No matter which side you are on in the fight outside the Octagon between UFC president Dana White and light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones, Thursday was a sad day for MMA fans and bettors everywhere. UFC 151 became the first cancellation in Zuffa’s 11-year history after Jones declined to give former middleweight contender Chael Sonnen a shot at his title following news that his original opponent Dan Henderson had to withdraw due to a partial tear of the MCL in his right knee. Ironically, many MMA experts thought Henderson had virtually no chance to upset Jones, and White had already rewarded Lyoto Machida with another opportunity to win the title belt back following his knockout performance against Ryan Bader at UFC on FOX 4. Jones was as high as -1000 (bet $1,000 to win $100) against Henderson before the withdrawal was confirmed. However, more drama ensued late Thursday when Machida decided against accepting the challenge to fight a vilified Jones at UFC 152 in Toronto on September 22. Enter Vitor Belfort, the new opponent for Jones, who is being blamed for all of the fallout from UFC 151 and will no doubt get a rude reception from the fans in attendance for his fourth title defense. But those fans will be treated to a stacked card that also includes the first-ever UFC flyweight championship bout between Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson along with a key middleweight matchup featuring Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened Jones as a monster -925 favorite against Belfort, the +625 underdog (bet $100 to win $625) according to the UFC odds. Jones had opened as a -485 favorite against Machida (+335), which was comparable to the opening odds for Jones vs. Henderson, with the champ at -545 and the challenger at +375. Belfort was originally scheduled to face Alan Belcher at UFC 153 on October 13 and had opened as a -205 favorite in that fight, and the former light heavyweight champ can now regain the title he lost to MMA Hall of Famer Randy Couture at UFC 49 more than eight years ago. Belfort will be moving up from 185 pounds and has won seven of his last eight bouts, with the lone loss during that stretch coming on a vicious highlight-reel front kick from middleweight champ Anderson Silva in the first round of their title fight at UFC 126 that won Knockout of the Night.
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