The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Toronto this Saturday for UFC 152: Jones vs. Belfort.
In the main event, Jon “Bones” Jones makes the fourth defense of his UFC light heavyweight championship when he collides with challenger Vitor “the Phenom” Belfort; it is a fight which pits the most mercurially talented fighter to come along in years against the original phenom of the UFC.
The longest-reigning UFC 205-pound champion ever and the newest member of the UFC Hall of Fame – the recently retired Tito Ortiz – believes his old rival Belfort has an opportunity to score the biggest victory of any fighter from the generation which includes himself, Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture.
“This is the biggest chance of Vitor’s entire career,” said Ortiz. “This is everything to him as far as a his legacy– this is the biggest opportunity anyone from our generation in the UFC ever had. If he wins this fight and beats the best young champion to come along in years – then Vitor is an all-time legend and this goes down as one of the most significant wins of all time. It’s that big.
“Vitor has already shown these kids how a champion is should react when there’s an opportunity – and I hope he is just as aggressive in the Octagon as he was in accepting this fight.
“Jon can take control quickly – so Vitor has to land every time Jon gets close. Hit him in the chest, the neck, the shoulder, the arms – whatever – and sooner or later he will hit him in the face or chin. When that happens, Vitor has to explode like he always does and get Jones out of there. But Vitor has to get this done in the first two rounds. He can’t give Jones time to settle – Jon is too smart and makes adjustments too quickly. Vitor has to land before Jones has his timing down.
“I’m pumped for this fight; I want to see a guy from our generation shock the world once again.”
Moving to the second UFC world title fight at UFC 152, reigning UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz says he cannot wait to see two previous opponents Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson go at it for the inaugural UFC flyweight title.
“I can’t wait see to see more of these guys in the division were they operate at 100%,” said Cruz. “I’ve fought both guys and they pushed me very hard, but I had the benefit of being significantly bigger than them. Skill for skill, both of them are right there with very best fighters in the world and now the new flyweight division allows them to fight to the best of their abilities.
“As the first ever UFC bantamweight champion, I know the pride they will fight with to because the first ever UFC flyweight champion. Being the first ever champion in the weight category is history, everyone who ever holds the belt in the next 20, 30, 100 years will be following you. I expect them to fight their hearts out to put their name down as the George Washington of 125 pounds.
“Benavidez needs to use his wrestling much more than he has in the past because DJ will be ready for the power strikes and he will need to keep DJ guessing. But wrestling isn’t the entire answer to DJ’s speed and movement. Even though I used wrestling against DJ, the guy is not easy to wrestle – the reason I was successful was because with my height and reach I knew he would have to rush in and that opened up takedown opportunities.
“Benavidez doesn’t have the height advantage over DJ that I did. So he has to mix it up, right from the start. DJ is so talented and so fast and you cannot allow him to dictate the pace and rhythm.
“Joseph is as fast a striker as DJ, but he’s not as quick with his footwork or in the scramble. Joseph has a wider stance because he needs that base to get full power into his punches. He hits very hard even at 135 pounds and you’ve seen, at 125 pounds, he’s a huge puncher.
“If I absolutely had to choose a winner I would go with Benavidez inside the distance but, once we get past round two, I think DJ will take over the fight and he could win this on points.”.
Finally, in a middleweight showdown which has captured the imagination, Michael “the Count” Bisping will swop leather with the devastating striker “All-American” Brian Stann.
Chael Sonnen has shared the Octagon with both men in the last 11months, so has great insight into the eagerly-awaited middleweight clash.
The “American Gangster” said: “This is a main event fight anywhere in the world; let me start by saying that. This is a A-list main event on any card anywhere. And secondly, this is a fight that Bisping isn’t used to. Brian Stann is not afraid to strike with him and has a lot more power than Michael has. You don’t have to be an avid fan to realize the fact Stann hits a lot harder than Bisping.
“And that isn’t a knock on Mike. He hits plenty hard. He hurt me bad in our first round with a right hand and I looked at him thinking ‘You have no idea how bad you just hurt me’. And Dan Henderson called me up the day before I fought Mike and said ‘Don’t believe the stuff about Bisping not being able to punch – he hits hard’.
“And he does – but Stann buzzed me with the draft of one of his shots and is a completely different animal. Brian Stann – uniquely I think in the UFC – can knock any middleweight or light heavyweight out with one shot.
“But I love the fight. Stann is not afraid to get hit and Bisping will certainly hit him. Bisping is very hard to land on and he’s very wiry, so I expect Mike to have some success early. Neither guy is going to have to worry about a fast pace because they are always in shape and they both are going to go after it.
“But I come back to this: Stann is a plant your feet and throw bombs kinda guy. And I think 15minutes is a long time for Bisping to avoid those bombs. I’m not one of those guys who is going to say ‘Bisping should win – but IF Stann lands it is over’. I am the guy saying ‘Stann WILL land a bomb and he will win this fight by KO’. He will find the shot 100%.”