UFC 126 Preview: Will Vitor Belfort Be the Fighter Who Finally Defeats Anderson Silva?
Bantamweight Bout: Miguel Torres (37-3-0) vs. Antonio Banuelos (19-6-0)
The Line: Torres (-500) vs. Banuelos (+300)
The first fight to be featured on the Pay-Per-View event includes one of the most dynamic fighters on Dana White’s payroll. Miguel Torres, who hadn’t lost since 2003 before back to back defeats at the hands of Brian Bowles and Joseph Benavidez will look to regain his Bantamweight superiority in his UFC debut. Another WEC product who stands to gain from the merger and new-found UFC spotlight is Antonio Banuelos. At a stout 5’3” (and of course, 135 lbs) he looks more like the typical Tapout-wearing douchebag that watches the fights in his mom’s basement than a legitimate challenger to Torres. Make no mistake though, Banuelos has the right mix of heart and skill to stand toe-to-toe with anyone in the division.
Look for Torres to demonstrate superior Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai throughout the fight but still have a timid nature after being caught twice in his last three tilts. Banuelos will do his best to keep up but simply will not be able to match Torres as the fight progresses.
The Pick: Torres by Unanimous Decision
Light Heavyweight bout: Jon “Bones” Jones (11-1) vs. Ryan Bader (13-0)
The Line: Jones (-325) vs. Bader (+250)
Jones vs. Bader is one of those fights that will deliver in a big way regardless of the outcome. This match-up pits the two young stars of the Light Heavyweight division against each other and will put one in the driver seat towards a contenders fight. Jones has become well-known for delivering highlight reel material consistently with the UFC. It is worth noting that his one loss was a DQ for pummeling Matt Hamill with illegal elbows. Aside from that, he has only gone to the judge’s scorecard twice.
Bader brings in an undefeated record and wins over career gatekeeper Keith Jardine and “Little Nog”, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira – a solid striker with a black belt in BJJ. After winning The Ultimate Fighter 8, Bader has showcased a Division 1 wrestling background paired with powerful hands and the ability to “just scrap” with his opponent. This fight promises fireworks… a lot of them.
I think Jones is a more well-rounded fighter and has serious potential to run through Bader like he has to the wrestlers he has faced before. His style matched well with Hamill (a fight he would have won), Jake O’Brien, and Vladimir Matyushenko – three solid wrestlers in the UFC ranks. Though Bader has great potential and will surely have his title shot some day, this fight and the current wunderkind title will be earned by Jones.
The Pick: Jones by TKO
Welterweight Bout: Jake Ellenberger (23-5) vs. Carlos Eduardo Rocha (9-0)
The Line: Ellenberger (-325) vs. Rocha (+250)
Ellenberger has a significant edge in experience, which seems to be what a lot of pundits have to say about this one. I tend to ignore experience in this sport simply because of the puncher’s chance. At any moment, the fight can swiftly end in a violent fashion. Rocha is a BJJ black belt with an underrated and
undefeated record. Ellenberger has a chin made of rock and knockout power in both hands. The styles hardly match-up, what with Rocha possessing the submission skills and Ellenberger representing the wrestling faction (as if there weren’t enough of those at 170 pounds). Through a little research I found that Ellenberger is only a blue belt in BJJ, and that helps me to deliver my first upset pick of the night.
Watch for Ellenberger (2-1 since joining the UFC) to employ wrestling and ground n’ pound techniques but eventually get caught by Rocha’s sound Jiu Jitsu. Arm bar? Guillotine? Not sure, but if it does happen it ought to win Submission of the Night.
The Pick: Rocha by Submission
Light Heavyweight Bout: Forrest Griffin (17-6) vs. Rich “Ace” Franklin (28-5, 1 NC)
The Line: Griffin (+140) vs. Franklin (-170)
This is the fight I am most excited to watch, hands down. In what I think is a fight to retain (or regain, depending on how you look at it) relevance these two veterans will square off in a fight that I highly doubt will hit the mat. Two seasoned strikers attempting to reignite their fabled title runs will be our co-main event of the evening. Not much to breakdown here really. Two guys with a ton of heart that can grapple but would prefer to stand and exchange shots will go blow for blow in a fight that will surely entertain fight fans worldwide.
Griffin is fighting for the first time since late 2009, a sloppy victory over Tito Ortiz and will attempt to show that his surgery did not cause him to suffer a setback in any way. Franklin is fighting for the first time since June 2010 when he knocked out Chuck Liddell, which hasn’t been an impressive feat in the UFC since Rampage did it at UFC 71. Both guys have a lot to prove if they want to jump back into title contention, because you, me, and Rich Franklin know the last place he wants to be is back at 185 with Silva and his vicious Muay Thai. Not like Forrest did a hell of a lot better with Silva at UFC 101 though. Regardless of the recent performances by these two, they are the kinds of guys that I always expect to see Fight of the Night performances from. Don’t be surprised to see these two get the bonus from Dana.
The Pick: Griffin by Unanimous Decision
Middleweight Championship Bout: Anderson “Spider” Silva (27-4) vs. Vitor Belfort (19-8)
The Line: Silva (-265) vs. Belfort (+205)
MMA 126's Main Event should be called 'The “Will Somebody Finally Fucking Beat This Guy?” Fight of the Night.' I truly hate Anderson Silva. There’s not much else that can be said, some fight fans love him and others are on board with me and think that someone needs to put a stop to the dancing, lazy fighting, and
bullshit interviews that the guy provides us with fight after fight. That being said, he is hands down the best Middleweight in the world and is easily a Top 3 contender for Pound-for-pound king (along with Aldo and GSP). However, I have not seen a line this close when Anderson fights since I started betting on MMA.
The consensus in MMA circles is that Belfort is most likely the only guy at 185 that can actually beat Silva. Chael Sonnen damn near shocked the world with his performance against Spider, which is why no one should be shocked that he tested positive for banned substances. The guy is that good. His Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, and Judo black belts back that claim up. Anyone who has seen him fight knows that he exudes dominance at will, whether or not that will is present is usually up to Anderson. Clinging to a 12- 0 record since joining the UFC, Silva can easily increase his legendary status with a win over Belfort.
The #6 ranked Middleweight in the world (Courtesy of Sherdog) will attempt to do what no one under the UFC banner has been able to thus far in defeating Silva. Vitor Belfort was a name that struck fear into his opponent in the early days of the UFC and Pride FC. After leaving the UFC in 2005, Belfort would return in 2009 in a big way – knocking out Rich Franklin in a Catchweight bout that won him KO of the Night honors. He also touts a black belt in BJJ and Judo, but also brings a Shotokan background into the fight (For those who do not follow very closely, Shotokan was the style that Lyoto Machida sports and is very difficult to adapt to/learn to fight against).
The key here is that Silva was exposed by Sonnen. For 23 minutes, Chael Sonnen shocked the casual and hardc*re fans alike with his performance. Though he was caught late, I think Vitor Belfort can learn a lot from the positives in that fight. Though Silva would be the front-runner’s pick here, I’ve got to be honest I think Belfort has the stuff to finally dethrone the guy.
The Pick: Belfort by Unanimous Decision (though I’ll take a vicious KO)
Undercard Fight to Watch
Donald Cerrone vs. Paul Kelly
It’s About Time Award
Yamamoto finally decided to sign with the promotion after fighting in Japan for almost all of his career. He will make his debut on the undercard Saturday night. Some of the older fans will certainly recognize the name, and for those who don’t feel free to enjoy this video of his 4-second knockout against Kazuyuki Miyata in 2006.