One of the great things about betting on MMA is that the better fighter usually wins. A really bad baseball team might finish the season 62-100, but if you put a tomato can in there against a decent opponent, the tomato can should lose about 162 times out of 162. The downside: top-ranked fighters usually carry a lot of chalk into the Octagon. Let’s take a moment to look at the leading Light Heavyweights on the UFC’s own rankings and see how they’ve fared lately against the UFC odds.
Champion: Jon Jones
Chalkeaters of the world, your champ is here. Jones has dominated the Octagon since making his debut nearly six years ago; he’s 14-1 in UFC action and 20-1 lifetime, with his only loss coming to Matt Hamill in 2009 via disqualification (12-to-6 elbow strikes). That’s the main reason why the UFC has Jones at No. 1 on the pound-for-pound rankings. He’s been the heavy favorite in each of his seven title defenses since beating Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (+120) for the strap in 2011.
1. Alexander Gustafsson
Nobody has come closer to taking the title from Jones than “The Mauler”. Gustafsson was available as high as +660 on the MMA odds board when he took on Jones last September in Toronto. But the big Swede became the first man ever to secure a takedown on Jones, and the fight ended in a controversial unanimous decision that earned Fight of the Year honors for 2013. Gustafsson has since beaten Jimi Manuwa (+475), and he’s opened at +145 to beat Jones in their rematch at UFC 177 in August.
2. Daniel Cormier
As expected, Cormier (–900) put a hurting on Dan Henderson last week at UFC 173, completely dominating the fight and ending it late in the third with a rear-naked choke. That lifts Cormier’s record to 15-0 lifetime and 4-0 in the Octagon, including previous victories over Frank Mir (+250) and Roy Nelson (+365). Will he be Jones’ next opponent after Gustafsson? Early UFC lines for that prospective matchup have Cormier moving from +250 at the open to +145 as we go to press.
3. Rashad Evans
The former Light Heavyweight champion appears to be past his prime at age 34. Evans was named the 2008 Fighter of the Year after knocking out Chuck Liddell (–220) and beating Forest Griffin (–115) for the title. But Evans dropped the strap to Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida (–180) in his very next fight. Three years later in his next title opportunity, Evans lost to Jones (–435). But his last two bouts were victories over Henderson (+175) and Sonnen (+220). Evans currently has a knee injury that should keep him out of commission until the fall.
4. Glover Teixeira
Teixeira had his shot against Jones in April at UFC 172, and he got plenty of buzz on the MMA lines, moving from +425 at the open to as low as +315 by bell time. But Jones put on a clinic and made Teixeira look like one of those aforementioned tomato cans. Which he is not: Teixeira was 22-2 lifetime and 5-0 in the Octagon before losing to Jones by unanimous decision, with victories over Ryan Bader (+225) and the fading Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (+180).
5. Anthony Johnson
Rumble, young man, Rumble. Actually, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson turned 30 in March, but his career looks like it has fresh legs after he upset Phil Davis (–240) by unanimous decision at UFC 172. Davis, by the way, is ranked No. 6 in the Light Heavyweight division. Johnson had fought his previous six fights outside the Octagon after failing to make weight and losing to Vitor Belfort (–175) back in January 2012.