There’s not a whole lot of betting value on the UFC 152 card. Unless you want to lay big money to back light heavyweight champ Jon Jones or any of the other favorites on the five-fight pay-per-view, it might be better to sit things out on the gambling side for the event up North.
If challenger and former 205-pound champ Vitor Belfort pulls off the shocking upset he would find himself in select company, as only Matt Serra was a bigger underdog in UFC main event history in his UFC 69 defeat of Georges St. Pierre (Anderson Silva’s scheduled UFC 153 bout against Stephan Bonnar will be the most lopsided opening odds as "The Spider" is a more than 13-to-1 favorite).
The 35-year-old Belfort won’t be intimated by the situation he finds himself in, and actually did the UFC a huge favor after stepping up to take the bout after all the fallout from UFC 151’s cancellation — the first time UFC had canceled an event in 11 years when scheduled headliner Dan Henderson had to pullout after injuring his knee.
The Brazilian — who at 19 was the youngest fighter to ever win a bout in the UFC — has more than a puncher’s chance considering he is 7-1 since 2007, but few in the industry believe he will be able to challenge the sport’s arguable best all-around fighter.
Still laying a few bucks based on Belfort’s power or perhaps a parlay (think Johnson and Stann) with a couple of the other UFC 152 underdogs on it, could offer a big payoff.
Light Heavyweight Championship Bout: Jon Jones against Vitor Belfort
• Age: 25
• Height: 6’4''
• Weight: 205
• UFC Record: 10-1
• MMA Record: 16-1
• Fighting Out Of: Albuquerque, N.M
• Betting Line: -800
• Last Fight: Defeated Rashad Evans by unanimous decision at UFC 145.
• Age: 35
• Height: 6’0''
• Weight: 186
• UFC Record: 10-5
• MMA Record: 21-9
• Fighting Out Of: Boca Raton, Fla.
• Betting Line: +600
• Last Fight: Defeated Anthony Johnson via first-round submission at UFC 142.
What’s On The Line: Everything for Jones. After declining a late-notice fight against Chael Sonnen, which would have saved UFC 151, UFC boss Dana White, fellow fighters, and MMA fans alike heaped a ton of criticism on the young star. A DUI last spring didn’t help an image that some fighters characterized as "fake." A dominant performance could help Jones quickly distance himself from his past problems and keep his star power (and newly signed Nike sponsorship) bright. Despite being a decade older, Belfort has proven he’s not ready to hang up his fingerless gloves. The only two blemishes he’s had in the past six years came to a unanimous decision loss to Henderson and middleweight champ Silva catching him with a perfectly placed front kick at UFC 126. An upset win would certainly make Belfort’s return to the weight class for the first time in five years a memorable one, and show that "The Phenom" has plenty left he can still achieve.
Fight Breakdown: Unless Belfort is able to surprise "Bones" with his power, this bout will likely go wherever the champ chooses to take it. Prior to his decision victory over Evans, Jones had finished his previous six UFC opponents. Belfort might take the time to feel the champ out, but one would think Jones will eventually take control either with his superior wrestling or variety of highlight-reel strikes.
Prediction: Jones by knockout.
Flyweight Championship Bout: Joseph Benavidez against Demetrious Johnson
• Age: 28
• Height: 5’4''
• Weight: 125
• UFC Record 3-0
• MMA Record 16-2
• Fighting Out Of: Sacramento, Calif.
• Betting Line: -280
• Last Fight: Defeated Yasuhiro Urushitani via second-round knockout at UFC on FX 2.
• Age: 26
• Height: 5’3"
• Weight: 125
• UFC Record 3-1-1
• MMA Record 15-2-1
• Fighting Out Of: Kirkland, Wash.
• Betting Line: +240
• Last Fight: Defeated Ian McCall by unanimous decision at UFC on FX 3.
What’s On The Line: The first-ever flyweight bout. The winner will go down in history, the loser as a future trivia answer.
Fight Breakdown: Don’t be shocked if this one goes the distance. The two have combined for eight of their past 10 fights reaching a decision, with only Benavidez scoring finishes with a KO over Urushitani and submission of Wagnney Fabiano in his final WEC bout. The line might be a little off considering that the speedy Johnson took a decisive victory over McCall in their rematch. Benavidez holds a slight edge with both of his career losses coming at the hands of bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz. If Benavidez can keep Johnson down and neutralize his speed, he should set himself up for a decision. But the ever-unpredictable Johnson is capable of scoring in highlight-reel fashion.
Prediction: Benavidez by decision.
Middleweight Bout: Michael Bisping against Brian Stann
• Age: 31
• Height: 6’1’’
• Weight: 186
• UFC Record 6-3
• MMA Record 12-4
• Fighting Out Of: Atlanta
• Betting Line: +155
• Last fight: Defeated Alessio Sakara via first-round knockout at UFC on FUEL TV 2.
• Age: 32
• Height: 6’2’’
• Weight: 185
• UFC Record 12-4
• MMA Record 22-4
• Fighting Out Of: Orange County, Calif.
• Betting line: -175
• Last fight: Lost to Chael Sonnen by unanimous decision at UFC on FOX 2.
What’s On The Line: Bisping has said he believes a win by him should put him back at the top of the heap of middleweights for the next shot against Silva. Stann, who was on a three-fight win streak before losing to Sonnen at UFC 136, would improve his resume and need possibly another fight or two to work back into title contention. The bout is a classic battle of good versus evil as Stann, a decorated Marine, goes up against the easily unlikable Brit.
Fight Breakdown: Bisping’s weakness on his feet is one of Stann’s strengths. But expect a more polished Bisping to avoid a slugfest. He looked good against Sonnen and some even had him winning the bout. If Bisping is at his best and can avoid the kind of shots Stann delivered in wins over Jorge Santiago and Chris Leben, expect him to pull out a narrow victory.
Prediction: Bisping by decision.
Light Heavyweight Bout: Matt Hamill against Roger Hollett
• Age: 21
• Height: 5’10''
• Weight: 205
• UFC Record 0-0
• MMA Record 13-3
• Fighting Out Of: Halifax, Nova Scotia
• Betting Line: +300
• Last Fight: Defeated John Hawk by split-decision at Bellator 57.
• Age: 35
• Height: 6’1''
• Weight: 205
• UFC Record 9-4
• MMA Record 10-4
• Out of: Utica, N.Y.
• Betting Line: -360
• Last Fight: Loss to Alexander Gustafsson via second-round TKO at UFC 133.
What’s On The Line: The bout marks Hamill's return to the sport after retiring after his loss to Gustaffson 13 months ago. "The Hammer," who was born deaf, had won five straight fights prior to losing back-to-back bouts to Gustaffson and Quinton Jackson. A victory would likely me an emotional triumph for the fan favorite, who had a biopic about his life come out last fall. On the other hand, Hollett, who is on a five-fight win streak, would have no problem playing spoiler during his UFC debut in his home country.
Fight Breakdown: While grappling is Hollett's strength, it will be interesting to see how he matches up against the decorated collegiate wrestler, who has plenty of power. Ring rust could be a factor for Hamill, but knowing his willpower, probably not.
Prediction: Hamill by KO.
Featherweight Bout: Charles Oliveira against Cub Swanson
• Age: 28
• Height: 5’7’’
• Weight: 145
• UFC Record 2-1
• MMA Record 17-5
• Fighting Out Of: Palm Springs, Calif.
• Betting Line: +200
• Last fight: Defeated Ross Pearson via second-round TKO at UFC on FX 3.
• Age: 22
• Height: 5’10’’
• Weight: 144
• UFC Record 4-2
• MMA Record 15-2
• Fighting Out Of: Houston
• Betting Line: -240
• Last fight: Defeated Jonathan Brookins via second-round submission at “The Ultimate Fighter Live” finale.
What’s On The Line: A much-need step up the ladder in the featherweight division.
Fight Breakdown: While Swanson has put together back-to-back highlight-reel knockouts and is more than capable of doing so again, look for Oliveira, a slick submissionist, to find an opening and capitalize.
Prediction: Oliveira by submission.