Vitor Belfort cannot — Vitor Belfort will not — beat Jon Jones.
This is not a prognostication that’s difficult to make. Look at the basics, and you can see why some are calling the main event of UFC 152 Saturday night in Toronto the biggest title-fight mismatch in UFC history.
Jones has four inches of height on Belfort and roughly a half-mile in reach. Jones is a 25-year-old phenom, the youngest champion in UFC history, a new breed of mixed martial artist who has elevated the sport to a unique level — and he’s facing a 35-year-old has-been, a guy who on short notice moved up a weight class to fight Jones and whose nickname, “The Phenom,” was coined a decade-and-a-half ago, which is several lifetimes in the short history of the UFC.
Vitor Belfort cannot — he will not — beat Jon Jones.
Just as Buster Douglas could not beat Mike Tyson. Just as the Americans could not beat the Soviets in Lake Placid. Just as the New York Giants could not beat the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Just as tiny Milan High School could never win the basketball state championship in the Hoosier State.
If you want, look at Belfort vs. Jones the way Vegas is looking at it: as a wash, a weak challenge for the man who’s coming close to cleaning out the light heavyweight division, a less-than-exciting replacement fight for the UFC 151 event that was canceled when Dan Henderson pulled out because of an injury.
I’ll look at it another way. Sure, the main event of UFC 152 could be the non-event so many are predicting. But combat sports are another breed. One slingshot punch from David could floor Goliath. A stumble, a bumble, an unexpected turn, and we could have an even bigger upset than Matt Serra’s TKO of Georges St. Pierre for the biggest upset in UFC history.
I’ll be looking at UFC 152 as one of those rare chances in life when the impossible can become possible. I’ll be looking at UFC 152 as nothing short of the reason we watch sports.
“I’m searching for an opportunity,” Belfort told FOXSports.com. “Everything for me is about an opportunity . . . Fighting one of the greatest guys in the whole time of UFC — that’s a big opportunity.
“I have a lot of respect for Jon Jones. But I’m glad that I have my own mindset. Single mind, man. I believe in my ability and have faith in what I can do.”
What Belfort has done in his long UFC and mixed martial arts career is extraordinary, if well short of Jones’ accomplishments in his four years. Belfort has faced seven former UFC or Pride champions. He beat future UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture at UFC 46 for a short-lived stint as light heavyweight champion. He has won seven of his last eight fights — five of those by KO or TKO — and was in line for a rematch down the road with middleweight champ Anderson Silva when he knocked on UFC president Dana White’s door and virtually begged to be the man who’d do what several others had refused to do, which was take a short-notice fight with Jones.
Belfort has three things going for him in this fight. Two of them are his hands of stone. If David does the impossible and beats Goliath, it won’t be through a grind-it-out, grappling-heavy match. It’ll be like his three-minute knockout of Rich Franklin in Belfort’s return to the UFC in 2009, or his 37-second knockout of Matt Lindland in 2009, or his 45-second TKO of Wanderlei Silva in 1998, or his 12-second knockout in his first professional fight way back in 1996. It’ll be a fist that flies from nowhere and catches Jones unaware.
The only other thing going for him? His mentality. Belfort’s in a unique position. He’s got nothing to lose and everything to gain. He took the fight on short notice. He’s moving up a weight division to take on Jones. He’s fighting the hottest thing the UFC’s got. Everyone’s looking at him like a sacrificial lamb, a place-filler.
Which is just fine by him.
“It’s just live in the present moment,” Belfort told FOXSports.com. “Living in the present moment is the key of success. Making the present the best moment of your life. If you’re in the middle of a hurricane, in the middle of the Tribulation, feel joy the whole time. For me everything will be about joy for this fight. It doesn’t matter the position I’m in. I’m looking at everything as an opportunity.”
The odds say Saturday night will be an opportunity for Belfort to get his butt handed to him by one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the UFC today. But the reason to watch is because, in a flash, that can all change.