UFC 152 is soon upon us and I can’t help but feel a wealth of emotions in my attempt to predict the action. The reason I say this is because it seems that predicting MMA fights are no longer as simple as “fighter A over fighter B” but instead a much more complex and anxious process that could be better described as “provided the physical well-being of fighters A and B is at acceptable competition level, it is likely X will be the outcome.” However if one or more parties are unable to participate and the suitable replacement(s) is/are willing and able to perform on Saturday, I predict Jon Jones won’t walk away from two cards in two weeks if he knows what’s good for him”. The caveat “Both Must Fight For Action” has taken on a whole new meaning, as the possibility that there may be no action has become as real as any other. With Saturday’s outcome hinging on all of these conditions I’ll do my best to predict the winners of UFC 152’s currently billed card.
Jon Jones vs Vitor Belfort
Jon Jones is a very clear favorite to win this fight, and rightfully so. Given his accomplishments over the last year and a half against strikers, wrestlers and muggers, it’s hard to imagine there are any stylistic matchups left to threaten the champ. This is doubly so when considering his opponent is 10 years his senior. However, when you consider Jones’s toughest test to date has come at the lightning quick hands of Lyoto Machida, it is reasonable to think that Vitor, a boxer with a conceivably greater speed advantage, may have more of a chance than odds-makers are letting on. In addition to a certain striking advantage, Vitor Belfort probably has the best jiu-jitsu of any fighter Jones has faced since entering the UFC. That being said, I don’t think Belfort has the advantage in the grappling department and despite still being a very dangerous fighter, his chin isn’t what it used to be and he will be giving up a foot of reach and considerable mass on fight night. Despite having made a case for Vitor’s chances of success, I simply can’t envision him taking control of the fight before Jones takes his confidence away.
Prediction: Jon Jones by TKO in round 3
Joseph Benavidez vs Demetrious Johnson
Joseph Benavidez has long been touted as the uncrowned flyweight kingpin and on Saturday he’ll finally get his opportunity to live up to such accolades. This won’t be easy though and “Mighty Mouse” is no walk in the park for anyone and his ability to outwork opponents often leaves him with his hand raised, despite his original underdog status. Benavidez comes into this fight with real stopping power for flyweight, as demonstrated in his fight with Yasuhiro Urushitani and Johnson may find his chin tested in the early rounds of this fight. Ultimately, I think Johnson’s speed will keep him out of harm’s way for the first couple rounds and as the fight wears on, he will begin to pull away as he continues an unrivaled work rate.
Prediction: Demetrious Johnson by unanimous decision
Michael Bisping vs Brian Stann
Michael Bisping may very well be at the end of his rope with this fight, should he lose. He has a great record against a number of very tough opponents regardless of the outcome, he will undoubtedly fight on for years to come… but should he lose, at what cost? Bisping may find himself at the bottom of the pile if he loses to Brian Stann on Saturday and what makes this so interesting is the outcome really depends on which game plan he chooses to employ. Bisping actually has very underrated grappling skills, despite hailing from a nation that has, traditionally, poor grappling skills. Given that Brian Stann is certainly no pushover on the ground (unless your name is Chael Sonnen), it is far and away, the weakest aspect of his game. If Bisping employs the same technical boxing game plan he has used against most of his recent opponents, I feel that he is gambling with his future. Brian Stann has proven an ability to put away both brawlers and technicians in absolutely brutal fashion. Stann will fearlessly go toe-to-toe with “The Count” and employ the counter punching that has made him so successful since coming down to middleweight.
Prediction: Brian Stann by TKO in round 2
Matt Hamill vs Roger Hollett
Matt “The Hammer” Hamill makes his return after a brief 17-month retirement and it will be interesting to see what shape he returns in to the octagon. If Matt aims to head-hunt as he has done in the past he may find himself getting beaten to the punch (no pun intended). Hamill, after re-evaluating his career will likely come back using the game plan that brought him success in his early days, take them down and pound them out.
Prediction: Matt Hamill by TKO in round 3
Cub Swanson vs Charles Oliveira
Cub Swanson has been a modest tear, cutting down George Roop and bringing the fight to a much larger Ross Pearson. Swanson may be small but he is scrappy and when he hits his stride he packs a hell of a wallop. I feel though he may find it harder to impose his game on Oliveira as Do Bronx has a rangy style that can be just as sporadic and unpredictable as Swanson’s. Furthermore, Cub’s commendable bottom game that served him so well against Pearson will likely count for nothing if he finds himself under Oliveira. With that in mind, I don’t foresee many areas that Oliveira will not be comfortable taking the fight.
Prediction: Oliveira by submission in round 2
Predictions by Farrell Tremblay