UFC 152 Main Card: Jon Jones Returns (Plus Flyweights!)

Onto the main card, otherwise known as “the pay-per-view that, for some unknown reason, features Matt Hamill and Roger Hollett while Evan Dunham and TJ Grant are relegated to pouting on the prelims”.

Matt Hamill vs. Roger Hollett

You know, I shouldn’t even start writing an event preview until about 20 minutes before the actual event starts. Quinton Jackson, Jose Aldo, Frank Mir, and Vladimir Matyushenko all had to pull out of future bouts due to injury, and all of this pretty much happened since I started typing this paragraph. Has there ever been even an entire TWO year stretch that could compare to the UFC’s injury plagued 2012? Holy potatoes.

Anyway, I had an entire section written about how hideously putrescent Matt Hamill’s fight with Matyushenko was going to be. It was really snarky and snooty, and I probably came off like the ultimate wussy d-bag armchair fighter possible, so I’m actually glad that Hamill gets to fight Hollett. By the way, has any other fighter ever dropped out of a fight with an injury and then replaced his replacement with himself? On the same date? It’s stuff like this that makes this year so nutty. Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre could tongue kiss on live television and it wouldn’t beat out the injury bug as 2012′s biggest MMA story.

Matt Hamill spent his last fight getting lambasted by Alexander Gustafsson and carrying a look on his face that said “I’d rather be at my gastroenterologist getting checked for polyps than trying to punch another man in the face right now”.

Hamill shouldn’t have too much trouble dealing with Hollett here, IF he’s actually taking his comeback seriously. Judging by his demeanor is his last fight, that’s a relatively big “if”. Hamill’s wrestling and brute force should take him to a decision win.

Charles Oliveira vs. Cub Swanson

My boy Cub Swanson takes on standout Charles Oliveira in a fight that might redefine the word “reckless”. Even though this card is littered with interesting, relevant fights, I’d be surprised if this one didn’t turn into the fight of the night.

Both combatants are coming off of impressive wins. Oliveira battered a clunky-yet-tough Jonathan Brookins before throwing up a beautiful guillotine, and Swanson really impressed people in taking out Ross Pearson with pinpoint punches.

I give Oliveira a big advantage on the ground here, and I think “Charles by submission” is the most likely outcome. Oliveira really excels when it comes to striking with guys until a submission presents itself. Even though he has a fantastic submission game, he never forces it. He always lets it come to him. Also, his standup continues to rapidly improve, especially his lightning quick straight right and his overall kicking game.

Cub has been on fire lately; he strikes like a group of beautiful women just walked up to him and gave him specific, individual compliments. Simply put, he’s a confident dude. Flashy head movement, punches, and Capoeira kicks are all things you’ll probably see from Cub, and this could be a really fun battle on the feet.

I just think Oliveira has more ways to win. Look for them to go back and forth on the feet before Cub makes some sort of reckless mistake and gets caught in a submission. Oliveira by sub, round 2.

Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann

Michael Bisping … what a guy. Will we ever see someone with a more insecure persona? This dude reacts to every slight like a raging feminist that just got told to get her ass back in the kitchen. No wonder people don’t take him seriously.

Michael Bisping: here’s here to get offended.

As a fighter, however, I’ve grown to believe that he’s somewhat underrated. I know, I know, I hate typing it as much as you guys hate reading it, but the guy has very good takedown defense, and he makes you work your ass off for every slice of offense that you could potentially achieve against him. His problem is that he can’t finish guys.

As with most of Bisping’s opponents, the way Brian Stann performs here will give us a very good idea of just how good he can be at middleweight. We know he’s a solid boxer and a hard puncher, and we know his wrestling can’t compete with the Sonnen’s and Weidman’s of the division, but can he be patient enough to set up strikes against a backpedaling Bisping? Or will he grow restless and wade in with bombs, only to get dinged with counters?

The latter seems more likely. I’m sure Stann will have his moments of finding Bisping’s face with his hands, but he’ll get overzealous, and Bisping will do his “move away and pitty pat” routine en route to a unanimous decision win.

Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson

You know, even though Jon Jones has reached the point where I want to see him fight anytime, against anyone … I can’t deny that it’s a bit of a shame that the UFC’s inaugural flyweight title fight is being completely and totally overshadowed. Is there a single person out there that doesn’t want to see what these two could do to each other over five rounds?

Although we didn’t get to this matchup without a bit of tomfoolery (the Johnson-McCall debacle), both men are coming into this fight having looked great in their semifinal bouts. Yasuhiro Urushitani was woefully overmatched with Benavidez, but that fight still showcased what Benavidez brings to the table: a strange standup style that features alot of stance changes and overhand rights, that Team Alpha Male front headlock series that is so potent, and the kind of slight frame that makes hitting him difficult.

Demetrious Johnson is coming off the best performance of his career against Ian McCall. Simply put, he looked fantastic. He mixed in his usual blinding movement and insane scrambling ability, but his last fight was the first time I’ve ever seen him actually be able to do some damage, He was able to floor McCall with a straight right hand, while he was moving laterally, no less. This might not sound like a huge deal, but Johnson has made a living by being so quick and so shifty that he fools you into thinking he landed more strikes than he actually did. He showed clear improvement in this area. Being good at setting up strikes doesn’t matter if the actual strike isn’t terribly scary. He appears to have figured this out.

So who has the upper hand? It’s difficult to pick against Demetrious here, not because I definitely think he’s going to win, but because he has a style that judges undeniably favor. Joe has a significant edge in punching power, and DJ should be able to do his in and out routine, so I see both guys having success on the feet. Johnson will have trouble with Benavidez’s wrestling, though, and I think that’s his ticket to victory. This could be one of those “Demetrious gets taken down every 30 seconds and gets up every single time” fights that leaves you impressed with Johnson’s scrambling ability but also leaves you thinking that he definitely lost. However, DJ’s improvements are both obvious and inspiring, and I like him to score a few key takedowns and outpoint Joe on the feet. Johnson by split decision in a nail-biter.

Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort

It’s all been said: Jon Jones is the anti-Christ, Jon Jones isn’t a “warrior”, Jon Jones is an entitled dick, Jon Jones clubs baby seals, a real champion fights anybody, and blah blah blah. Most of these things aren’t true, or at the very least are abstract ideas tossed around by people who despise Jon Jones, but it’s all been said.

I have only this to say: I love that he didn’t take the fight with Chael Sonnen. It was a completely rational move, and I totally relate to his quote about how he wasn’t going to let Sonnen talk his way to a title shot that he didn’t deserve. I feel you, Jon. I feel you.

(I made it through this entire talking point without mentioning Uncle Fester’s name. This is one of my most incredible feats, right up there with playing onstage at Carnegie Hall in 2000 and sitting through We Bought A Zoo in its entirety. One day I’ll write a 10,000 word column detailing why Dana, er, HE is a walking abomination … but not right now.)

So now we get to see Jones take on Vitor “I’m like a young dinosaur” Belfort … for the light heavyweight title. I could spend at least two paragraphs detailing the myriad reasons to believe that Belfort will get eviscerated, but for those fans that love to believe that miracles can happen, those people who buy pay-per-views such as this one hoping for an upset, those hopeless romantics, I’ll say this: nobody in MMA history has a combination of hand speed and power quite like Vitor Belfort.

Will this matter? No. Jones is going to splatter Vitor all over the Octagon. The only question is how. Jones can use his reach to pelt Vitor from the outside, especially with kicks. If the fight hits the floor, it will most likely resemble a  grown man elbowing an unfortunate Brazilian cherub in the face. Since Vitor is only dangerous in the first round, and since I don’t foresee a scenario that doesn’t leave Vitor either bloodied or tapping, there’s no way this fight goes the distance. I’m picking Bones to pick up a submission in the third round. But you know what? Jones has reached the rarified air of the Anderson’s and GSP’s of the world. I don’t care who he fights. He’s Jon Jones. I’m watching.

Overall record: 16-9


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