Heading into UFC 152’s main event between Vitor Belfort and Jon Jones, we heard the same refrain repeated over and over again—Belfort only has a puncher’s chance to win this fight. It seems as if the fans and pundits repeating that phrase forgot that the former UFC champion was also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Belfort dusted off those BJJ skills early in the first round on Saturday when he clamped a nasty looking armbar on Jones’ right arm. The hold was in there deep, and it looked as if it was going to result in yet another underdog prevailing on a fight card that was full of upsets.
Once the armbar was secured, Jones did his best to shake Belfort loose and after some effort he was able to free himself from Belfort's grasp. Once out of danger he would go on to victory with a fourth-round submission of his own. However that victory did not come without a price.
The price that Jones paid was evident when he made his way to the dais for the UFC 152 post-fight press conference long after the other fighters and Dana White had taken their places. Jones entered stage right, resplendent in the gear of his sponsor, Nike, with his arm in a sling.
When he was asked about the armbar, there was no false bravado from the champ; he was honest in his assessment, saying that during those tense seconds he was mentally preparing to see White strap the belt around the waist of Belfort:
I felt as if there was a point where I don't think physically he could have extended it even more. I mean, it was popping, and I felt after 25 years that I've never felt that feeling before. I just came to terms with what was going to happen, just thinking, “Man, I can't believe I'm getting ready to lose this way.”
As far as the reason for the sling, Jones acknowledged that he was waiting to get an x-ray on the arm and that the fear was that he had sustained nerve damage from Belfort's submission attempt.
It was a gutsy performance from Jones, one that White said answered all the questions many have been throwing toward the 25-year old champion:
There was a lot of questions about Jon Jones that people kept asking over and over again, no matter who he fought. No matter how good he fought. Could he take a punch? He got hit with some big punches tonight from a real puncher, and he took them. He was injured. He had the heart to keep going, and he had a great fight tonight. There can be no more naysaying about Jon Jones. Listen, you love him or you hate him. If you don't like him, whatever. If you like him, good, but you can't deny that the kid is extremely talented and one of the best in the world.
To sum up Jones’ performance White said, “There's no doubt that this was his best performance. He looked phenomenal tonight.”
The presser was cut a little short at White’s request so they could get the light heavyweight champion off to the hospital for an x-ray. Results of Jones' trip to the hospital have not become available as of yet.
*all quotes obtained firsthand