After six long weeks of inactivity, the UFC is back on Pay-Per-View on Saturday night. With our imagination still wondering what could have occurred at UFC 151, it is time to move forward and enjoy a fight card that features two title fights, as well as a potential title eliminator.
In the main event, Jon Jones will defend his light heavyweight championship against former champion Vitor Belfort. Both men earned impressive victories in their most recent bouts. Jones has thrice defended his belt against, with an April victory over Rashad Evans. Belfort is returning to the division after a five-year absence and is currently riding the momentum of two stoppage victories.
Another battle for gold will take place in the evening's co-main event. After winning bouts in the semi-final round of the inaugural flyweight championship tournament, Demetrious Johnson takes on Team Alpha Male's Joseph Benavidez. Who will go down in history as the first UFC champion at 125 pounds?
The middleweight division will also see important action when Michael Bisping meets Brian Stann in a fight that could determine the next contender for Anderson Silva's gold. How will Britain's top fighter do against an American war hero?
Also on the main card, we will see the return of popular Ultimate Fighter alumnus Matt Hamill. With his 36th birthday around the corner, Hamill feels that he has more that he can achieve in the sport. He takes on former Bellator fighter Roger Hollett in a light heavyweight collision.
Featherweights will come together when Cub Swanson and Charles Oliveira show us that the division is full of dangerous combatants who can be exciting no matter where the fight goes.
Kicking off the main card action will be a featherweight contest between a pair of dangerous pugilists who rarely see the scorecards. In fact, in his 19-fight career, Oliveira has never taken a fight to the judges. Swanson has gone the distance only five times in 22 contests.
Oliveira dropped to featherweight last year, and has gone 2-0 in his new home. In January, Do Bronx used a calf-slicer on Eric Wisely, and it is still a top contender for 2012's submission of the year. In June, he submitted Ultimate Fighter winner Jonathan Brookins with an anaconda choke.
With aspirations to become the youngest champion in UFC history, he will need to be successful in this bout if he hopes to meet the June 16 deadline.
Swanson has gone 3-1 in his most recent bouts, with the sole loss coming at the hands of surging contender Ricardo Lamas last November. In his most recent contest, he outstruck Ultimate Fighter winner Ross Pearson en route to a TKO victory.
Betting Odds: Oliveira (-260) over Swanson (+200) at www.bovada.lv
Prediction: Charles Oliveira has a tremendous advantage in the grappling department, and his precise and frequent kicks allow him to fully utilize his three-inch reach advantage. However, he absorbed more damage in the Brookins fight than he probably should have.
Swanson surprised many by outstriking Ross Pearson, although the TUF winner is a bit more one-dimensional in his stand-up than the Brazilian.
Betting on Oliveira has fooled me before, but I think he will take his fight on Saturday.
Charles Oliveira defeats Cub Swanson via submission (rear-naked choke) in Round 2
UFC 152 will mark the return of Matt "The Hammer" Hamill since his premature retirement from the sport last year. Despite a five-fight winning streak that began in 2008, back-to-back losses to Rampage Jackson and Alexander Gustafsson sent him packing.
Roger Hollett is a mostly unknown entity for fight fans. With a record of 13-3, Hollett has recently gotten press surrounding his Bellator contract that nearly prevented him from competing in the UFC.
Betting Odds: Hamill (-350) over Hollett (+265) at www.bovada.lv
Prediction: The only quality opponent that Hollet has ever faced was five-time UFC veteran David Heath. The bout was short and Heath was victorious in less than two minutes. It's hard for me to predict that he will fare well against an opponent who has defeated the likes of Tito Ortiz, Mark Munoz and Tim Boetsch.
Matt Hamill has excellent wrestling and experience that will be hard for someone like Hollett to overcome. It's likely that this one doesn't go all three rounds, but Hamill will have a bit of ring rust to shake off.
Matt Hamill defeats Roger Hollett via unanimous decision (30-27)
Michael Bisping and Brian Stann are both the victims of summer injuries that removed them from exciting matchups. The original booking saw Bisping meeting Tim Boetsch at UFC 148, and Stann would headline UFC on Fox 4 against Hector Lombard.
With the divisional departure of Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort and Demian Maia, both fighters have seen a considerable raise in stock, and could be fighting for a championship by putting in an impressive performance.
"He's a star in the UFC, he makes big time money, he's got everything that everybody else wants, and he's earned it. So I want to take that. I saw the interview and I know my shoulder will be ready for Sept. 22 in Toronto (UFC 152) and that would be a great honor to put that fight on for the fans.”
Betting Odds: Bisping (-175) over Stann (+140) at www.bovada.lv
Prediction: I stand by my comments that Michael Bisping is ranked much higher than he should be due to hype and promotional muscle. The best fighter than Bisping ever defeated was Chris Leben, and he did so in unimpressive fashion.
That being said, I think he matches up well with Stann. Both men hit very hard, and Bisping will likely have an advantage in striking accuracy, as well as in the grappling department. It's unlikely that The Count will wind up on his back, so unless Stann can drop a bomb, this should be a good night for Britain.
Michael Bisping defeats Brian Stann via unanimous decision (29-28)
The inaugural UFC Flyweight Championship is nearly here, and it's honestly a bit underwhelming. After all, it feels like giving out a runner-up trophy when you consider that both Benavidez and Johnson are failed contenders for bantamweight gold.
With a talent pool as deep as a Slip-N-Slide, the Flyweight division has not yet gotten up to full speed. Hopefully, a matchup between the two tournament favorites will be a big step in the right direction.
Joseph Benavidez knocked out Yashuhiro Urushitani in his tournament semi-final, while Demetrious Johnson was unable to finish Ian McCall in six rounds of action that stretched across two bouts.
With the tournament finally coming to a conclusion, it will be nice to see one of these fighters finally strap gold around their waist.
Betting Odds: Benavidez (-285) over Johnson (+225) at www.bovada.lv
Prediction: Demetrious Johnson is likely the fastest man in mixed martial arts, and he has a chin that refuses to give up. Then again, I'm not sure that his chin has ever met anything with the force of Joseph Benavidez and his exploding fists.
Team Alpha Male has a tremendous amount of representation in the lighter weight classes, and they all have spectacular guillotine chokes. With Johnson constantly looking for a takedown, Benavidez will get hold of his neck at some point during the contest, and he will not let go.
Joseph Benavidez defeats Demetrious Johnson via submission (guillotine) in Round 3
When Jon Jones turned down a bout with Chael Sonnen and effectively cancelled UFC 151, the fans who once embraced him grew bitter and angry. Hoping that Sonnen would give the champ a taste of Mean Street Pizza, many were surprised that middleweight Vitor Belfort, not Sonnen, would get a title shot.
Belfort has defeated Rich Franklin; Yoshihiro Akiyama and Anthony Johnson have since returned to the UFC, and his sole loss came when Anderson Silva turned The Phenom into a human highlight reel.
Ready to show the world that he is capable of dethroning the most dominant light heavyweight in UFC history, Vitor Belfort is only a few days away from his final chance at greatness.
Betting Odds: Jones (-750) over Belfort (+475) at www.bovada.lv
Prediction: Jon Jones has become the prodigy of Greg Jackson and his camp of strategic fighting. If Jackson can convince a brawler like Clay Guida to avoid a striking affair with Gray Maynard, you had better believe Bones will not risk eating a single shot from the power puncher.
Look for Jones to take this to the ground early and wear out Belfort from the top. The Brazilian has a questionable gas tank and will likely drown in deeper waters. Jones will look to secure a submission from top position and will find it in Round 2.
Jones defeats Belfort via submission (north-south choke) in Round 2