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UFC 232: Jones vs Gustafsson II Odds and Picks

The UFC is ending 2018 with a bang as the Octagon will be set up at The Forum in Inglewood, California. The event is headlined by Jon “Bones” Jones and Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson playing it back from their UFC 165 meeting for the light heavyweight title. Jones, the winner of their first bout, is a -300 favorite with Gus coming back at +230. Also on the card is Cris “Cyborg” Justino (-250) putting her featherweight title on the line against bantamweight champ Amanda “Lioness” Nunes (+195). I have a breakdown and pick for each fight on the main card.

Shark Bites
  • Jon Jones is undefeated in his last 14 fights.
  • Alexander Gustafsson has an 85 percent takedown defense.
  • Jon Jones averages 4.41 significant strikes per minute.

Jones vs Gustafsson Fight Center

Scott Hastings’ 2018 Prediction Record To Date
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Odds Analysis

The odds are a lot tighter in the rematch between these two warriors from the last time they met five years ago. In that UFC 165 main event, Jones was a -800 favorite as he continued to run through the light heavyweight division, while Gustafsson was a +550 underdog, the worst odds The Mauler has had in our database. The fight was extremely close, resulting in a unanimous-decision triumph for the champion at the time, Jones.

Both of these fighters have been off for an extended period of time with Bones’ last appearance coming in July of last year, as he dealt with the USADA, and Gustafsson hasn’t fought since May of last year, dealing with injuries. I think the odds should be much closer based on their first fight, but I think Jones should still be the favorite.

Recently, Jones had a test that showed some turinabol, the substance he was suspended for 15 months for, still in his substance. The Nevada State Athletic Commission didn't have enough time to review all the science behind this so the fight was moved to The Forum in Inglewood, California as their commission has been dealing with this drug as it pertains to Jones for the last year and a half. USADA has said that this was not a new ingestion of this banned substance and are allowing him to compete.

Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson II

Jones (-300) is in the conversation for greatest of all time, however, issues with the USADA have definitely tainted his legacy. The 30-year-old is entering the Octagon for the 19th time – he has a 16-1 record with one no contest, his only defeat coming by an illegal 12-6 elbow against Matt Hamill in 2009. Bones is an extremely talented fighter who is very strong and has a high-level fight IQ. He averages 2.13 takedowns per 15 minutes, while also averaging 4.41 significant strikes per minute and only absorbing 2.12 significant strikes per minute.

The New York native is the only man to beat Daniel Cormier (twice), however he tested positive for performance-enhancing supplements following each fight, with the second bout being overturned to a no contest as DC was knocked out. Overall, Bones has outstruck his opponents by double digits in all but two of his UFC fights, while also only being taken down twice over that span, once by DC and once by Gustafsson.

Gustafsson (+230) is a high-level striker who has been snake-bitten by the judges recently. The Sweden native lost to Jones at UFC 165 by unanimous decision, although many believe that he in fact won that fight, and he lost via split decision to Daniel Cormier at UFC 192 in another scrap that Gus arguably won. The Mauler is coming off one of his better performances in which he carved up Glover Teixeira for five rounds last May, outstriking him 108-62 en route to a fifth-round knockout victory.

The 31-year-old fights long and has very fast hands and crisp combinations, as well as a seemingly endless gas tank that has seen him go five furious rounds with the likes of Cormier and Jones. Additionally, The Mauler has an underrated wrestling game that has seen him average 1.76 takedowns per 15 minutes and he’s one of only two men to take Jones down. Unfortunately for Gus, his body has let him down as he’s only fought three times since October 2015, most recently in May of 2017.

What an absolutely terrific fight with many question marks. The last time Jones returned to fight after a battle with the USADA, he looked very much unlike himself vs Ovince Saint Preux, although he still won all five rounds, outstriking OSP 111-58 with three touchdowns. But it wasn’t the dominant performance we are accustomed to. Gus looked tremendous in his last bout with fantastic combinations and great footwork but has been dealing with several shoulder injuries. The last time these two battled, it was an all-out war and I expect a similar fight this time around.

Prediction: Jon Jones (-285) via decision

Jones vs Gustafsson II Fight Center

Cris Cyborg vs Amanda Nunes

Cyborg (-250) hasn’t lost a fight since her MMA debut in 2005, when she lost via a kneebar submission. Since then, she has rattled off 20 wins with one no contest and she has a perfect 5-0 record since the UFC opened up the women’s featherweight division. Cyborg is a big woman who cuts quite a bit of weight to get to the 145-pound limit for the division and she has ferocious power and terrific defense.

The Brazil native averages 7.02 significant strikes per minute while only absorbing 1.79 significant strikes per minute and defends 91 percent of takedown attempts. Four of Cyborg’s five fights in the UFC have ended via knockout, but her toughest competition came against Holly Holm in a bout that went to the judges’ scorecards, even though she outstruck Holm 131-48.

Nunes (+195) has essentially cleaned out the bantamweight division and is returning to the featherweight division for the first time since 2011. Lioness began her career at featherweight, holding a 6-1 record with the six victories all coming by knockout. The Brazil native is currently on a seven-fight win streak, with three wins coming by knockout and two by submission.

The remaining two scraps went to a decision, both of them against current flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. The 30-year-old averages 4.55 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 2.88 significant strikes per minute. Nunes does elect to bring the fight to the floor more often than Cyborg, though, as she averages 1.82 takedowns per 15 minutes while hitting 40 percent of her attempts.

The first women’s champion vs champion fight is an intriguing one. On one hand, you have Cyborg, who has absolutely dominated her opponents for the last 13 years – including knocking out 14 of her last 15 foes – and is a nightmare for any woman in the featherweight division. Meanwhile, you have Nunes, who has just one loss in the UFC, that coming four years ago when she was knocked out by Cat Zingano. Lioness has torn through the division since then with only Shevchenko causing any issue. Nunes will have the speed advantage and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of power she will have with not having to cut as much weight, but Cyborg is tried and proven and it’s hard to bet against her.

Prediction: Cris Cyborg (-250) via decision

Cyborg vs Nunes Fight Center

Carlos Condit vs Michael Chiesa

Condit (+130) is looking to put an end to a four-fight losing streak, the longest of his 15-fight career inside the Octagon. “The Natural Born Killer” has only had his hand raised twice since he fought Georges St-Pierre at UFC 154, losing that fight and six of the next eight, with his last triumph coming in May of 2015. The 34-year-old is a well-rounded mixed martial artist with 30 wins to his name, 15 by knockout, 13 by submission and two via decision.

However, over his four-fight slide, he has been submitted twice and lost by decision in the other two, including a split-decision loss when he outstruck Robbie Lawler 177-93. Condit is always game for a good brawl, having only been knocked out once in his career, and he averages 3.62 significant strikes per minute.

Chiesa (-160) is making the jump from lightweight to welterweight after two bad weight cuts. “Maverick” has one mission in his fights and that is to get the fight to the mat so he can work toward a submission. The Colorado native averages 2.87 takedowns per 15 minutes, landing 39 percent of his attempts, and 10 of his 14 professional victories have come by submission.

Chiesa is an awkward fighter as he uses long strikes to get in close so he can achieve a takedown, and he only lands 37 percent of his strikes for just 2.17 significant strikes per minute. The 31-year-old was rising through the ranks of the lightweight division but he was submitted by Kevin Lee in June of 2017, then missed weight by 2.5 pounds in his submission loss to Anthony Pettis at UFC 226.

Plenty of times we have seen a smaller fighter make a move to a bigger weight class and enjoy instant success – Donald Cerrone, for example, moved from LW to WW and won his next four fights. For Chiesa, he is fighting a well-rounded, experienced fighter, and if he can’t find a way to drag Condit to the floor, he’s in for a long night. Meanwhile, The Natural Born Killer hasn’t won in over three years and he has been choked out in two of four fights over that span. If he doesn’t protect his neck, he could be tapping out once again.

Prediction: Michael Chiesa (-160) via submission

Condit vs Chiesa Fight Center

Ilir Latifi vs Corey Anderson

Latifi (-150) is looking to extend his two-fight winning streak, coming off an impressive first-round finish of Ovince Saint Preux in February. The Sweden native is a strong, thick man who has an exceptional wrestling pedigree mixed with explosive powerful strikes. The Sledgehammer has never been taken down in the UFC while landing an average of 2.33 takedowns per 15 minutes himself.

The 35-year-old likes to load up on his left hand, which he lunges forward with looking to put his opponent in trouble. Latifi had OSP rocked badly prior to sinking in the guillotine choke. Very well-rounded overall, he has five knockouts, five submissions and four decision victories to his name.

Anderson (+120) is riding his first two-fight winning streak since he won three in a row from 2015 into 2016. “Overtime” is constantly improving and has a remarkable wrestling game, averaging 5.48 takedowns per 15 minutes, including landing 19 takedowns over his last two fights. While on the floor, the 29-year-old smothers his opponents with great top control, draining their energy while roughing them up with a strong ground and pound.

Anderson’s standup is typically one strike at a time, looking to swing wildly to close the distance and to achieve the takedown, or he baits his opponents into throwing a strike so he can make a level change and bring the fight to the floor. He keeps his hands high but is susceptible to letting straight punches land, but he defends 59 percent of his opponents’ strikes, absorbing just 2.2 significant strikes per minute.

The big question for this fight is whether Anderson can take down a guy who’s never been taken down in the UFC. The two-division, former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier has remarked about how hard it is to drag Latifi to the mat, and if Anderson can’t find a way to achieve this, I expect the sledgehammer to do some damage of his own. The Sweden native also has some submission victories to his name, and although we haven’t seen him with his back to the canvas in the Octagon, this may be the time we see his jiu-jitsu.

Prediction: Ilir Latifi (-150) via knockout

Latifi vs Anderson Fight Center

Chad Mendes vs Alexander Volkanovski

Mendes (-155) returned to action after a layoff of more than two and a half years, as he dealt with a suspension, with an impressive first-round knockout of Myles Jury in July. Prior to that victory, “Money” had lost three of his previous four fights to top-end fighters in Frankie Edgar (knockout), Conor McGregor (knockout) and Jose Aldo (decision). The 33-year-old has a good balance between fast, powerful strikes and a high-level wrestling pedigree. Mendes averages 4.08 takedowns per 15 minutes, hitting 54 percent of his attempts while defending 100 percent of takedowns against. Additionally, each of his last six victories has come by knockout, but three of his four career losses have also come in this manner.

Volkanovski (+125) looks to extend his 15-fight winning streak, including a perfect 5-0 record inside the UFC. “The Great” has good kicks and is very calm and composed inside the Octagon, often standing just out of his opponent’s range with his hands by his side. Of his 18 professional wins, 10 have come by knockout, with two of his five bouts in the UFC coming in this manner. He has great power, while also having a great chin that allows him to eat a few strikes trying to get into close range to land his hands. Additionally, if he starts to feel any pressure in the standup portion of the fight, he has no problem taking the fight to the floor as he averages 3.87 takedowns per 15 minutes.

Mendes is so active, always feinting and moving in and out of range, while Volkanovski is a lot more composed, slowly cutting down the size of the Octagon looking to throw his overhand strikes. The Great tends to rough his opponents up with his crisp accurate kicks, but doing so against the likes of Mendes leaves him vulnerable to the takedown. Money has been rendered unconscious in each of his last two fights prior to his suspension and Volkanovski has finished 52.6 percent of his fights in that method. Intriguing fight – I think it really comes down to if The Great can handle the speed of Money.

Prediction: Chad Mendes (-155) via decision

Here’s a look at the odds for the full card for UFC 232: Jones vs Gustafsson II:

UFC 232: Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson II

Odds as of December 29 at Bovada

  • Jon Jones -300
  • Alexander Gustafsson +230
  • Cris Cyborg -250
  • Amanda Nunes +195
  • Michael Chiesa -160
  • Carlos Condit +130
  • Ilir Latifi -150
  • Corey Anderson +120
  • Chad Mendes -155
  • Alexander Volkanovski +125
  • Walt Harris -190
  • Andrei Arlovski +155
  • Cat Zingano -150
  • Megan Anderson +120
  • Ryan Hall -450
  • B.J. Penn +325
  • Nathaniel Wood -125
  • Andre Ewell -105
  • Uriah Hall -105
  • Bevon Lewis -125
  • Curtis Millender -150
  • Siyar Bahadurzada +120
  • Montel Jackson -165
  • Brian Kelleher +135
  • Petr Yan -325
  • Douglas Silva De Andrade +250