Sunday, September 23, 2012

Will lovestruck dentist end up all smiles?

Will lovestruck dentist end up all smiles?, The betting line favoring Jon Jones at UFC 152 on Saturday in Toronto is the second most skewed Ultimate Fighting Championship title fight in history. The only other championship bout with odds more extreme than -750 was at UFC 112, and it ended with Frankie Edgar’s epic upset of B.J. Penn.

With a history like this, it is hard to count anyone out of a fight, even a longshot underdog stepping up in weight on short notice like Vitor Belfort. Yet unlike Penn, the youthful champion, Jon Jones, has yet to show that he is even beatable.

What does it all mean? Everyone will have an opinion, but only some of you will be armed with the numbers. Let us see how these guys stack up on paper and in the critical performance metrics for the UFC 152 main eventThe Tale of the Tape instantly tells of the significant physical differences between these two fighters. Jones is four inches taller, with more than a 10-inch reach advantage. However, Jones will not enjoy his usual southpaw/switch stance advantage, as Belfort will also come out as a southpaw. Overall, this is nothing new, since Jones is almost always the bigger, rangier fighter in his matchups. Jones also has two more brothers in the NFL than Belfort; it is just hard to argue with favorable genetics.

Still, what is more important here is the 10-year age differential. On average, fighters who are 10 years younger than their opponents win about two thirds of the time. The reason is that older fighters have less knockdown resiliency, a trend that really kicks in when fighters reach the age of 35. Belfort turned 35 in April and suffered his only true knockout loss against Anderson Silva two years ago. He is now stepping up two years later against a bigger, heavier champion who is just entering the front end of his peak physical age range.

The upside of age is experience, and Belfort brings a wealth of it into this matchup, having been one of the “old-school” UFC fighters of the pre-Zuffa era. Belfort won the UFC heavyweight tournament at UFC 12 in 1997. That night, he became the youngest fighter to win inside the UFC Octagon at the age of just 19. “The Phenom” returned to the Octagon in 2004, getting past Randy Couture for the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 46. The record of youngest titleholder would eventually be taken by none other than Jones. This current run represents Belfort’s third stint under the UFC banner, and he has certainly swum through the rest of the MMA promotion ocean in between.

A few other items jump off the tape. One is the layoff. Fortunately for Belfort, he has had plenty of rest. His last fight looked like an easy run through of Anthony Johnson way back in January. He then suffered a hand injury, preventing him from completing his “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” coaching matchup against Wanderlei Silva at UFC 147. Injury aside, psychologically, Belfort has not had any recent hiccups, while Jones seems to have attracted nothing but controversy since his unanimous decision victory over Rashad Evans in April. Despite the lengthy layoffs, neither fighter will have had much time to prepare for the other. Another key question centers on whether or not Belfort will be in the right condition. He will not have to cut his usual weight, but he also may not have had a full camp to be at peak form.

The last stat to recognize here is the finish rate. Jones clearly has finishing instinct with his submissions, but even more impressive is Belfort’s 100 percent finish rate for his 10 UFC wins. Since returning to the Octagon in 2009, he has put away Rich Franklin, Yoshihiro Akiyama and Anthony Johnson, all in the first round and in a grand total of less than 10 minutes. Those victories were only interrupted by a single loss to “The Spider,” who also got right down to business with his trendsetting front kick knockout in the first round. For the record, Silva was doing front kicks before it was even cool; cue the Steven Seagal interview.
Title: Will lovestruck dentist end up all smiles?
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