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UFC 142 preview: Vitor Belfort welcomes Anthony Johnson to the middleweight division

The UFC 142: Aldo vs. Mendes co-main event features a bout between former number one contender Vitor Belfort as he welcomes former welterweight Anthony Johnson to the middleweight division. It’s a very important fight in the grand scheme of things as Johnson could add new life to a fairly stagnant division with a win over Belfort. However, if Belfort is able to get past Johnson it puts him one step closer to an eventual rematch with the current champion Anderson Silva. Let’s see how this one shakes out.

Vitor Belfort comes into this fight with a career record of (20-9) with 14 wins via TKO/KO and two submission wins to his credit. Belfort was last seen in action destroying the much smaller Yoshihiro Akiyama via first round KO back at UFC 133. However, he was knocked out in highlight reel fashion the fight before that as he challenged Anderson Silva for the middleweight title. Belfort has been in the game for a extremely long time with powerful striking, hand speed, and is well versed in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He also has underrated offensive wrestling in my opinion, but his takedown defense is somewhat suspect as well. The knock on Belfort has always been that you don’t know which Belfort will show up. Will it be the monster that displays incredible hand speed that knocks people out in the first round, or the Belfort that fades and crumbles if he doesn’t get you out of there early?

Anthony Johnson comes into this fight with a career record of (10-3) with seven wins via TKO/KO. Johnson was last seen in action dispatching Charlie Brenneman in the first round back in October 2011. This will be Johnson’s middleweight debut after fighting as a welterweight in the UFC since 2007. Johnson was a huge welterweight and likely will be larger than Belfort as a middleweight. He brings powerful striking and a good wrestling background to the table. The knock on Johnson has always been his issues of making weight as a welterweight, but that shouldn’t be a problem here. 

Bet on Fighting has Belfort and Johnson as a pick’em fight with (-115) on both fighters.

They are correct. I think either fighter is capable of stopping the other with one or two punches. Let’s delve a bit further into how it’ll go down though.

Belfort is a counter striker most of the time. He prefers to lull his opponents to sleep, often letting them commit with their offense before exploding with his hand speed and power. The Rich Franklin fight is a prime example of what Belfort likes to do. It’s a tactic that could possibly work against the more inexperienced Johnson. If the crowd grows impatient it could influence a frustrated Johnson to knock follow the gameplan and leave himself open for Belfort to capitalize. The key for Belfort will be to establish range and keep this fight on the feet. Johnson will be the larger fighter and is the better wrestler and while Belfort has a good ground game, he doesn’t pose much of a threat with submissions off his back. He is adept at sweeps and reversals, but I’m not sure he would be able to overcome the size and wrestling base of Johnson there. Belfort has 14 first round wins so this one could end early!

Johnson is an aggressive striker that’s capable of taking guys down while showing excellent takedown defense in the past. He probably has a more varied attack because he likes to throw punches and kicks, unlike Belfort who mainly sticks to his hands for strikes. Johnson will have the reach advantage so he could go for leg kicks from a distance and stay away from the power of Belfort if he wanted. However, I think Johnson will resort to his wrestling similar to the way he did in his fight with Dan Hardy. It’s not that exciting for the fans, but there’s no sense in striking with Belfort if you can take Belfort down. I think Johnson will be able to take Belfort down if he wants and from there he can ground and pound or simply grind Belfort and win via decision. He mainly needs to avoid the straight left of Belfort and flurries of any kind as Belfort is one of the best finishers in the game once his has his opponents in danger.

I think Johnson has more ways to win in that he could realistically knock Belfort out, stop him via ground and pound, or grind out the decision. Whereas, Belfort’s best chance of winning is via TKO/KO. It must be noted that Johnson has never been stopped via TKO(beside the fluke eye poke against Kevin Burns), but he has never fought a striker like Belfort either. I like Johnson in this fight via unanimous decision.

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