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UFC 152: Winning not enough for Jones & Bisping

ESPN staff
September 21, 2012
Jon Jones has excelled against strikers so far © Getty Images

There are nights when it is all about getting the 'W', when win-at-all-costs is the only mentality worth having, but Saturday night at UFC 152 is not one of them.

Jon Jones, after all the criticism for his part in the cancellation of UFC 151, needs more than just a title defence against the legend that is Vitor Belfort. Jones needs a performance so good that he silences all lingering haters, reminding everybody why he might just become the best to have ever graced the Octagon.

Then, in the middleweight division, Michael Bisping cannot simply scrape a win against the belligerent Brian Stann - he needs to end the night as the man everybody is talking about if he is to book a title shot at Anderson Silva.

Throw in the additional fact that Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson contest the first ever flyweight title, and it promises to be the night of the year so far in 2012...

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Jon Jones v Vitor Belfort

Where the fight could be won or lost: Let's just call it how it is: Vitor Belfort could have the performance of his career and still conceivably lose this fight more times than he'd win it. Standing, Belfort is known for aggression but he's been a heavy counter fighter in recent years. He has so much confidence in his speed, he'll stand in front of an opponent and bank on his ability to move, then land that short right and straight left. That style doesn't add up well against Jon Jones. Good chance Belfort "freezes up" in this fight, looking for openings that just aren't there, so he backs up and resets. Belfort's biggest problem is when the bout hits the floor, which it will, if Jones wants. Belfort has a good guard and is slick on the mat, but Jones will still fancy himself to eat him alive from the top.

You got £10 you won't miss? Maybe a £5 note you found tucked in an old winter coat or something? With these odds, which are just about the most lopsided you'll see in a UFC fight, maybe go ahead. Throw it on Belfort and hope for the best. He does have power. But other than that...

The pick: Jon Jones - Submission

Joseph Benavidez has taken out some top talent © Getty Images

Joseph Benavidez v Demetrious Johnson

Where the fight could be won or lost: Even against Joseph Benavidez, Demetrious Johnson is going to look fast. That's a potential problem if you're rolling with Joe. Technically, it doesn't get much better than Benavidez. He's completely unpredictable, because he does it all well. He also rarely gets hit. Where Johnson's speed makes him a difficult target, Benavidez does it by gauging distances with crazy precision. He wastes no energy. His standup is slightly unorthodox, he fights out of both stances and he anticipates offence well.

The game changer, though, takes place on the ground. That's where Benavidez will do what Ian McCall tried to do - control Johnson, smother him, erase his speed. Benavidez mixes his takedowns with his striking better than McCall and Johnson, and he's extremely effective from top position. The speed of Johnson is no joke, and if Benavidez elects to stand, this could be really close. Ultimately, though, it goes to the ground.

The pick: Joseph Benavidez - TKO

Michael Bisping is eyeing a title shot © Getty Images

Michael Bisping v Brian Stann

Where the fight could be won or lost: You never want to think too much in the cage, and that's especially true of Michael Bisping. When Bisping just goes, he's unpredictable, efficient, dangerous. When the wheels start turning too much, you can almost read it on his face and then he gets tagged. Truth is, he is susceptible to a big right hand. His tendency is to lean out of the way of punches as opposed to getting his hands up and ducking, circling away. That's a concern against Brian Stann, who counters with his right and has a lethal left hook to follow it with. Bisping's chin is underrated; it will take Stann's best shot to put him down, but don't be surprised if at some point Bisping looks to make this a ground fight to clear cobwebs.

Not a ton of value here either way. Bisping is more polished, but his weaknesses on the feet match up somewhat with what Stann does well, so any bet on the Brit is a nail-biter. On the other hand, if Bisping is on, he wins this fight a high percentage of the time.

The pick: Michael Bisping - TKO

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