The UFC’s Lightheavyweight picture continues to be in a state of flux, and President Dana White must be one pissed off individual. Things are continuing to shake out, however it appears that UFC Lightheavyweight champion Jon Jones will defend his title at UFC 151 on September 22nd against Vitor Belfort. This is after Lyoto Machida turned down the bout with Jones due to having too short a preparation time.
The initial lines at the sportsbooks give Belfort virtually no chance, as Jones has been installed as a -625 favorite for the bout. Jones was similarly favored 6 to 1 against original opponent Dan Henderson, and he was close to a 5 to 1 favorite against Lyoto Machida, who was inserted into the fight briefly. And the public is going to continue to bet Jones.
Kudos to Belfort for taking a difficult fight on short notice. Many long time observers will comment that it took fifteen years for Belfort to just take a fight, and not overthink the situation. And of the three opponents for Jones, it may be Belfort who has the best chance at pulling off the upset.
Lyoto was going to have to fight a mechanical, methodical fight and try to steal rounds. Henderson has the dangerous big punch, and is a highly skilled wrestler, but he lacks Belfort’s refinement in setting up that big punch.
Belfort is going to be a high skilled boxer (by MMA standards) and he has dangerous hands. If he can pass Jones’ guard and connect, the flurry of punches that Belfort throws is probably the best chance among the three opponents to finish the fight.
The problem is that Belfort does not have a good track record of being dangerous in a long fight, so he is going to have to strike early, while Jones is fresh.
Belfort is also coming up from the 185 lb weight class, and though he has fought with success at 205 lbs, Jones is a massive 205 lber and it will be interesting to see how Belfort reacts if Jones comes after him.
Jones could try to get out of the fight safely by grounding Belfort and applying a good old fashioned ground and pound. If that is the case Jones will only face danger for a few seconds as Belfort counter punches.
Anyway you look at it, the fight is not going the distance. The UFC deserves credit for putting the best possible opponent in front of Jones under the circumstances, but the odds look to be just about right.