TORONTO - The “old lion” just didn’t have enough of a roar to dethrone the new king of the UFC.
Light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones said coming into his title defence on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre that the best way to put some of the unpleasantness that has dogged him over the past several months behind him was to put in a “good performance” against Vitor Belfort.
Well he did a lot more than that; Jones put in a dominant performance against 35-year-old veteran at UFC 152, showing all the tools in a mixed martial artist’s bag by submitting Belfort in the fourth round to solidify his spot among the greats of the UFC.
Jones has now won eight consecutive fights to improve to 17-1, his only loss coming at TUF in the form of a disqualification to Matt Hamill for an illegal elbow, and has defended his belt four consecutive times.
It’s a mark that equals the legendary light-heavyweight title defences of Chuck Liddell and Frank Shamrock. Belfort was the fifth straight former UFC champion Jones has face and the victory ties him with Liddell and Shamrock for second most consecutive light-heavyweight successful title defences in UFC history. Tito Ortiz holds the record at five.
You have to credit Belfort, though, who sees his record drop to 21-10. The 17-year veteran lasted much longer than anyone thought he would before he had to tap out early in the fourth round after Jones put him in an arm-bar.
“I still have a lot of work to do against south paws,” Jones told ring interviewer Joe Rogan after the fight.
Before that, early in the first round, Belfort actually had Jones in trouble when he put him in an arm-bar. Jones admitted to Rogan that Belfort had hurt him and Belfort said afterwards he could hear Jones’ arm “cracking and popping.” Jones also told Rogan his arm was feeling “numb” and he was going to “have it looked at.”
Despite the pain, Jones managed to get to his feet and slam the veteran Brazilian into the mat a few times. Eventually a tired Belfort had to let go of the young 6-foot-4 champion’s arm.
Even though Belfort lasted four rounds, this was a one-sided fight.
Jones used ground and pound all night and worked Belfort over with vicious elbows throughout the evening, this time none of them illegal. And a lethal kick to Belfort’s midsection later in the fight really seemed to hurt the Brazilian Not even chants of, “Let’s go Vitor, let’s go Vitor,” that echoed throughout the ACC for most of the fight was enough to spur the Brazilian to one last victory.
It wasn’t long ago that Jones could do no wrong, but things started to go south for him when he was hit with a drunk-driving charge in May, shortly after successfully defending his belt against Rashad Evans in April at UFC 145. That charge somewhat tarnished Jones’ squeaky clean image. Then came the debacle of UFC 151, which was completely scrapped after Jones refused to take a bout against fill-in Chael Sonnen on eight days’ notice after his original opponent Dan Henderson pulled out with an injury.
A public feud with UFC president Dana White followed, with Jones claiming he didn’t know UFC 151 would be cancelled if he refused the Sonnen fight and the UFC president saying, as recently as Friday on Fuel TV, that Jones was told that would be the case.
At any rate, Jones’ legacy took a bit of a hit by the cancellation and fans vented at Friday’s weigh-ins and again here at the ACC by mercilessly booing the champion.
But Jones is right, “the fans are going to get over it.” And this victory over Belfort should go a long way in making that happen.
Meanwhile, coming into the fight, Belfort had referred to himself as an “old lion.” Well he got the old right anyway. Jones was just too quick and powerful for him and Belfort just didn’t have enough in the tank to compete with the 25-year-old champion.