On March 19, 2011, it seemed like everyone was pulling for UFC light heavyweight up-and-comer Jon “Bones” Jones to dethrone champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Hours before I stepped inside of Newark’s packed Prudential Center to see him put on the show I thought he would, Jones apprehended a thief in Paterson, who had just stolen a GPS after breaking into an elderly couple’s car. Portrayed as a hero by many, Jones went on to beat “Shogun” later that night by throwing some brutal punches, spinning elbows, and solid kicks. You’d have been hard-pressed to find someone that wasn’t rooting for the kid.
Since winning the UFC light heavyweight belt that illustrious night, “Bones” has been unstoppable inside the Octagon, as he’s gone on to submit Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, put Lyoto Machida to sleep, and easily win a five-round bout against Rashad Evans.
But all that Jones has fought for has seemed to fly out the window the past few months. In May, he wrapped his Bentley Continental GT around a telephone pole while driving drunk. Furthermore, on Sept. 1, Jones was supposed to defend his belt against Dan Henderson. But after the 42-year-old was forced to pull out of the bout due to a knee injury just eight days prior to the event, Jones expressed an unwillingness to step inside the cage against anybody but “Hendo.” This drew the ire of not only UFC President Dana White, but many fans and fighters as well, who were appalled that a champion would shy away from fighting just about everyone.
Due to Jones’ unwillingness to fight, UFC 151 wound up being the first cancelled event in more than a decade. While Jones was certainly at fault for not putting his belt on the line no matter the opponent, the organization was also to blame for not putting on some more high-profile fights. With the cancellation of the Jones/Henderson bout, did you really expect people to pay $55 with Jake Ellenberger against Jay Hieron as the main event? While I almost never miss a UFC event, I probably wouldn’t have tuned in sans Jones.
Now that “Bones” has had enough time to prepare for his new opponent, Vitor Belfort, he’ll be looking to continue his dominant run as the light heavyweight champion on Saturday night. Not only is Jones a huge favorite to win this fight, but for the first time in his career, he’s being vilified, a role that he doesn’t particularly enjoy. “I’m not going to say I’ve embraced the role of being a villain because I’m not a villain,” he said during a UFC media conference call last week. “I’m not a bad person. I pride myself on inspiring others.”
For the most part, I like Jon Jones. I think he’s an amazing talent, a phenomenal fighter, and is revolutionizing the sport with his unorthodox style and powerful elbows. Love him or hate him, “Bones” is one of the most tactical, entertaining fighters in the sport. But before we anoint him as a legend, remember that the kid is still learning.
“I’m a normal dude and I’m a 25-year-old,” Jones went on to say. “I’m gonna make a lot of mistakes. I’ve never been trained in PR. I’m a snotty-nosed dude and I say what I feel. I’m just me.”
A black belt in Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Belfort won’t be a pushover at UFC 152. Since losing to—ironically enough—Dan Henderson in 2006, Vitor has gone 7-1, with his lone loss coming to Anderson Silva via that devastating front kick to the face. He’ll also be fighting at 205 for the first time in several years. Still, if Jones takes down Belfort with that powerful wrestling of his, don’t be surprised if Belfort tries to go for a submission attempt rather quickly. Vitor has no business trying to stand up and bang with Jones and if he does, he’s going to get picked apart.
While the Jones/Belfort fight isn’t intriguing to some, the rest of UFC 152’s stacked card will more than make up for it. Originally the main event, Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson will battle it out for the inaugural UFC flyweight championship. Benavidez is coming off a sensational knockout win over Yasuhiro Urushitani and Johnson is coming off consecutive fights with Ian McCall (one of which was a draw and the last a unanimous decision victory). Seeing these two speedy 125-pounders battle it out at will be an absolute doozy.
In addition, Michael Bisping and Brian Stann will be competing in a possible number one contender slot in the middleweight division. Both guys have impressed lately if you take away their fights against Chael Sonnen, and this fight will result in a lot of blood gushing from both warriors. The main card also features Matt Hamill in his first fight post-retirement versus Roger Hollett, and the hard-hitting Cub Swanson battling Charles Oliveira.
I like Jon Jones, the underdog Demetrious Johnson, Stann, Hamill and Swanson to come away with the victories. What do you think of Jones and the rest of these fights? Let me know at email@example.com.
(Photo credit: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE)