UFC 152 Fight Card: Info and Predictions for Jones vs. Belfort

Sean SmithAnalyst ISeptember 18, 2012

UFC 152 Fight Card: Info and Predictions for Jones vs. Belfort

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    Jon Jones' public image has taken a considerable hit since he last stepped into the Octagon against Rashad Evans.

    In June, the UFC's light heavyweight champion plead guilty of driving under the influence, after wrecking his Bentley Continental GT into a pole. However, that only began the stream of constant criticism that Jones has had to deal with leading into his fourth title defense.

    After Jones' UFC 151 opponent, Dan Henderson, was forced out of their fight due to injury, the titleholder turned down a short-notice bout against former middleweight title contender Chael Sonnen. That decision ultimately led to the cancellation of the UFC 151 fight card, which caused many fans to blame the champion despite the fact that Jones was not responsible for putting together an event that was considered unsuitable without him.

    Now, Jones finds himself headlining UFC 152 in a fifth straight championship bout against a current or former UFC champion. After months of battling verbal assault, Jones finally gets to do what he does best. He gets to close his mouth and talk with his fists.

    Along with predictions for every fight, here is all the information a fan could need heading into Saturday's UFC 152.

Kyle Noke vs. Charlie Brenneman

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    How to Watch: 6:30 p.m. ET on Facebook

    After losing two straight, Kyle Noke has decided to make a change to turn things around. The Australian will be welcomed to the welterweight division by Charlie Brenneman, who has also fallen on hard times as a loser of two out of his past three fights.

    Brenneman's strongest asset in this fight will be his wrestling. He used wrestling to pick up the biggest win of his career in June 2011, when he repeatedly took Rick Story to the ground to record a massive upset on the scorecards. However, Brenneman will have to be cautious on the ground against Noke, who has eight career submission wins.

    The only submission loss of Brenneman's career came after eating several punches from Erick Silva, one of the brightest young welterweights in MMA. So, "The Spaniard" should be able to survive any Noke submission attempts en route to a decision win.

    Prediction: Brenneman defeats Noke by decision.

Mitch Gagnon vs. Walel Watson

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    Where to Watch: 6:30 p.m. ET on Facebook

    Despite competing in his home country of Canada, Mitch Gagnon lost to Bryan Caraway in his UFC debut. Now, Gagnon will remain in Canada, where all 10 of his professional fights have been contested, to fight Walel Watson on the UFC 152 preliminary card.

    Gagnon and Watson are both most dangerous on the ground. In their combined 17 wins, the two fighters have amounted a total of 15 submissions. When two fighters are so evenly matched on the ground, a primarily stand-up bout will often occur.

    In this matchup, a striking advantage would have to go to Watson, who possesses a long reach and has scored two knockout wins in his career. Look for Watson to be patient early before finding his range in the second round, when he will hurt Gagnon and finish the fight with a choke on the ground.

    Prediction: Watson defeats Gagnon by second-round submission.

Seth Baczynski vs. Simeon Thoreson

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    Where to Watch: 6:30 p.m. ET on Facebook

    Seth Baczynski was cut from the UFC following a loss to Brad Tavares at the Season 11 finale of The Ultimate Fighter. However, the 30-year-old hasn't lost since. He is  undefeated in his three fights since returning to the Octagon. At UFC 152, Baczynski will look for a fourth straight UFC win against Simeon Thoreson.

    Thoreson defeated fellow UFC newcomer Besam Yousef in his Octagon debut, but he'll now be facing a much more seasoned opponent in Baczynski.

    Most deadly on the ground, Baczynski and Thoreson both have double-digit submission wins. The latter has never been forced to tap, though; Baczynski has been submitted three times in his career. 

    Baczynski hasn't been submitted in more than four years. He's probably capable of surviving on the ground in the matchup. Nonetheless, Thoreson has only been decisively beaten on his feet. The Norwegian is money on the ground, so he's matched up well here to pick up the biggest win of his career.

    Prediction: Thoreson defeats Baczynski by first-round submission.

Jimy Hettes vs. Marcus Brimage

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    Where to Watch: 8:00 p.m. ET on FX

    Undefeated in 10 fights, including wins over Nam Phan and Alex Caceres, Jimy Hettes seems to be taking a step backward in competition against Marcus Brimage. 

    Brimage is undefeated in his first two official UFC fights after appearing on The Ultimate Fighter. However, neither win was spectacular and neither came against the type of opposition that Hettes has already proven he is better than.

    One weakness Brimage has already displayed in his short career is shoddy submission defense. This is not something an opponent wants to start fixing just ahead of a fight against a crafty submission ace like Hettes. The 25-year-old has won all but one of his fights via submission before the third round, so it wouldn't be remotely surprising to see him force a tap from Brimage in this matchup.

    Prediction: Hettes defeats Brimage by first-round submission.

Sean Pierson vs. Lance Benoist

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    Where to Watch: 8:00 p.m. ET on FX

    Coming off of the first loss of his career, Lance Benoist will have to overcome a shortened training camp to avoid back-to-back losses in a matchup against Sean Pierson. Benoist took this UFC 152 bout one month ago when Dan Miller was forced out of his scheduled fight against Pierson to see his son through a successful kidney transplant.

    Pierson picked up a win over Jake Hecht in his most recent outing, breaking up a two-fight losing streak in the process. Against Benoist, the Canadian will have a chance to compete in his home city of Toronto, Canada.

    Benoist and Pierson are very evenly matched, having both picked up a decision win over Matt Riddle in their UFC debuts. The two fighters are both fairly well rounded, but each has improvements they'll need to make in order to reach the next level.

    With a full training camp under his belt, expect Pierson to have a small edge in every area against Benoist. Though this fight could really go either way, let's go with the guy who has had more preparation and the fighter who will have the increased motivation of competing in front of his hometown fans.

    Prediction: Pierson defeats Benoist by decision.

T.J. Grant vs. Evan Dunham

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    Where to Watch: 8:00 p.m. ET on FX

    T.J. Grant was victorious in his first two lightweight fights, but he'll be facing a significantly tougher foe when he steps into the cage at UFC 152. The Canadian's jiu-jitsu has carried him to moderate success inside the Octagon, but Grant will need more than his ground game to improve his standing against a jiu-jitsu black belt in Evan Dunham.

    With six submission wins, Dunham even poses a threat to a skilled grappler like Grant on the ground. At the same time, the Xtreme Couture lightweight has showed much-improved striking in his two fights since being knocked out by Melvin Guillard.

    Dunham will beat Grant up in the stand-up department and stymie his opponent's attack on the ground. A dominant win over Grant will set Dunham up for another shot at a Top 15 lightweight.

    Prediction: Dunham defeats Grant by decision.

Igor Pokrajac vs. Vinny Magalhaes

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    Where to Watch: 8:00 p.m. ET on FX

    Vinny Magalhaes has won seven of his past eight fights since being released from the UFC in April 2009, but he won't be eased back into the organization's light heavyweight division. No, Magalhaes will meet Igor Pokrajac, who is riding a three-fight winning streak inside the Octagon.

    Not only has Pokrajac had success against high-level competition, but he's got the wrestling and submission defense to take away Magalhaes' greatest asset.

    A jiu-jitsu world champion, Magalhaes could be considered one of the better submission artists in MMA. The Brazilian recently won the M-1 light heavyweight title with a mounted gogoplata. That being said, Pokrajac has only been submitted once in a 33-fight career, so he won't be easily added to Magalhaes' highlight reel.

    In fact, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see the Croatian spoil Magalhaes' return to the Octagon. He'll keep this fight standing for the most part and batter his Brazilian opponent along the fence. 

    Prediction: Pokrajac defeats Magalhaes by decision.

Cub Swanson vs. Charles Oliveira

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    Where to Watch: 10:00 p.m. ET on Pay-Per-View

    Cub Swanson and Charles Oliveira have each won two straight fights. They're young and hungry to enter the featherweight title picture, but only one can take a step forward when the two meet on Saturday night.

    Oliveira made the move to featherweight after suffering losses against elite lightweights Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller. The 22-year-old Brazilian already has dynamic striking and slick submissions, making him an intriguing prospect that could become a long-term contender if he develops properly.

    On the other hand, Swanson has already had his chances against top 145-pound fighters. He's been knocked out by Jose Aldo, submitted by Ricardo Lamas and out-wrestled by Chad Mendes. Swanson's three career submission losses are a concern heading into a bout with a tricky jiu-jitsu black belt like Oliveira.

    This fight will be exciting, but don't be surprised if it ends rather quickly, with Oliveira catching Swanson in a submission shortly after the fighters go to the ground.

    Prediction: Oliveira defeats Swanson by second-round submission.

Matt Hamill vs. Roger Hollett

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    Where to Watch: 10:00 p.m. ET on Pay-Per-View

    Matt Hamill abruptly retired after a loss in his most recent fight against Alexander Gustafsson, but he's back and reportedly remotivated. After a year-long layoff, the 35-year-old Hamill will get a chance to test the waters against a UFC newcomer in Roger Hollett.

    Hollett has won five straight fights and even earned a spot in a Bellator light heavyweight tournament with his last victory. However, the UFC came calling before Hollett could take part in the tournament, so the Canadian will now have the opportunity to compete  against the best in the world for the first time in his career.

    A fight against Hamill is not the most welcoming way for a new UFC fighter to be introduced to the Octagon. This will be a learning experience for Hollett, who would do well to take this bout to the scorecards.

    Prediction: Hamill defeats Hollett by first-round technical knockout.

Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann

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    Where to Watch: 10:00 p.m. ET on Pay-Per-View

    Despite losing his last fight against Chael Sonnen, Michael Bisping is closing in on a middleweight title shot. The British fighter arguably should have defeated Sonnen in a decision that ended up costing him a spot in a championship bout against Anderson Silva.

    With a definitive win over Brian Stann, Bisping could put himself in the front of the line for a chance at the 185-pound belt. After his infamous knockout loss to Dan Henderson, Bisping knows what he has to do to avoid being hit by a power puncher like Stann, and The Ultimate Fighter winner has an underrated ground game that should make him the favorite in this matchup no matter where the fight takes place.

    Stann is has posted a 4-1 record since his move from light heavyweight to middleweight, with his only loss coming against Sonnen. However, the U.S. Marine was rather easily submitted by Sonnen, whereas Bisping gave the outspoken wrestler  everything he could handle.

    Bisping is a significant favorite in this fight, but Stann is often tough to put away, so he should be able to go the distance with his opponent before suffering a second loss in three fights.

    Prediction: Bisping defeats Stann by decision.

Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson

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    Where to Watch: 10:00 p.m. ET on Pay-Per-View

    A bout between Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson will determine the UFC's first ever flyweight champion. The former bantamweight title contenders made the move to the flyweight division after suffering losses to 135-pound titleholder Dominick Cruz. They earned their spots in the championship fights by winning in their semifinal bouts of a four-main tournament that also included Ian McCall and Yasuhiro Urushitani.

    Both fighters are very well rounded, but an edge has to be given to Benavidez, who has shown more on his feet than his grapple-first opponent. Benavidez has the ground game to negate Johnson's wrestling and will out-land his opponent when standing.

    If you're expecting a finish from this fight, you'll probably be disappointed, but the 125-pounders are going to entertain in 25 minutes of non-stop action.

    Prediction: Benavidez defeats Johnson by decision.

Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort

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    Where to Watch: 10:00 p.m. ET on Pay-Per-View

    Jon Jones is one win away from tying Chuck Liddell and Frank Shamrock at four consecutive light heavyweight title defenses. He'll get that victory against Vitor Belfort in UFC 152's main event.

    You can never count a fighter out in MMA, but Belfort has his hands full against the 205-pound champion. Belfort hasn't competed at light heavyweight in years, and now he's diving into the division against one of the best light heavyweights to ever step into the Octagon.

    Belfort always presents the threat of a knockout, but Jones is too smart of a fighter and  too experienced, even at his young age, to take a risk that would result in him being knocked out. Jones takes this fight to the ground as soon as possible and shows that he's already a black belt-level jiu-jitsu practitioner by forcing another former champion to tap.  

    Prediction: Jones defeats Belfort by second-round submission.