Jon “Bones” Jones puts his UFC light heavyweight title on the line on Sept. 1 against 41-year-old Dan Henderson, a former Strikeforce and Pride FC champion.
The main card of UFC 151, which will be held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NV, also features an exciting welterweight bout between Jake Ellenberger (27-6) and Jay Hieron (23-5) in the co-main event, along with a featherweight tilt between Dennis Siver (20-8) and Eddie Yagin (16-5-1).
Here’s some picks and predictions for the main and co-main events:
Jon Jones (16-1) vs Dan Henderson (29-8)
Henderson is a winner of seven his last eight fights, including a Fight of the Year performance in 2011 against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Four of his last seven victories came by way of knockout, and you can never sleep on his deadly right hook, even at age 41.
Unfortunately for Henderson, he’s running into a beast of a competitor in Jon Jones, who has arguably just recently hit his fighting prime. Jones is riding a seven-fight win streak and not many fight fans are giving Henderson much of a chance in this match.
As much as I want to find a reason to think Henderson will find a way to pull this one out, he has little chance of getting inside to close the gap on Jones’ 13-inch reach advantage. Jones, who stands 6-foot-4, also towers over Henderson by five inches.
The champ’s reach and height advantage should be a key factor, as Henderson may struggle to work the jab to set up one of his legendary right crosses. Jones is too strong, too fast and too motivated to fall short in this tilt.
The Pick: Jones by third-round TKO
Jake Ellenberger (27-6) vs Jay Hieron (23-5)
Plenty has changed since Hieron defeated Ellenberger in an IFL cage in 2006.
Ellenberger would go on to become one of the fastest-rising welterweights in the world by squaring off against several legitimate UFC contenders, while Hieron spent time testing his skills against lesser opponents in Bellator, IFL and Strikeforce.
Ellenberger, 27, has developed into an exceptional striker and a well-rounded grappler. He’s come a long way since his loss to Hieron six years ago, and he’s ranked No. 6 in the division, according to Fight Matrix.
Hieron, at 36 years old, might not have much gas left in the tank, and his long-awaited return to the octagon may not go according to plan. Look for Ellenberger to impose his will by utilizing a loaded arsenal of jabs, knee strikes and superior wrestling, to earn the victory here.
A win by Ellenberger puts him in the mix for a title shot somewhere down the line, likely against either Georges St-Pierre or Carlos Condit.
The Pick: Ellenberger by unanimous decision
Look for the rest of our UFC 151 main card picks and predictions in the days ahead.