UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is back to face the No. 3 ranked contender at 205 pounds, Anthony Smith, at UFC 235 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Jones is arguably the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time, so it’s a special treat to see the 31-year-old in action again versus such an excellent opponent just two months after he finished Swedish rival Alexander Gustafsson in the third round of their highly anticipated rematch at UFC 232.
Why Jones-Smith is Happening
Smith is the top-ranked light heavyweight contender available for Jones to fight. Jones longrunning beef with UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, a recent double champion who vacated the light heavyweight title when Jones returned, should keep that fight from happening anytime soon.
And Jones just dominated and stopped the No. 2 ranked contender, Gustafsson, in a fight many believed would be more competitive than it actually turned out. The two first fought back in 2013 in a wildly entertaining battle at UFC 165 where Gustafsson gave Jones just about all he could handle. At the end of it, though, Jones took a somewhat controversial decision.
Many thought the rematch would be the same kind of fight. Instead, the rematch featured as dominant a version of Jones as ever seen, so the repeat magic from their first encounter was missing this time, replaced by something more like an avalanche of streamlined techniques that slowly overwhelmed Gustafsson.
Smith, 30, isn’t quite the same kind of fighter as Gustafsson, but he does sometimes rely as heavily on striking despite being well-versed in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. But where Gustafsson is more movement and timing, Smith is straight brutality and aggressiveness.
The 30-year-old American is riding a three-fight win streak since moving up to light heavyweight from the middleweight division last year, including impressive finishes over former champions Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua. In his last fight, Smith withstood an early barrage from Volkan Oezdemir before overcoming the Swiss kickboxer with a rear-naked choke in the third round.
Jones-Smith Betting Tips
Entering the biggest fight of his life, there’s no doubt Smith is on a tremendous hot streak. But hot streaks usually end when fighters find themselves in the octagon against the likes of Jones, and it should be no different here.
Smith should at least provide some excitement. Jones is typically quite methodical in breaking down his opponents, but Smith’s aggression should force Jones to come out a little more passionately than perhaps people are accustomed to seeing.
But Jones is just too strong in all facets of mixed martial arts for Smith to have a legitimate chance at winning. From what both fighters have done in the past, the only foreseeable path for Smith to win is if the fighter gets lucky and catches Jones with a punch or kick he doesn’t see coming.
And has that ever really happened?
Best Bets for Jones/Smith
Jones via the moneyline 888Sport is the easy pick. Whatever kind of attack Smith tries to employ, whether he’s as hyperaggressive as he claims he’ll be or he patiently tries to force Jones into making a mistake, Jones will have the upper hand with his unique ability to disrupt and destroy.
Jones by finish is also a good pick at -550. That offers a little more value on the return and is still the most likely thing to happen in the fight. Jones is remarkable at striking his opponent’s into oblivion or at least close enough to it to put them in position to be submitted.
Honing in on even more value would probably look something like Jones by KO, TKO or DQ at -137. While’s he’s capable of producing many different types of ends for his opponents, he seems particularly in love with pounding someone’s head until they’ve gone to dreamland.
And if you truly buy into Smith rushing Jones and trying to force a bloodbath, Jones in round one at +200 is a solid play, too. There’s a reason people don’t bumrush Jones, and If Smith needs to learn the hard way, you might as well make some money on it.