Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
TORONTO -- Regardless of the controversy that swirls around Jon Jones and the drama that seems to follow him, none of that seems to matter when Jones steps into the octagon.
Faced with a severe public backlash and the wrath of UFC president Dana White for his decision to turn down a UFC 151 fight, Jones had no problem clearing his mind and performing under the bright lights. Taking little damage and inflicting plenty on his opponent, Jones systematically wore down Vitor Belfort en route to a fourth-round Americana submission.
The finish came at 54 seconds of the round.
"It feels great," Jones said. "There's a saying that adversity is a teacher of a great general."
The victory capped a trying stretch for the UFC's most polarizing champion, who was also arrested and charged with a DUI earlier this year.
Though he was booed as he entered the octagon, fans cheered the finish, a submission against a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
Jones did have to overcome a scary moment in the first round. He took Belfort down in the opening seconds, and Belfort quickly transitioned to an armbar. It appeared as though his arm hyperextended but Jones refused to tap.
"I honestly was waiting for it to break," he said. "I was not going to tap out."
Belfort said he heard the arm "cracking and popping," but credited the champion for his perseverance.
"This lion is tough, he holds himself up very well," he said.
It was a strong effort from Belfort, who took the fight on just over one months' notice after Jones was moved from the canceled UFC 151 event. Belfort, who was the UFC light-heavyweight champion for a short stretch in 2004, was bidding to capture the belt after a period of 3,158 days, a stretch that would have been the longest span ever between two UFC title reigns.
But after his arm bar attempt was escaped by Jones, it was mostly downhill for him. Jones beat him both standing and on the ground, dropping the Brazilian slugger with a body kick in the third, although Belfort managed to hold for the rest of the round.
Belfort landed a hard left early in the fourth as his conditioning held up better than most expected, but Jones quickly took down, moved to the crucifix position, and wrenched Belfort's arm with the fight-ending submission.
It was the fourth successful title defense for the 25-year-old, who is just one shy of Tito Ortiz's divisional record.
Jones is now 17-1 while Belfort fell to 19-9.
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