The withdrawal of Daniel Cormier due to injury has put something of a downer on the return of Jon Jones at UFC 197 but the show must go on and, as always, there are always opportunities to make a little money.
Pettis vs. Barboza
With near identical records two of the most explosive 155lb’ers collide in a front runner for ‘Fight of the Night’ honors. Once the king of the division, Anthony Pettis now finds himself staring down the barrel of a 3rd consecutive loss for the first time in his career. Normally this would be a threat to continued employment but the first loss (to Rafael dos Anjos) came while still champion and the second (to Eddie Alvarez) came to the next title challenger. However, another loss this weekend and questions will start being asked.
Edson Barboza has, at times, been a truly remarkable fighter to watch. In his arsenal he possesses arguably the most powerful kicks in the division, if not the UFC entirely. However, the Brazilian has shown a relative inability to take a shot against the likes of Jamie Varner and Donald Cerrone, and this could prove a big problem when facing another dangerous striker like Pettis.
Pettis needs the win more than Barboza here and for that reason I’ll be looking for him to get it. His striking is certainly dangerous and Barboza will surely be wary of it, but the former champ’s submissions are equally threatening.
Recommendation: Pettis wins by submission – 1 unit at +325 (13/4) @ 5Dimes
Johnson vs. Cejudo
Despite his achievements as the only 125lb champion in UFC history, Demetrious Johnson remains underrated, undervalued and under-supported by the large majority of the MMA fans. It’s a shame because at 125lb he has been untouchable, to the extent that he has even beaten some top challengers twice (Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson, respectively) and forced one of them (Dodson) up a division.
But Henry Cejudo is a different animal to the guys who have fought Johnson before. As an Olympian we already know he is cut from a different cloth and he just might be the best wrestler that the sport has ever seen. Whether he can take down Johnson and nullify him is a different story but, on paper, he may just be the most credible threat to Johnson’s title there is.
This could be a career-defining fight for both men. For Johnson this could be the first man to take him into deep waters and give him real problems, while Cejudo is an Olympian who will have the weight of expectation on his shoulders. There is almost no value in any of the betting here, so in the year of the underdog I am going to throw a single unit on the challenger.
Recommendation: Henry Cejudo – 1 unit at +350 (7/2) @ 5Dimes
Jones vs. St Preux
The most dominant champion in the history of the sport and the most naturally gifted athlete in MMA in the world, Jon Jones, possesses it all, but underlying his talent is a self-destructive streak that could derail his otherwise unstoppable train at any given moment. Jones has courted controversy for a number of years now but he still stands tall as the greatest of his time and, with a win here, might not be far off being recognized as the greatest of all time.
Ovince St Preux gets an opportunity to enhance his ranking position by facing the man who should still be king. He has lost to Ryan Bader, Gegard Mousasi and Glover Teixeira while beating lesser opponents in Patrick Cummins, Ryan Jimmo and Nikita Krylov. He does however hold more impressive wins over Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and Rafael Cavalcante, but will still need to show by far his best performance ever to get the win here.
In all honesty – on paper at least – this feels like an enormous mismatch. Jones wants his belt back and he will most likely demolish OSP inside of two rounds to get it.
Recommendation: Under 2.5 Rounds – 4 units at -225 (4/9) @ 5Dimes