UFC 152: Jones and Johnson own their belts
UFC 152 showcased two vastly different yet equally compelling title fights Saturday in Toronto. After the fights were over, online posts were dominated by disappointment in the card. Perhaps they should have watched it in an upscale bar habited by well-dressed meatheads, like I did, where the adrenaline level was high to begin with.
Light heavyweight title match
Jon ‘Bones’ Jones came off of a significant period of adversity---some of it self-imposed---such as crashing his Bentley, and the UFC 151 debacle in which UFC president Dana White wrongly blamed the young champion for Dan Henderson’s injury and the UFC’s utterly insane suggestion of Chael Sonnen for a replacement.
Considering he was facing a very fast and talented power puncher, Brazilian Vitor ‘The Phenom’ Belfort, Bones’s game plan was smart: get the challenger down and work him over with punches and elbows. It was working already early in round 1, but Belfort is a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, with almost 20 years experience. Bones left his lead arm unprotected and Belfort sunk in an armbar.
“It was cracking and popping,” Belfort said of Bones’s elbow after the fight.
Bones didn’t tap, though, and fought on. Neither fans nor the commentators knew anything was wrong with the elbow until after Bones submitted Belfort in round four. The champ had trouble putting on his tee shirt, and was reluctant to move the arm more than he had to.
Rounds two, three, and four took on the look of three of his last four fights. Bones utilizes a unique array of strikes, clinches, and takedowns to beat down opponents before he finishes them.
Belfort was cut early by short, sharp elbows, and was dropped in round 3 with a side kick to the midsection. Bones also employed strikes he used to dominate Rashad Evans in their fight: lead elbows thrown like jabs, straights, and hooks. From side mount early in round four, Bones put a depleted Belfort in a crucifix and from there applied a keylock, forcing Belfort to tap.
Not long ago Belfort easily KOed Rich Franklin, a talented fighter who had held the middleweight crown till he lost it to Anderson Silva. If he had gotten inside and connected, it could have been lights out for Bones. Considering the abuse he’s taken from White and fans over the last several months, the loss would have been harder to stomach than a year-long election campaign. Once again, however, Bones put his great height and reach to his advantage, especially with the lead elbows and sidekicks.
Perhaps Bones didn’t dominate Belfort like Anderson Silva did, but many champions are put in tough spots. Although Bones did what he had to do, it will do nothing to silence his critics.
Flyweight title tilt
Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson was awarded a split decision over Joseph Benavidez in a fight the former clearly won. Close scoring was expected, until you looked at the computer tallies of strikes landed. Mighty Mouse also scored 5 takedowns against the Team Alpha Male wrestler. Benavidez was in the fight the whole way, and in the fourth round nearly submitted Johnson with a mounted guillotine choke, but at no other time did he look like he was imposing his will.
This fight highlighted what the lighter weight class offers: speed; amazing technique.
Mighty Mouse loves to shoot for takedowns to set up knees and punches while he’s bull-rushing, his jab is superb, and he constantly moved away from Benavidez’s power, which can be formidable in the weight class. Benavidez uses his solid wrestling base and dangerously unorthodox striking to overwhelm opponents, much Like Alpha male top dog Urijah Faber---it was a power punch that dropped Mighty Mouse and set up Benavidez’s submission attempt.
Both fighters stepped in the Octagon desperate to own the first UFC flyweight belt. Johnson proved once again that speed of movement rooted solidly in footwork rules the day.
Click here for all the results.
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