Jon Jones took care of business in Toronto. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
UFC 152 “Jones vs. Belfort” answered a lot of questions on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto -- questions like “Can Jon Jones defend against a deep armbar?” and “What would it look like if Charles Oliveira got shot?”
However, like any good card, it also raised plenty of new questions and presented a whole host of new possibilities. We will try to get to the bottom of some of them in queries posed this week by Sherdog.com features editor Brian Knapp.
Question: In hindsight, would Jon Jones have been wiser accepting a short-notice bout with Chael Sonnen at UFC 151?
Answer: Until Sonnen strings together a few wins -- or at least beats Forrest Griffin in December -- there is not a lot of upside for Jones in fighting him, regardless of how much time they have had to prepare. Sure, taking the match would have spared Jones from Zuffa’s petulant mud-slinging and kept him on some UFC 151 fighters’ Christmas card lists, but it is not as if he was the world’s best-loved fighter before this whole fiasco anyway. Despite every prediction that the champ would have rolled to an easy win, we will never know how a fight between Jones and Sonnen on Sept. 1, 2012, would have played out. What we do know is that Jones, with plenty to lose and not much to gain in that particular instance, chose to do what he felt was best for him. It is tough to fault him when looking from that angle, especially when he wound up fighting and beating an equally, if not more dangerous opponent three weeks later.
Question: Did Vitor Belfort expose Jones’ vulnerabilities?
Answer: If Jones eventually loses his title by submitting to a first-round armbar, I will be the first to say that Vitor laid out the blueprint. Aside from that early scare, I did not see Belfort poking any holes in Jones’ armor during what was another dominant performance from the King of 205ers. In fact, the performance may have only added to Jones’ aura of invincibility: even after having his right arm tweaked in the first 90 seconds of the bout, Jones was able to grind down and become only the second person to make Belfort tap.
Question: Considering the boos that were heard during the five-round flyweight title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez, how does the UFC go about kindling interest in its newer, lesser-known weight classes?
Answer: I cannot believe I am about to say it, but I think UFC President Dana White is handling this situation the right way. After Toronto fans jeered what was, to my eyes, a fast-paced and exciting five-round duel, the UFC boss went off during the post-fight presser, labeling anyone who failed to appreciate the fight as a “moron” who does not truly like fighting or “appreciate great talent.” I might have chosen different wording, but I certainly agree with the sentiment. This is mixed martial arts, and just like any art, people should not be bullied into false appreciation of something they do not enjoy. At the same time, numskulls should not feel welcome to vocally deride and sully an objectively good fight. Considering how deftly White was able to manipulate fans’ vitriol toward Jones in the wake of UFC 151’s cancelation, maybe his chiding will cause some boo-birds to give flyweight action another chance -- or at least be quiet while the grownups are watching.
Question: Where does Matt Hume rank on the MMA trainer totem pole and does he get enough credit for the work he has done with Johnson?
Answer: Hume may not be as high-profile as Greg Jackson or Javier Mendez, but I suspect most in the fight game would agree his name belongs near the top of the list with those elite trainers. This is a man who has seen the sport from all angles -- fighter, promoter, matchmaker, referee, judge, commentator -- both stateside and abroad, and he has a wealth of knowledge to pass on to his charges. If he does not get enough credit for the tiny monster he has helped turn into a UFC champ, it is only because the most visible aspect of Johnson’s game is his innate speed.
Question: Would Benavidez be better served to move back to 135 pounds, where he would hold a significant speed advantage over virtually every opponent?
Answer: This is tricky, since there are positives for him in either weight class. At bantamweight, he will be quicker, but at flyweight, he will have size and power -- provided he can get his hands on his opponent. It really depends on how much Benavidez likes eating, but, personally, I would like to see him stick around at 125 for at least a few more goes. Some fights might look like his bout with Johnson, but I think more will look like his encounter with Yasuhiro Urushitani.
Question: Is Michael Bisping underrated?
Answer: No. He is a solid middleweight who gets a lot of extra hate because of his persona outside the cage.
Question: Is Brian Stann overrated?
Answer: No. He is a solid middleweight who gets a lot of extra love because of his persona outside the cage.
Question: Why was the Matt Hamill-Roger Hollett matchup included as part of the pay-per-view lineup?
Answer: I have been wondering the same thing, especially because Hamill’s last Octagon appearance was an undercard loss to Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 133. Maybe the powers that be saw the returning “Hammer” as a bigger draw this time out, since the 2010 feature film based on his life has gradually gained a wider audience during his brief retirement. Whatever the case, I think anyone who watched UFC 152 in its entirety would agree that T.J. Grant-Evan Dunham should have been in that slot instead.
Question: Does Grant deserve consideration as a Top 10 lightweight?
Answer: Not just yet. Grant’s three wins at 155 pounds have all been against solid opposition -- Dunham gave him a hell of a fight and, I thought, nearly stole it -- but he has not faced the division’s elite. He has certainly earned a step up, and the UFC might do well to put Grant against someone on the mid to low end of the Top 10 in his next bout, maybe a Clay Guida or Jim Miller.