The main event of UFC 152 in Toronto on Saturday featured a light heavyweight championship showdown between Jon Jones and Vitor Belfort, a match most of the MMA world considered little more than a formality.
Jones was supposed to walk through Belfort, an aged middleweight who had not competed at 205 pounds for over five years.
On one hand, the expectation that Jones would dominate the fight was realized—he controlled his opponent for three-and-a-half rounds before ending the match via submission. On the other hand, Belfort proved to be the most dangerous opponent Jones has ever faced.
The champion began the night by shooting for an early takedown. While Jones was looking to drop some elbows from the guard, Belfort shifted his hips, swung up his legs and sunk in a deep armbar.
Jones pulled, pried and lifted Belfort up, slamming him down to loosen the grip. After flailing desperately to get free, Jones improbably escaped the most dangerous situation he has faced as a mixed martial artist.
The remainder of the round was nothing but Jones' trademark elbow-heavy ground and pound, which badly lacerated the Phenom's face.
Round 2 was more or less an exhibition of Jones' wingspan. Using punches and kicks to batter his overmatched opponent, Jones kept Belfort at bay for the better part of five minutes before taking him to the mat, resuming his ground and pound.
In the fight's third round, Jones blasted Belfort with a kick to the ribs that laid the Phenom out. After Jones let his opponent back up, Belfort shifted his strategy and began pulling guard. He did so twice before the round was out.
Round 4 followed the mold of Jones striking at Belfort while remaining far outside his opponent's range. Belfort, in desperation mode now, pulled his opponent on top of him once more. This time he did not get up.
After advancing to the crucifix position, Jones grabbed an Americana and forced Belfort to tap. Though it didn't take him long to sink in the fight-ending move, the finish was a long time coming.
After nearly pulling off the upset with an early armbar attempt, Belfort continued to look for a submission from his guard throughout the remainder of the match, despite suffering sharp elbows and short punches every time he tried.
Commentators Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg expressed disapproval at Belfort's inclination to pull guard, but in the fighter's defense, he wasn't even getting close on the feet.
The outcome was written on the wall after it became evident Belfort would not be able to get inside, nor replicate the offense from his guard that he exhibited early in the fight. The champion's length was the decisive factor in the match, proving too much for the smaller fighter to handle.
With the victory, Jones retains his UFC light heavyweight crown. It was another dominant performance, this time highlighting his physical attributes more than his considerable talent.
Both on the feet and in Belfort's guard, Jones' leverage kept Belfort on the defensive, making it nothing but a matter of time before victory showed up.
Another impressive win for the pound-for-pound contender.