Jon Jones was already losing ground against Daniel Cormier and the MMA betting lines. Now that Jones has hurt his leg and their fight has been postponed until January, is this the time to jump on the Cormier bandwagon?
Jon “Bones” Jones might be the greatest fighter in UFC history. He’s genetically gifted, athletic, intelligent, unorthodox, and already an experienced grappler at age 27. He’s also only lost one of the 21 fights in his MMA career, and that was by disqualification, courtesy of some illegal elbow strikes while otherwise manhandling Matt Hamill back in 2009. Since then: 11 straight wins, including eight successful defenses of his Light Heavyweight title.
So why are MMA betting fans in such a hurry to abandon Jones? Maybe it’s his polarizing personality, which lends easy comparisons to LeBron James. Or maybe it’s because his next opponent, Daniel Cormier (15-0 lifetime) is just that good. Either way, the UFC odds for their title bout have been moving away from the champion, and the exodus is picking up steam now that Jones has come up lame.
What Happens in Vegas
When we looked at the Light Heavyweight rankings in June, the Jones-Cormier fight had yet to be scheduled, but the MMA odds had already been released, and Cormier had unofficially opened as the +250 underdog. But it didn’t take long for the undefeated Cormier to move to +145. The title bout was eventually set for Sept. 27 at UFC 178, although the two combatants couldn’t wait – they got into a dust-up during a promotional event, with Jones seeming to get the better of it.
Sadly, this hotly anticipated matchup had the proverbial bucket of ice water thrown on it when Jones injured his leg in training. The fight has been moved to UFC 182 on Jan. 3 at the MGM Grand – the promotion’s traditional “year-end” extravaganza. Reports say Jones tore the meniscus in his left knee and sprained his ankle; the champ underwent surgery on his knee last week, but his detractors say Jones didn’t really need to go under the knife, and should have fought Cormier next month as scheduled.
If the UFC betting public isn’t convinced about Jones’ injury, it sure has a funny way of showing it. As we go to press, most of the online sportsbooks on our MMA odds board have coalesced around that +145 price for Cormier, with some books dipping below +130. Even more telling, the MMA props market had Jones pegged at +135 to win this fight by decision, but since his injury, those odds have shot up to +200, almost dead-even with Cormier at +225.
It’s been a while since Jones wasn’t the heavy chalk in the Octagon – three years, in fact. Jones was available as low as –167 for his fight at UFC 128 with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, where Jones dominated from the bell and took the strap off Rua in the third round via TKO. In fact, Cormier has the shortest odds of anyone to face Jones since the champion’s first two fights in the UFC, against Andre Gusmao (–213) and Stephan Bonnar (–164).
So where’s the best value for our UFC Picks? Cormier has the undefeated record, and he’s beaten some big names since making the move from Strikeforce, including Frank Mir (+305), Roy Nelson (+383) and Dan Henderson (+517). But those are three older fighters who have seen better days. Meanwhile, Jones will now get even more time to prepare for Cormier; his original title challenger for UFC 178 was Alexander Gustafsson, who took Jones to the wire last September in what proved to be the Fight of the Year for 2013.
We’ve got plenty of time to prepare for January’s big fight, too. If you’re on Cormier, you probably won’t get a better price than you can today. If you’re on Jones, or you’re just not sure, you can bide your time and see how well he recovers from his knee surgery. Either way, the champ has a little more betting value with each passing day.