There's being an underdog. There's being an underdog to the such an extent that a fighter only has the proverbial puncher's chance. And then, there's being Vitor Belfort.
Some odds-makers have Belfort as a 13-1 underdog in his upcoming Light Heavyweight Championship fight against Jon Jones at UFC 152. With 13-1 odds, the only way the odds-makers foresee Belfort winning is if Jones DQs himself by landing multiple soccer kicks on Belfort without the consent of referee Yuji Shimada.
Based on the odds, Vitor beating Jones would be just as, if not more surprising than Matt Serra knocking out GSP, Fabricio Werdum submitting Fedor, or a day in the MMA world without an article being written about Jon Jones.
Personally, I believe that the odds are justifiable. Jon Jones is an athletic and physical mismatch for Belfort. Granted, Belfort is the sounder technical striker of two, but he will have fits trying to combat the reach and reflexes of Jon Jones. Also, don't forget that Jones will have the opportunity to control where the fight goes due to his superior wrestling.
So, aside from an NWO invasion featuring Chael Sonnen, how does Vitor Belfort beat Jon Jones?
To answer that question, I'll play out a hypothetical scenario.
Let's say for some inane reason, Belfort decides to leave the Blackzilian camp and train with me in my garage. Here is the game-plan that I would devise for the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion in his fight against Jon Jones:
Close The Distance, Look For The Finish Early
For Belfort, a sure-fire way to lose the fight against Jon Jones is to try and out-box him by working the angles. It's not going to happen because of the ten-inch reach advantage Belfort will be giving up. With a steady diet of push kicks and jabs, Jones will be able to keep Belfort at bay while experimenting on him with insane strikes that have been formulated by the Mad Scientist himself, Greg Jackson (also the "f------ Sport Killer" according to Dana White).
So, in order to give himself more than a puncher's chance, I'd advise Belfort to engage Jones early and cut the distance between both men. One of the few physical advantages Belfort should have is his hand-speed. That speed should be utilized in the pocket with power combinations largely based off of his left hook, a punch that Rampage Jackson was able to land often in his fight against Jones.
Vitor has to control the pace on the feet, and not be hesitant. Granted, Jones could easily catch Vitor with an elbow if Belfort tries to trade punches up close, but it's a catch 22 because that's the only way Belfort can win on the feet.
It's also important for Belfort to drill his clinch escapes because Jones seems to have a propensity to clinch with his opponents when they close the distance. The UFC Light Heavyweight Champion can be ruthless and powerful in the clinch with strikes and trip-takedowns, so I'd advise Belfort to work to escape the clinch when Jones engages it and throw a hard punch as disengages from the clinch.
Work The Clinch
Following the lines of closing in the distance and eliminating the reach advantage of Jones, Belfort should also look to engage in a clinch and put Jones against the fence using his stout base. In the clinch, Belfort can outpoint Jones with position control and land heavy strikes with the utilization of dirty boxing.
Work The Guard
If the fight gets past the first stanza, I suspect that Jones will look to take down Belfort. At 35 years old, I don't think Belfort will be able to upgrade his takedown defense enough to evade Jones' attempts to bring him down to the canvas. Nevertheless, once the fight hits the ground, Belfort isn't exactly a fish out of water.
With black belts in Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Vitor Belfort has a highly underrated grappling game. His great transitions and speed with his submission attempts and sweeps are what defines his grappling abilities. Jones has long limbs, and if I was a member of Vitor's camp, I would be drilling arm-bars, leg locks, triangle choke attempts all camp in order to take advantage of those lanky arms and legs of Jones.
Jon Jones has great submission defense, discipline, and strength, but I still believe that the possibility is there for Belfort to submit Jones off of his back.
In conclusion, it's not insane to believe that Belfort can beat Jon Jones. Don't misunderstand me, it will be a serious uphill battle for it actually occur, but Vitor Belfort certainly has the potential to accomplish the task. His hand-speed and power are unlike any fighter Jon Jones has ever faced, and if Vitor Belfort wants to succeed against Jon Jones at UFC 152, he's going to have make it his fight.