UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will be making a quick turnaround after fighting in December to headline UFC 235 on March 2 in Las Vegas.
UFC president Dana White told TMZ Sports a bout between Jon Jones and No. 3 ranked UFC light heavyweight contender Anthony Smith was in the works as the main event for the upcoming pay-per-view card so long as Jones was approved for the fight by the Nevada Athletic Commission.
Jones (23-1-0) opened with MMA’s top bookmakers as a huge favorite in moneyline betting at 1/10 (-1000). While Smith (31-13-0) has been adamant he doesn’t see anything unbeatable about Jones, UFC betting fans can get him as a big underdog at 5/1 (+500) .
Why Jones Must Appear Before Commission
Before Jones last fight, a three-round TKO victory over Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232, Jones tested positive for trace amounts of the same banned substance for which Jones received a 15-month suspension in 2017.
While the United States Anti-Doping Agency concluded the amount was residual and small enough that it could not have come from a re-ingestion, the Nevada Athletic Commission would not allow the fight to take place without first assembling its own panel of experts, an event the governmental entity was unlikely to pull off on such short notice during the busy holiday season.
With just six days before the bout was to take place, the UFC decided to pull the card from Las Vegas and move it to the Forum in Los Angeles where the California State Athletic Commission would rely on solely USADA’s ruling to sanction the fight.
So, Jones will have to appear in front of the Nevada Athletic Commission to discuss the drug test anomalies before his bout against Smith is officially sanctioned, but it’s mostly just a matter of procedure.
Early Betting Tips and Analysis for Jones vs. Smith
Jones is ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound in the sport, and his excellent performance against Gustafsson, a fighter he struggled to defeat by decision in 2013, only lends credence to the idea that he’s still constantly improving.
Against Gustafsson, Jones appeared in control through all three rounds before he ultimately took Gustafsson down to finish him with a brutal ground and pound. Heading into the fight, there was some question as to whether Jones could come into the octagon in top form against as excellent a fighter as Gustafsson without any dropoff.
But those questions no longer remain, so Jones is rightly a huge favorite to defeat Smith.
Since moving up to the light heavyweight division, Smith has enjoyed a three-fight win streak. He defeated two former champions, Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua, before picking up his latest victory against former challenger Volkan Oezdemir to earn this shot against Jones.
But Smith doesn’t really have the skillset to seriously challenge Jones. If you’re looking to place an early bet on the fight, the only play that makes any sense at all is backing Jones. He’s arguably the best mixed martial artist in the history of the sport and the Smith fight is likely just another testament to his overall legacy of dominance.