There aren't too many 205-pound mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters who have the slightest chance of beating Jon Jones, but Vitor Belfort might have a pretty good one when he steps inside the Octagon with "Bones" later this evening (Sept. 22, 2012) in the UFC 152 main event from the Air Canada Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
That's because "The Phenom" remains MMA's gold standard for sudden, crushing, highlight-reel blowouts. Here's an interesting stat: All 11 of Belfort's Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) wins have ended in the first round (we're including his dynamite four-fight performance in the early UFCs, which totaled just less than three minutes of time).
In other words, if Belfort nails you early, there is no better finisher in the game.
The problem is, if he doesn't, he's probably going to fade and lose. Jones' considerable skills continue to evolve as he reigns as the game's most dominant champion, and he doesn't have to worry about Belfort closing for a takedown. However, if the first round of the Lyoto Machida fight is any indication, Belfort might be able to sneak in a counter left cross as Jones steps in to strike, and it just happens to be Belfort's finest weapon.
There are no mysteries in this fight. Belfort's either going to pull the upset of the year with an early catch-him-and-finish-him burst, or Jones is going to pick him apart en route to yet another brutal light heavyweight clinic, masquerading as a title defense.
Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 152 main event match between Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort:
Jones' ability to use a deep variety of kicks are one of his most fascinating tactics. He'll use teeps to mess your balance, switch up with spinning ones, or bang you seemingly from 10 feet away. It's a big part of how he controls distance and denies opponents the chance to engage, making them mentally tired and eventually prone to mistakes he exploits.
Belfort might have a big advantage if Jones decides he doesn't necessarily need to take him down and start working him over; therefore, if I were in Jones' corner, I'd look to do that, because standing early in this bout is the only conceivable way Belfort wins it. He needs to circle and step in with authority to get his shots off. If not, he'll be like Quinton Jackson and Mauricio Rua were -- hapless marionettes on Jones' endless bouncing string.
Right now, Jones may be the most dominant and physically gifted fighter in the game. His ability to come up with unorthodox moves is uncanny, and he makes you worry about so many things at once that you ultimately can't defend anything.
Belfort's takedown defense is excellent, as Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture had to force an extreme pace with extensive tie-ups and attempts to ultimately plant the Brazilian on his back, but neither of them had Jones' striking. "Bones" will frustrate Belfort with push kicks while keeping his distance, and he's still developing his considerable skills, so don't be surprised if he stands to make a point. In a way, Jones is taking on the most dangerous challenge he could in Belfort, who has the kind of one-shot turnaround power you will need to beat Jones, who has yet to come remotely close to being taken down in a stellar streak of UFC performances.
Jones will open with his kicks and a thudding jab, switching back and forth from southpaw, and let Belfort begin to think, chasing the opening for the big bomb. Jones' length also makes him incredibly tough to deal with, even on the ground, where his endless limbs anchor a phenomenal wrestling base and skew the expectable calculus of how sweeps and counters work from the bottom.
In the end, Jones will wear down Belfort by stepping up the pressure and throwing in takedowns in the second and third round, grinding Belfort into surrender via a third-round guillotine choke.
Prediction: Jones vie submission in round three
Be sure to join MMAmania.com this evening for LIVE, detailed UFC 152 results of all the "Jones vs. Belfort" pay-per-view (PPV) action. It will include blow-by-blow coverage of the Facebook video stream, FX "Prelims" bouts, and of course, the PPV broadcast. We'll start RIGHT HERE at around 7 p.m. ET and carry straight on through early Sunday morning.
See you later!
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst.