Fall arrives today and with it comes the return of the UFC.
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon (Bones) Jones will defend his title for the fourth time when he faces Vitor Belfort in the main event of UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Order UFC 152 now on Bell TV. You can also follow the action with TSN.ca's round-by-round breakdown tonight, beginning approximately at 6:45pm et/3:45pm pt.
It's been six weeks since we last saw action in the Octagon, after the promotion was forced to cancel UFC 151 due to injuries and an inability to book a new main event on late notice.
Some of the blame for the lost card fell on Jones, who declined a last minute bout with Chael Sonnen. The fallout left Jones looking like the bad guy for the first time in his young career, as his decision not to fight disappointed fans, fighters and UFC brass, including president Dana White.
Jones appears to have put all of that behind him as he prepares to have the spotlight shined on him once again as the headliner of a UFC pay-per-view, this time against Belfort.
"I honestly believe that Vitor's one of the best in world, it's as good as it gets," said Jones after the weigh-in on Friday afternoon. "I'm excited to go out there and do my best and do what I always do."
"He's a very powerful striker, but in this situation, I feel I am the more versatile striker in the fight. I won't shy away from a striking battle just because he has a punch. He's got a unique style and I enjoy matching up against guys like that. There are so many styles in MMA and, being the champion, you have to face all of them," Jones stated earlier in the week.
The 25-year-old titleholder has enjoyed unprecedented success in his MMA career (16-1), with his only loss coming as a disqualification due to illegal elbows in a bout he was dominating.
Jones has dispelled former champions Mauricia (Shogun) Rua, Quinton (Rampage) Jackson, Lyoto Machida and most recently, Rashad Evans.
"In no way have I 'cleared out' the division," Jones stated. "Everyone's style is a puzzle for me, and who knows which style I will have the most trouble with. I'm about to fight my fifth straight UFC champion - which I was told is a UFC record - and I'm very proud of fighting the best guy available in each of my fights. That's how you build a legacy in a sport."
Belfort, who first fought in the UFC in 1997, is hoping to put an end to Jones' stranglehold on the division, something oddsmakers are giving him little chance of accomplishing.
"Like I've said, I'm the old lion, he's the young lion and tomorrow we've got a jungle in the octagon," remarked Belfort after the weigh-in.
Much like Jones, Belfort arrived on the scene at a young age as a phenomenal athlete and a dangerous striker with a bright future in the sport. After starting his career 12-3 and capturing the UFC light heavyweight title, Belfort struggled through the next two years with losses to Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Alistair Overeem (2), and Dan Henderson.
In 2007, Belfort went on a run of five straight wins, leading him back to the UFC and into a middleweight title fight with Anderson Silva. A front kick from Silva stunned Belfort in the opening round and led to a quick knockout. The result didn't discourage Belfort, who put together two solid wins over Yoshihiro Akiyama and Anthony Johnson and now finds himself back in contention.
"I am so ready in my mind, it is hard for me to explain," said Belfort. "I am so ready to be the champion again. My brain, my body, they are so ready. That's how I live my life, with belief. I am a winner. I am ready to win."
"As you get older, you learn about yourself. I have the same abilities as I had when I was younger, but now I have more sense of myself. I know how I respond and learn. Whenever someone says something like 'Can you speak French?' I don't say 'no' I say 'Not yet'", he added.
Few people are giving Belfort more than a puncher's chance in Saturday's main event. Not only is he taking on one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in the world, but he's also giving up 10 years, four inches in height and a 10.5-inch reach advantage.
"Against Jon Jones, people ask 'how can you beat this guy?' and I say 'I will show you how on Saturday'."
With a card that will also feature the UFC's first flyweight title fight between Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson and a middleweight matchup that could have title implications for Michael Bisping and Brian Stann, the UFC is hoping that this is the start of a strong fall season.