In a bizarre turn of events, the main event of UFC 152 will be a light-heavyweight contest between UFC champion Jon Jones and middleweight contender Vitor Belfort. And if you’ve been duped by the UFC advertising that Belfort is a former UFC heavyweight champion AND UFC light-heavyweight champion, don’t be. Belfort was never the heavyweight champion (he won a tournament in the early days of the UFC), and was only the light-heavyweight champion by opening up a cut with a strike against Randy Couture, who came back to easily beat him in a rematch.
Striking: Vitor Belfort is well known as a fighter who will suddenly rush his opponent, bombard them with a massive flurry of strikes, and either hurt them or knock them out. In recent years, he’s improved his arsenal, and is a little more of a boxer, as opposed to being so one-dimensional. Either way, if he wants to land the knockout blow (his only realistic chance of winning), he’ll need to get inside of Jones’s freakishly long reach, and flurry like he did in the old days. And if Belfort rushes, he’s likely to be thrown or tripped. Kicks are an option, but Belfort has never been much of a kicker. On the other side, Jones can frustrate Belfort in all sorts of ways, with kicks of his own, straight punches, and some of the more wild techniques he’s become known for like spinning elbows. Jones has a huge striking advantage, and is only truly in danger if he has a severe mental lapse.
Wrestling: Jones is one of the best wrestlers in MMA. His original UFC 151 opponent, Dan Henderson, at least is a former Olympian in Greco-Roman wrestling, and could conceivably make the wrestling game somewhat competitive. Belfort has no such background. While Belfort has no hope of taking Jones down, and almost certainly wouldn’t try, I think Jones is going to take Belfort down, and I think Jones is going to do it quickly. Keep in mind that Jones trains under the risk-averse Greg Jackson, and Jackson is certain to be cautious of Belfort’s extreme knockout power. If Jones goes for the takedown, he has all sorts of methods available to him: foot sweeps, trips, throws, perhaps even the standard double-leg shot.
Submissions: Jones has very long limbs and an extremely strong base. When he fought Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 128, Rua tried very hard to go for leglocks and sweeps, and is usually able to execute those techniques. When he tried that against Jones, he found that Jones simply wouldn’t budge. And because Jones has long limbs, he has a nasty guillotine choke, and a very sound ground game overall. By contrast, Vitor Belfort has very good jiu-jitsu, and has only been submitted once in his career, but then again, that was by Alistair Overeem’s famous guillotine choke. If this fight goes to the ground, it will be with Jones in top position, and I highly doubt Belfort will be able to do anything about it.
Prediction: Jon Jones by TKO. This is a mismatch. Belfort deserves a lot of credit for stepping up and taking this fight, but he’s out-classed everywhere. I think Jones is going to take him down, batter him with strikes, and eventually win by TKO or even submission.