Following the cancellation of UFC 151, Jon Jones’ approval rating reached a new low.
Popularity has nothing to do with cold logic, however, as the majority of players in Sherdog.com’s MMA Pick ‘Em Fantasy game can attest. Whether they like him or not, 84 percent have selected Jones to successfully defend his 205-pound title against Vitor Belfort in the UFC 152 main event on Saturday night.
Jones has blasted his way through the promotion’s light heavyweight division, earning victories over Top 10 foes such as Ryan Bader, Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans. “Bones” has received heavy criticism for refusing to fight Chael Sonnen when Dan Henderson withdrew from UFC 151 with a knee injury, forcing the company to scrap the entire event.
A former UFC light heavyweight titlist, Belfort has competed primarily at middleweight since returning to the promotion in 2009. “The Phenom” has earned a pair of first-round finishes in his last two outings, knocking out Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 133 and submitting Anthony Johnson at UFC 142.
In the second title tilt of the evening, 79 percent of participants are siding with Joseph Benavidez in his bid to become the UFC’s inaugural flyweight champion against Demetrious Johnson. Benavidez punched his ticket to the 125-pound flyweight final at UFC on FX 2 with a second-round knockout of Yasuhiro Urushitani.
Meanwhile, Johnson wouldn’t earn his spot opposite Benavidez until June. After battling to a controversial majority draw with Ian McCall – a fourth, sudden victory frame didn’t occur due to a scoring error – “Mighty Mouse” captured a unanimous decision triumph over “Uncle Creepy” at UFC on FX 3 in June.
Other Pick ‘Em trends for the UFC 152 main card include:
A solid 65 percent of players favor Michael Bisping against Brian Stann in a pivotal middleweight duel. Despite having a four-fight winning streak halted by Chael Sonnen in his last bout, the outspoken Brit gained respect for giving Sonnen a tougher-than-expected test. Stann, meanwhile, has won four of five since dropping to middleweight, most recently knocking out Alessio Sakara in the first round at UFC on Fuel TV 2 in April.
Despite not having fought for more than a year, 91 percent of users are siding with Matt Hamill in his light heavyweight clash with UFC newcomer Roger Hollett. Hamill announced his retirement following a TKO defeat to Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 133 but has since reconsidered. Hollett, a staple of the Maximum Fighting Championship promotion, carries a five-fight winning streak into his Octagon debut.
In a matchup of fast-rising featherweights, 65 percent of Pick ‘Em contestants believe Charles Oliveira will get past Cub Swanson. “Do Bronx” has won two straight since dropping to featherweight, besting Eric Wisely and Jonathan Brookins in his last two outings. Swanson has earned second-round TKO stoppages of George Roop and Ross Pearson thus far in 2012.
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