If it seems like forever since we last previewed a UFC event it’s because it has been forever. UFC 151 was cancelled thanks to even more of the injuries that have plagued the organization all year. That means that Aug. 11 was the last time we had an event to write about. Just over a month might not seem like a long time to outsiders, but given the torrid pace the UFC has been holding cards the last couple of years it is certainly notable.
We return to action on Saturday, Sept. 22 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto — a building that will be less busy leading up to the event than expected thanks to the NHL lockout. Jon Jones was due to headline UFC 151 against Dan Henderson, but Henderson was injured and Jones wasn’t interested in a replacement on short notice. That puts him on top of this card — this time against Vitor Belfort.
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There is a good note for you football fans out there — right after his fight Jones will be flying to Baltimore to watch his brother Arthur, a defensive lineman for the Ravens, playing against brother Chandler, a defensive lineman for the Patriots. It’s a big sporting weekend for the Jones clan.
Here’s how the main card breaks down (all UFC 152 odds are from Bovada):
Light Heavyweight Championship — Jon Jones (-800) vs. Vitor Belfort (+500)
The price here would suggest that the oddsmakers don’t seem to think that Belfort has much of a chance. The oddsmakers are right.
All you need to do is look back to Belfort’s last fight — against Anthony Johnson at UFC 142. Belfort won it by submission, but not before Johnson — who was in rough shape thanks to the effects of a very aggressive weight cut — had taken Belfort down twice, and made it look pretty easy in the process. Jones is much better than Johnson at the takedown, and Belfort is going to be in serious trouble.
The only hope Belfort has is to land a shot that ends this one quickly. He has very good hands, and can deliver a punch quickly and effectively when he spots an opening. If Jones isn’t paying close attention then Belfort could end it. While possible, though, that hardly seems probable. Jones’ edge really is massive here.
Pick: Jon Jones
Flyweight Championship — Joseph Benavidez (-285) vs. Demetrious Johnson (+225)
The UFC has never had a flyweight champion, but barring a draw that will all change on Saturday. This matchup is the finale of a flyweight tournament to find the new champ.
Benavidez has cruised to this point and has been waiting for six months for an opponent. Johnson’s first semifinal ended with a draw against Ian McCall, so they had to try again before Johnson emerged. Johnson is likely the better fighter when the opponents are on their feet, and that’s where he’ll score his points. He likely won’t end it there, though, and Benavidez has a big edge on the ground.
Pick: Joseph Benavidez
Michael Bisping (-190) vs. Brian Stann (+155)
Bisping lost last time out when he faced Chael Sonnen for a title shot, but he was impressive nonetheless. He is tactical and methodical, and very sound defensively.
Stann is far from a pushover, though. He’s coming back from injury, but he has the game to be a title contender with the win here, and he punches with lead gloves so he could end this one quickly.
The stakes are very high for both sides here. Bisping likely has a small edge, but not nearly as much of one as this price suggests. That means that there is nice value in the underdog.
Pick: Brian Stann
Matt Hamill (-370) vs. Roger Hollett (+280)
Like so many matches recently this one was impacted by injuries, though it has a happy ending. Hollett was originally scheduled for this fight, but contract issues for the UFC newcomer forced him to lose his spot to Vladimir Matyushenko. On Sept. 11, though, Matyushenko was injured, and Hollett was given another opportunity. Now he’ll make his UFC debut in front of a friendly crowd against a veteran returning to action after he retired following a loss at UFC 133.
This fight is interesting. On one hand you have a rookie making his UFC debut. That’s normally a turn-off for me, but Hollett has won five straight and has faced and beaten UFC fighters before. On the other hand, you have a guy who was very good in his prime, but who is bound to be rusty.
It’s a closer fight than it might first appear, but I ultimately can’t justify taking the rookie.
Pick: Matt Hamill
Charles Oliveira (-250) vs. Cub Swanson (+195)
This fight is a peak into the future of the flyweight division. The winner here won’t likely go into a title fight next time out, but he is probably only one more win away from his shot.
Swanson has struggled badly with injuries, but he has been healthy this year and has won nicely in both fights he has had recently. Swanson has fought well thanks to his athleticism, but he doesn’t have that same edge here against Oliveira. Oliveira has the athletic edge, but Swanson is the smarter fighter.
It’s closer than the price, so we have another underdog opportunity.
Pick: Cub Swanson
On each card I recommend bets with a mythical $500 bankroll. Last time out we hit for a nice profit. Let’s keep it going here:
$250 parlay — Take Jones, Benavidez, Hamill, Stann — Potential profit of $981
$250 parlay — Take Jones, Benavidez, Hamill, Swanson — Potential profit of $1174
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