TSN.ca's MMA staff takes a look at some of the hottest issues in the world of mixed martial arts.
1) Is the UFC making the right move having Jon Jones fight Vitor Belfort at the UFC 152 in Toronto?
James Lynch, TSN.ca - I'm glad we'll be seeing Jon Jones on the Toronto card to finally add some star power to the event. This is definitely the right move and having an exciting middleweight like Vitor Belfort move up and take the fight is exactly what the Toronto event needed. It's also interesting because Belfort hasn't fought at light heavyweight since his 2007 Cage Rage victory over James Zikic, and it will be interesting to see how his power and speed translate.
Other things to consider are that at 41 years of age, Dan Henderson may be on the shelf for a while, and the right thing for the UFC and Dan Henderson is take their time with his injury while keeping Jones active. While on paper the Jones vs. Belfort match favors the current champion (in terms of his height and reach advantage), Belfort has knockout power, and is a much more thrilling matchup than Lyoto Machida, who was rumored to face Jones on this card initially.
Justin Boone, TSN.ca - As someone who resides in Toronto, I am definitely happy that the UFC has added more muscle to the upcoming event. However, I feel the move was made out of necessity. The promotion had no other event to slot the championship bout into. UFC 153 already has a title fight at the top with Jose Aldo now taking on Frankie Edgar in what should be an exciting fight. Waiting any longer only pushes back the next light heavyweight title fight, so Jones slides on top of the Toronto card and fans in Ontario get a chance to see him defend his title once again.
While the card might look better on paper, the choice of opponent for Jones is highly questionable. Last time Belfort faced an elite opponent, he was violently knocked out in the first round by Anderson Silva. Jones is a bigger fighter, with a seven-inch reach advantage over Silva and a 10-inch reach advantage over Belfort. In the first meeting between Machida and Jones, at least Machida was able to remain competitive in the first round before being submitted a round later. Sonnen would at least entertain us with words before succumbing to the champion's talent. Both Machida and Sonnen were much better options than Belfort. There is a reason why Belfort is a massive underdog in this bout and yes, in the UFC anything can happen, but it's awfully hard to challenge for the title when you don't present a challenge at all.
2) Did Jon Jones make the right choice by turning down a title defense against Chael Sonnen at UFC 151?
Boone - I guess this is the part where we pile on Jones for forcing the UFC to actually cancel a pay-per-view. I feel like the overwhelming majority of people would say that Jones made a mistake by declining a fight on short notice to save the event, but I also believe that Jones is paying the price for his decision. The light heavyweight champion's popularity has taken a significant turn for the worse as Sonnen used the move to launch an all out assault on Twitter.
While Jones' decision may have been a bad one for his image, it could ultimately be a great turn of events for the UFC. It's been well documented that Jones' pay-per-view numbers have suffered, perhaps because he has been so dominant in his short time in the octagon. Regardless, fans may tune in now in hopes of seeing the king get knocked off his throne. Sonnen has done his best to berate Jones and assuming the main event at UFC 152 goes like the oddsmakers expect it to, there could be a fight between Jones and Sonnen in the cards after all.
Lynch - Jones shouldn't dictate who he fights, leave that up to matchmaker Joe Silva and the UFC. You're the champion, and you should be taking on all comers, regardless of the fact that Sonnen doesn't deserve a title shot (going 2-2 in his last four fights and none at light heavyweight). Dana White revealed on the conference call that Jones' coach Greg Jackson believed if Jones had taken the fight it would have been "the biggest mistake of his career". Really? So an opponent who fights at middleweight, coming off a brutal loss and clearly has a size disadvantage is a risk for Jones? I don't think so.
Clearly Jones would have a variety of advantages including a full training camp, where as Sonnen would be taking a fight on a week's notice. I'm also pretty sure the UFC would have given Jones a nice payday if money was a concern.
The irony about this whole situation is Jones recently stated that he didn't want a fight with Lyoto Machida in the near future because it's not "a big money fight". Not only would a fight with Sonnen have been a big money fight but Jones has been rescheduled to fight Belfort, which is a much greater challenge than Sonnen posed. On top of all this, his boss is disappointed he turned down the fight and all the UFC 151 fighters had their bouts cancelled (first time in UFC history) because of his selfish attitude. Luckily many of the UFC 151 fighters have had their bouts rescheduled.
3) Does Frankie Edgar deserve the title shot he's been given against Jose Aldo at UFC 153?
Lynch - In any other situation, I'd say no, but in this case I agree with the UFC's decision to pit the former lightweight champ in a super fight against the Brazilian 145-pound title holder. The New Jersey native lost not one, but two close fights to Benson Henderson and is still arguably the second best fighter in the lightweight division. He hasn't been finished through 18 fights and poses an interesting threat to the Nova Unio fighter with his wrestling and solid ground game.
In addition, the lack of contenders in the featherweight division is evident, with injuries to Erik Koch and Chan Sung Jung, and other contenders like Chad Mendes and Mark Hominick have already lost to the featherweight king. What's more interesting, is to see how Edgar will perform at featherweight, as he's revealed he didn't cut any weight when he was making his run in the 155-pound division. I think this fight has potential to be fight of the year and I'm excited that the UFC is making this fight sooner rather than later.
Boone - This may be the first time in recent history that an injury replacement has actually made a UFC main event more intriguing. Aldo is one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world and he hasn't been seriously tested in a while. Edgar is more of a contender in the featherweight division than anyone that could have stepped in otherwise and he will push the pace on the champion. With two straight close losses in lightweight title fights, it was going to be a while before the UFC could justify giving him another shot at the champion, so a move to featherweight and an instant championship bout is the perfect solution.
While the opportunity is well deserved, Edgar will face the most difficult opponent of his career in Aldo. The reigning featherweight champ is undefeated in the UFC and hasn't been beaten in almost seven years. Edgar will try to become only the second man to ever earn a victory over Aldo. Edgar has gone the distance (five rounds) in five of his last six fights, with the other bout lasting four rounds. Edgar is someone who tends to get stronger as the fight goes on and he may get that chance against Aldo, who has seen the championship rounds in three of his last five bouts. With Jones and Belfort meeting in the main event at UFC 152, Edgar stepping in to challenge Aldo at UFC 153, Georges St-Pierre likely returning at UFC 154, and a heavyweight title fight between Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez headlining UFC 155, the UFC is set up for nice run to end 2012.