You read their articles, you watch and listen to their interviews, but often the personal opinions of the MMA media get brushed over.
These experts have inside knowledge of the sport and a unique perspective of the fighters that they have the privilege of interacting with. Before you place that bet in Vegas or with your friends, be sure to check out what those most educated about the sport have to say about the upcoming event.
Read as 11 of the sport’s top writers and reporters break down and predict the UFC 152 title fights of Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort and Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson, scheduled for Sept. 22 at the Air Canada Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.Light Heavyweight Championship Bout: Jon Jones (Champion) (16-1) vs. Vitor Belfort (21-9)
Mike Bohn (Fight Cove): Unless a minor miracle happens on Saturday night and Jon Jones turns up at UFC 152 completely flat, Vitor Belfort is primed for a hellacious beating from “Bones”. Belfort’s success is entirely dependent on getting inside of Jones’ reach, when the difference between winning and losing hangs on that one intangible, it’s bad news. I would truly like to see Belfort make it a fight, but Saturday should be no more than a showcase of Jones’ talents. Jon Jones via TKO – Round 1
Dann Stupp (MMA Junkie): I think the oddsmakers have this one right. Jones is a huge favorite, and for good reason. I think he can do anything Belfort does, but he can do it better. He’s younger, quicker and bigger. Additionally, despite his young age and relative inexperience in the MMA game, Jones fights with remarkable poise and confidence. I don’t think we’ve always seen that out of Belfort in recent years, so even if his quick hands put the champ in trouble, I’m not sure he’d be fully ready to pull the trigger and capitalize. Regardless, I think Jones stops it before Belfort ever feels comfortable in there. Jones via first-round TKO.
Kevin Iole (Yahoo! Sports): Vitor has great punching power and if he catches Jones cleanly, it’s a different fight. But Jon has faced punchers as good as Belfort and hasnt had an issue. The idea that he has a weak chin should be long since forgotten. I think he takes Belfort down, cuts him open with elbows and forces the referee to stop the fight. Jon Jones TKO1 Vitor Belfort.
Brett Okamoto (ESPN): It’s a mismatch, unfortunately. Vitor’s style, especially in recent years, is to stand in front of a guy for long periods of time, looking for an opportunity to explode. Jones is too unpredictable and his reach is too great for that type of strategy to have much consistent success. You have to respect Belfort’s power and his punching accuracy, but I think he’s going to freeze. No one really plans on hanging out at the end of Jones’ punches, but they always end up there and I don’t see Belfort being much different. So there’s that, and we still haven’t even talked about the ground, which is where Jones’ greatest advantage is. He’ll throw Belfort on his back if that’s what he wants to do and from there, it’s the elbows from top position we all know so well. Mismatch.
Dave Doyle (MMA Fighting/Sports Illustrated): I’d love to believe that Vitor Belfort will have his “Rocky” moment here, but, let’s get real: This is a guy who hasn’t fought at light heavyweight in several years, who has been competing since Tank Abbott was relevant. He’s stepping up and meeting a fighter who doesn’t have any legit losses on his record, has mowed down four straight guys who have held the UFC light heavyweight championship, and who no doubt feels he has something to prove after everything that went down with UFC 151. Jones via TKO, probably in the first round.
Mike Straka (Fight Now! TV): Vitor is violent. He’s dangerous. He has knockout power in both hands. He’s fast and explosive. He has fought anybody and everybody the UFC has put in front of him. He won’t be able to lay a glove on Jones. Jones’ reach will keep him at bay. I’ll do a shot of tequila in press row every time Belfort lands a punch on Jones. Oh wait, media are not allowed to drink in press row. That’s okay. No tequila necessary. Belfort out. Jones in.
Guilherme Cruz (Tatame): We all know that anything can happen in MMA, but sometimes the odds of something happening are way too little. That’s the case with Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort. The Brazilian middleweight has heavy hands that could easily knock a heavyweight out with one of his fast combinations, and that’s where Vitor’s chances stands. Jones knows that and, unless he tries to test his striking in this fight, he has a easy stoppage win coming with an early takedown and elbows from the top.
Matt Roth (Bleacher Report): This is probably the easiest fight ever to pick but I still wouldn’t be all that surprised if there’s an upset. It’s just how I am. I always allow an out. But I’ll commit and say that Jon Jones does whatever he wants, when he wants, to Vitor Belfort on Saturday night. Jon Jones by third round TKO.
Geno Mrosko (MMA Mania): Here’s the thing: there is no thing. This is an easy win for Jones and we all know it and there’s barely any reason to make a prediction on it. Unless “Bones” has this weird lapse of judgement and decides he wants to see if his chin can withstand Vitor’s best short, there are only a few ways this can end and they all involve Jonny Boy mauling the Brazilian. This is like a high school senior going to a grade school and picking on the one kid there dumb enough to accept a fight against him. Sure, there’s a one in a million chance the grade schooler comes through but it’s not worth paying the money to watch the inevitable.
James Brydon (Sportsnet): Jones by 2nd round TKO. With all due respect to Vitor Belfort, if Anderson Silva could knock him out in one round on full preparation, Jones should be able to do it in two on a short one.
Jason Nawara (Middle Easy): Although Jon Jones seems unbeatable, I think Vitor Belfort has as good of a chance as anyone. If he can somehow channel his inner 19-year-old self and burst forward with reckless abandon throwing bombs at Bones’ skull, then he has a chance. oh yes, he has a chance – it just lies in the first two minutes of the fight. The longer the fight goes on, the more it plays into Bones’ hands. My official prediction? I’m going to go with Vitor, round one KO, because I think he knows what he has to do, and I will look like a friggin’ genius if it actually happens. Well, kind of a genius. Maybe just someone who guessed correctly. Not really anything genius about that at all…
Adam Martin (The Score): Honestly, I don’t see this being much of a fight. Jones has a huge advantage in reach, size, and in my opinion talent, and he should get through Belfort, a middleweight moving up to 205, in absolutely dominant fashion. I don’t see this fight lasting long at all as I expect Jones to storm in early, get the takedown, and finish Belfort with vicious elbows on the ground for a first-round TKO finish.
Media picking Jon Jones: 10
Media picking Vitor Belfort: 1
Mike Bohn (Fight Cove): As much as I would like to see someone get finished in this fight, I have a very hard time picturing any other results but a five-round decision. Be assured, though. For the 25-minutes or less that Joseph Beavidez and Demetrious Johnson lock horns inside the octagon, it’s going to be a battle of skill and who wants it more. The only advantage I give Johnson is in the speed department and even then, it’s not like “Mighty Mouse” is overwhelmingly quicker than Benavidez. I expect a very competitive fight where each man is going to have their high point but neither will be able to take control in a dominant fashion. Ultimately, Benavidez is the more talented fighter and should be able to take at least three of the five scheduled rounds and win a decision. Joseph Benavidez via Unanimous Decision.
Dann Stupp (MMA Junkie): Obviously, these two have a lot in common, including speed, endurance and a well-rounded set of skills. But in a five-round title fight, I think damage plays a significant factor. With his power, which was on a display in his win over Yasuhiro Urushitani, Benavidez is likely to have the edge. I’m not sold on him stopping the fight (no one’s stopped Johnson yet, after all), but I think mounting blows ultimately will take a toll and help Benavidez win the nod from the judges. Benavidez via unanimous decision.
Kevin Iole (Yahoo! Sports): This is a very close fight and is very difficult to pick. But Benavidez’s track record is a little stronger and he’s been getting better. I expect him to pull out a decision in a very close bout that could go either way. Joseph Benavidez W5 Demetrious Johnson.
Brett Okamoto (ESPN): A fight so many of us have long waited to see, made even better because it’s a five-rounder with a title on the line. Johnson’s speed is legit, even against other flyweights. He’s just so fast. It’d be naive to think Benavidez won’t have at least a little trouble with it. Everyone does. But Benavidez is so talented in all areas and he understands range so well. When he was fighting bigger guys, he had to. He’s very defensively sound. He’s fought bigger guys his entire career and yet, you rarely, rarely see him beat up at all at the ene of a fight. I think he’s got an advantage on the ground and I think he’s got the ability to get it there for extended amounts of time. Johnson is so squirrelly though. It’s gonna be a great fight — one of those where simply whoever is more on that particular night will get the W.
Dave Doyle (MMA Fighting/Sports Illustrated): I’d be surprised if this fight doesn’t live up to the “Potential Fight of the Night” hype. For all the negative things that have happened in the sport this year, the action the flyweights have consistently delivered in the cage has been one of the positive story lines. These guys has similar skill sets. “Mighty Mouse” probably has the speed advantage and Benavidez the power edge. Wouldn’t be surprised at all if Johnson won, but when push comes to shove I’m going with Benavidez via late-round stoppage.
Mike Straka (Fight Now! TV): This will be a five round, back and forth war. I think Benavidez will win a unanimous decision, but if Dominick Cruz couldn’t finish Johnson (albeit his hair stayed perfect the whole match), I don’t think Benavidez will get the finish either. I think this fight will be won on the ground. Look for Joe to take down Johnson and use superior Joe Jitsu to control the match. Tierra y Libra muchachos.
Guilherme Cruz (Tatame): Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson is probably the closest match-up in the top three fights of this card, but I see Johnson taking the title by decision. He’s too fast for Benavidez, and his submission skills will be enough to avoid any threats when he takes the fight to the bottom.
Matt Roth (Bleacher Report): I love this fight. I really do. So much so that as a fan I’m just hoping that it lives up to whatever expectations I have in my head. I think Benavidez is just better at everything though Johnson may have a slight speed advantage. Ultimately this is Joseph Benavidez’ fight to lose. Joseph Benavidez by TKO in the second round.
Geno Mrosko (MMA Mania): I was tempted to take Johnson because I can remember how good he looked against Dominick Cruz 10 pounds heavier but then I remembered Benavidez looked just as good in the same situation. This is an extremely close fight with Benavidez getting a slight edge on power but Johnson probably being faster. I’m not sure which will win out but I gotta think we’re headed for an decision that no one will be satisfied with. Give me Benavidez but not by much.
James Brydon (Sportsnet): Benavidez by unanimous decision. I have a feeling Joe Jitsu might be a little overconfident, but I believe he’s still just a little more talented than DJ, who is always tough to put away however.
Jason Nawara (Middle Easy): I played Joe Benavidez in UFC 3 at a UFC 3 launch party in San Francisco last year and he was damn good. He picked up the controller after a few minutes of tutorial and was laying it to dudes who were playing for hours. I think this display of how sharp his mind is and how willing he is to adjust on the fly to take out his opponent is telling. I like Mighty Mouse, but he pretty much has a one-dimensional arsenal, Joe B. Can defeat him from almost anywhere in the cage, and I expect that to happen. I’m going with Benavidez, second round TKO.
Adam Martin (The Score): This will be Fight of the Night as it will be five rounds of guaranteed action. Neither man has ever been finished and I don’t expect them to on Saturday night, as I expect this fight to go the distance. It’s going to be very close, and the result might be controversial, but I believe the speed advantage of Johnson will allow him to outpoint Benavidez and take home either a split or unanimous decision.
Media picking Joseph Benavidez: 8
Media picking Demetrious Johnson: 2
Media undecided: 1