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UFC 197: Betting Odds and Predictions

Jon Jones

UFC 197 will feature two fights with belts on the line and severely one-sided odds. Jon Jones is a massive favorite in his return to the Octagon when he challenges Ovince Saint Preux for the interim Light Heavyweight Championship. The co-main event sees the seemingly unbeatable Demetrious Johnson defend his flyweight crown against the undefeated Henry Cejudo.

Jon Jones (-600) vs Ovince Saint Preux (+400)

Jon Jones makes his long awaited return to the Octagon and he seems hungrier than ever. Things came easy for Jones throughout his career, but everything derailing following his troubles with the law has seemingly refocused ‘Bones’ on being the best to ever fight.

Jones is excellent at every aspect of the fight game, but his best physical attribute comes thanks to his freakishly long reach. His long arms give him the ability to chip away at fighters throughout the bout while periodically moving in to hit devastating shots in close, usually with his elbows.

One of the most intriguing aspects for Jones has always been his versatility. Throughout his career we have seen him challenge his opponents to their strengths and still end up victorious. This, of course, was most notable when he outwrestled and outgrinded Daniel Cormier.

Ovince Saint Preux is not a simple tune up like most want to believe he is. Sure, the former Tennessee Volunteer is green, but his natural power and athleticism is not something to be taken lightly. OSP has one of the most powerful left hands in the world and will look to uncork that as his first option. When he does get his opponent in trouble, he will just load up on that powerful left hand and shell his opponent without mercy.

Aside from being green, Saint Preux has a questionable gas tank. He has only been in one five round fight in his career, against Ryan Bader, and we watched him slowly become tired as the bout went on. OSP will be looking to end this fight early, as he always is, especially considering Jones’ phenomenal cardio and proven track record in five round bouts.

Jones may be the best fighter to ever enter the world of MMA. His versatility and ability to excel in seemingly every aspect of the game has made him untouchable in his career. OSP has a chance, but in the same way any fighter has a chance to win any fight. Jones will need to watch out for Saint Preux’ big left hook early on, but if this fight makes it out of the second round then OSP’s chances are pretty much zero.

PICK: Jon Jones (-600)

Demetrious Johnson (-450) vs Henry Cejudo (+325)

This is pretty much it for Demetrious Johnson. With a win over Henry Cejudo he will have completely and utterly cleaned out the flyweight division.

Mighty Mouse is able to win a fight in nearly every aspect, but is at his best when utilizing his perfectly timed striking. Johnson can seamlessly switch between orthodox and southpaw stances and has the ability to strike with virtually zero warning. This is all because of his phenomenal footwork, which may be the best in the UFC.

Johnson has incredibly efficient wrestling and has one of the more underrated double leg takedowns in the sport. However, this part of his game could be effectively off limits with Cejudo’s wrestling credentials and strength. If the fight does make it to the ground, Johnson’s aggression and submission skills (nine career submission victories) could easily overwhelm Cejudo.

Cejudo, an Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling, excels when he is able to bully fights. ‘The Messenger’ is abnormally strong and performs some of his best work when he can physically hold his opponent against the cage and wear them down. That being said, his wrestling skills have not exactly translated to fantastic results in the Octagon, which was extremely prominent in his inability to land a takedown against Chico Camus.

The striking game is still fairly basic for Cejudo, which isn’t a bad thing, as he has used his boxing skills to slip and rip with tremendous success in the UFC. The child of Phoenix, Arizona is excellent at throwing combos and having an innate ability to know which strike to throw to close out exchanges.

I’ll be perfectly frank — I don’t think anybody can beat Mighty Mouse right now. That’s not to say it won’t happen (we all pretty much thought the same of Ronda Rousey), but a lot of things will need to go right for Cejudo. The former Olympian is still making a gargantuan weight cut to 125lbs and that physically draining task could take hold come the championship rounds. Cejudo has all the potential in the world, but I just think he is too green to get past one of the smartest fighters on the planet.

PICK: Demetrious Johnson (-450)

Anthony Pettis (-175) vs Edson Barboza (+145)

Anthony Pettis enters this fight in desperate need of a win, as he tries to avoid a third consecutive loss. Pettis struggles when he gets pressured, when he is unable to dictate the pace of the fight and when his amazing kickboxing skills are neutralized by a suffocating attack. Though it has become apparent in his most recent losses to Rafael dos Anjos and Eddie Alvarez, it was the same technique Clay Guida used when he handed Pettis a loss in his first UFC bout.

That being said, Pettis is a highlight finish waiting to happen. His diverse repertoire of strikes makes him a constant threat standing on his feet, especially with his fantastic footwork and movement. Showtime also has amazing BJJ skills with eight of his career wins coming via submission and is especially deadly working from his back.

Edson Barboza is a brilliant technical striker and has some of the deadliest leg kicks in the UFC. Barboza has ended two of his UFC bouts with leg kicks and uses them as a marvellous tool to slow down his opponent, which helps hide some of his own cardio issues. The Brazilian has the power to end almost any of his opponents, but can struggle when pressured as you can see in his bout with Michael Johnson.

All and all, this should be a fight for Pettis to get back on track. A fight against an opponent that doesn’t necessarily offer the same wrestling-based pressure threat that his previous opponents have. That’s not to say it will be easy for Pettis, as both him and Barboza work best while striking with space. Both fighters could end up at a bit of a stalemate when striking, but Pettis is much more varied and talented in all other aspects of the game.

PICK: Anthony Pettis (-175)

Rafael Natal (+255) vs Robert Whittaker (-335)

Despite the relative lack of fanfare, Robert Whittaker is one of the best young fighters in the middleweight division. The Aussie comes into this fight with Rafael Natal winning all three of his fights since moving up to middleweight.

Any concerns that his power would be offset after shifting up to 185lbs have been put to rest with two of his three fights at middleweight ending via T/KO. Whittaker is an extremely well-rounded fighter with black belts in Hapkido, Karate and a purple belt in BJJ. The Aussie’s ability to land powerful strikes with nearly no wind up is special and plays a big role into his capability to end fights in devastating fashion.

Natal is a veteran fighter who will look to get the fight to the ground so he can use his black belt BJJ skills and look for the submission. Nine of Natal’s 21 career victories have come via submission, but he has not picked up a submission victory in his past eight fights. The Brazilian is still a little raw on his feet, but has natural knockout power in his hands.

Natal is coming into the fight slower and overmatched on his feet. The Brazilian’s only real chance to win this fight is to get Whittaker on the ground where his experience and skill will shine. However, Whittaker’s wrestling defense has been getting better with every fight and it doesn’t seem likely that this fight will go where he doesn’t want it.

PICK: Robert Whittaker (-335)

Andre Fili (+130) vs Yair Rodriguez (-160)

A couple of exciting featherweight prospects open the main card when Andre Fili and Yair Rodriguez step into the Octagon.

Rodriguez comes in with the media machine pushing him hard following his victory in The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America. His unique style of striking relies heavily on his black belt in taekwondo, so expect to see bizarre kicks coming from every angle. Despite his exciting striking style, Rodriguez has still not picked up a stoppage win in the UFC and has yet to face any quality opponents.

Fili tends to enjoy the standup fight, but does so primarily with his punches. The Sacramento-native is flashy and aggressive — a trademark of fighters from Team Alpha Male, but unlike many of his counterparts from the TAM he is a striker rather than a grappler.

Distance is the key to this fight. Rodriguez would rather keep space and allow himself the room to use his kicks, while Fili will likely be looking to close the distance and strike with punches.

This has all the makings of a potential fight of the night, but the biggest factor will be the often ignore wrestling skills of Rodriguez. If Fili is able to close the distance, you should expect Rodriguez to shoot for the double-leg and suffocate FIli.

PICK: Yair Rodriguez (-160)

UFC 197: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Jon Jones -600
  • Ovince Saint Preux +400
Odds as of April 22 at   Bovada
  • Demetrious Johnson -450
  • Henry Cejudo +325
  • Anthony Pettis -175
  • Edson Barboza +145
  • Robert Whittaker -335
  • Rafael Natal +255
  • Yair Rodriguez -160
  • Andre Fili +130