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Lyoto Machida declines title-shot, Vitor Belfort booked against Jon Jones

The strange saga of UFC 151 continued last night when it was revealed light heavyweight contender Lyoto Machida has decided to decline a shot at 205-pound champion Jon Jones’ belt based on the abbreviated preparation period for a September 22 showdown. Adding another unforeseen twist, seasoned stand-up artist Vitor Belfort was named as Machida’s replacement, making a move up from 185 pounds to challenge for one of MMA’s most prestigious titles.

The shocking news was unveiled late last night by MMAFighting. Things have since been confirmed  by both Belfort and Zuffa executive Lorenzo Fertitta by way of Twitter.

Belfort is coming off back-to-back wins in the middleweight division with a pair of first-frame stoppages against Yoshihiro Akiyama and Anthony Johnson. He has been out of action since January while coaching on TUF Brasil and dealing with an injury forcing him on the sidelines. Prior to his pairing with Jones, Belfort was set to battle Alan Belcher in October at UFC 153.

No word has surfaced on how Belcher’s bout will be handled.