One of the most heated rivalries in UFC history culminates on June 29th when Daniel Cormier defends his light heavyweight title against the man who he never beat to become champion, Jon Jones.
That match headlines an extraordinarily stacked UFC 214 card in Anaheim that features a trio of title matches and some intriguing matchups. But as stacked as the card is with compelling fights, the question remains whether there will be any betting value to be had.
Jon Jones might be the greatest mixed martial artist in the history of the sport. However, his transgressions outside of the cage are what has held him back from greatness. Over the past four years, Jones has only fought four times. But all four wins were against top competition including the man he faces at UFC 214. Meanwhile, Cormier has defeated every man he has faced not named Jon Jones and appears to only get better despite his advanced age (38). Despite entering the Octagon as the champion, Cormier is a prohibitive underdog hovering around +225 while Jones is the favorite at -260.
This is a fight that simply needs to be watched as there isn’t enough intrigue from a bettor’s standpoint to side with the underdog considering that Jones pulled out a definitive victory the first time they fought and was able to take down the Olympic wrestler with relative ease. With so much bad blood, it appears that Jones will be more motivated to embarrass Cormier. It will be interesting to see if Jones’ time out of the cage will affect him. He was certainly a bit rusty against Ovince Saint Preux last April. But, again, Jones has never been taken out by another opponent and is just too good, even for Cormier.
Age doesn’t seem to have that much of a bearing on how this fight will play out. Cormier has looked extremely sharp in both his wrestling and his striking. But it’s the length of Jones and the overall skill set that puts him behind the eight ball. Jones is a far more creative striker who finds more ways to take advantage of his opponent than any other fighter. Factor in that Jones’ wrestling is top notch and you have a situation where Cormier is really going to have a tough time winning this fight. The first fight was competitive early but Jones’ conditioning and desire carried him through the championship rounds where Cormier seemed to run out of gas.
Both seemed determined to finish the other off but with the line that this fight ends in under 4.5 rounds at only +145, it’s also worth staying away from. Intriguing from a fan perspective, horrible for a bettor.
We won’t even tough Tonya Evinger being a +900 underdog against Cris Cyborg (-1375) for the UFC women’s featherweight title. Bottom line is that you’re looking to hit the lottery, bet on Evinger. Keep in mind that she’s a Invicta champion but is staring at worse odds than Conor McGregor is boxing for the first time against one of the greatest in the history of the sport in Floyd Mayweather. Simply bizarre. She’s the rightful underdog but the line is insane. Might as well toss a few dollars out there.
The third title fight between Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley is interesting from a betting standpoint. Maia has been remarkably effective since going back to his jiujitsu roots and using his world class grappling to string together seven straight wins. However, Woodley has proven to be a tough nut to crack and has gone 4-0-1 in his last five fights while also claiming the UFC welterweight title in a first round destruction of Robbie Lawler. Maia is a +175 underdog, which sounds about right. The challenge for Maia will be to find a way to get the explosive Woodley to the mat. Woodley has successfully defended 91% of his opponent’s takedown attempts. Although Maia made short work of Carlos Condit and managed to get Jorge Masvidal to the canvas, it’s a different story with an accomplished wrestler. Couple that with Woodley’s knack of being an explosive striker who can rip anyone’s head from their torso and you have a conundrum that the 4th degree BJJ black belt will struggle to figure out. Woodley being around -200 makes him a tough pick. Smart money goes to Woodley here because of his advantages in the standup with striking and takedown defense, where every fight starts.
So where is the value? Here are a few picks that could end up paying off.
- Donald Cerrone (+140) against Robbie Lawler (-160). This is going to be a hell of a fight. But Cerrone can be very creative with his kicks and nobody is quite sure when the wars will finally catch up with Lawler. I like Cerrone by decision here.
- Aljamain Sterling (-125) against Renan Barao (+105). Simply put, Barao has looked terrible as a fighter drifting between featherweight and bantamweight after a remarkable run as bantamweight champion. The ever-evolving talent of Sterling will pull out the decision here as Barao continues his free fall from grace.
- Ricardo Lamas (+100) against Jason Knight (-120). Lamas has only lost to the cream of the crop (Max Holloway, Jose Aldo & Chad Mendes) since joining the UFC in 2011. Yes, Knight has been on a nice run of four straight but Lamas’ cage savvy will halt the 25-year-old’s surge.