that Bisping has been in the UFC just as long as Stann has been fighting and it gives him the veteran’s edge. Michael Bisping via third round KO