Light Heavyweight, Flyweight Titles On Line At UFC 152
By: Matty Simo
Thursday, September 20, 2012
By the time this weekend rolls around, it will be six weeks between UFC events since UFC 151 was cancelled when the card fell apart following Dan Henderson’s withdrawal from his light heavyweight title fight against champion Jon “Bones” Jones due to injury. MMA bettors will be in heaven though over the next month, beginning with Saturday’s UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario.
The main event pits Jones against former lightweight champ and middleweight title contender Vitor Belfort, who relished the opportunity to win back the belt after others turned down the chance. Former middleweight Chael Sonnen was not one of them, as Jones refused to fight him as a replacement for good friend Henderson at UFC 151, resulting in UFC president Dana White’s first-ever card cancellation.
Jones-Belfort highlights a five-fight main card that will be broadcast live on Pay-Per-View starting at 10:00 p.m. (ET). Seven more preliminary bouts will kick off the night, starting with the first three streamed live on Facebook at 6:45 p.m. followed by the last four televised on FX at 8:00 p.m. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened “Bones” as a mammoth -925 favorite against Belfort (+625), but the line has come down slightly at some sportsbooks to as low as -800 for the champ and +600 on the challenger according to the Don Best odds screen.
Belfort (21-9) last fought on January 14 at UFC 142 in a catchweight fight against Anthony Johnson and won by rear-naked choke submission in the first round after his opponent did not make weight. The 35-year-old Brazilian has won seven of eight overall, with the lone loss coming against Anderson Silva via a vicious first-round front kick for the middleweight championship at UFC 126. He won the light heavyweight title against Randy Couture at UFC 46 but lost it in a rematch with “The Natural” less than seven months later.
Jones (16-1) will be making his fifth title defense since knocking out Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the third round at UFC 128. Belfort will be the second Brazilian opponent for Jones since winning the title from Rua, and the 25-year-old New York native last fought at UFC 145 in April when he grinded out a unanimous decision win over former training partner Rashad Evans. Jones is expected to be greeted as a villain in Toronto following his refusal to give Sonnen a shot at his belt. The co-main event of the evening will be another five-round championship bout to crown the first-ever flyweight champ between Joseph “Joe Jitsu” Benavidez and Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Benavidez opened at -280 against Johnson (+210), and the line has stayed around those numbers.
Benavidez (16-2) and Johnson (15-2-1) both advanced to the title fight after winning semifinal bouts in a four-man, 125-pound tournament. Each fighter has excelled since dropping a weight class following losses to bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz. Benavidez is 4-0 since losing a WEC bantamweight championship bout to Cruz at WEC 50 two years ago while Johnson has gone 1-0-1 in two fights against Ian McCall after falling to Cruz for the UFC bantamweight title last year.