It’s been almost a year since I’ve done a UFC event preview blog. We are now halfway through 2019 – which will be remembered in MMA history as the start of the UFC & ESPN partnership – and quickly coming up on what is shaping up to be the biggest card of the year so far, assuming all the fighters make it to the opening bell without suffering injuries, failing USADA tests, or any other mishaps.
As UFC 239 approaches, the odds for the two champions on the card, Jon Jones and Amanda Nunes, are getting longer. Jones opened as roughly a -900 favorite against the aging Thiago Santos, but is now closer to -650. Nunes’ dip is less pronounced, going from about -375 to -330 in her bout with dangerous striker Holly Holm. Once fight night rolls round and you want to know a trusted source based on first-hand experiences for UFC betting, look no further than my top sportsbooks lists of sites which are given ratings from users and editors.
The appetizer to the main events, Ben Askren, has seen his odds improve. Initially a -215 favorite against Jorge Masvidal, Askren’s been bet up to -350. Bettors likely see Masvidal, who was taken down four times by Demian Maia, having a huge problem staying off the mat against Askren’s Olympic-level wrestling.
With all that in mind, here is a brief preview of the UFC 239 main card:
(C) [#1 LHW] Jon Jones vs [#6 LHW] Thiago Santos for the UFC Light Heavyweight title
While Jon ‘Bones’ Jones is unarguably one of, if not the greatest fighter in the history of the sport, he is just as unarguably one of the most controversial. Whatever trouble Jones manages to get himself into seems to always roll off him like water off a duck’s back – whether it be PED failures, lawsuits or running afoul of the law, he comes out of every scandal virtually unscathed – only to soon become entangled again in a new set of shenanigans. While his troubles have not been an overall significant detriment to his career, they forced him to take an occasional break from action. Because of this Jones has only fought once a year dating back to 2014. This trend has now been turned around, as he will be defending his title for the second time this year and taking his third fight overall in seven months since regaining the title in a rematch with Alexander Gustaffson at the end of 2018.
Jon’s slated opponent Thiago “Marreta” Santos, much like his previous opponent Anthony Smith, started out his UFC career as a middleweight and had a somewhat spotty record prior to moving up to 205 lbs and winning three in a row before getting a shot at Jones. There, the similarities end. While Anthony Smith is a well rounded fighter who is equally adept at taking his opponents out with strikes as he is at making them tap out, the Brazilian Hammer Santos focuses almost exclusively on destroying his opposition with a wide array of strikes thrown with the most damaging intentions. And while Smith was very passive and almost timid in his fight with Jones, which allowed Jon to effectively neutralize Anthony and cruise to a one-sided decision, I don’t feel that Santos will change his ultra-aggressive style for anyone. Unfortunately for Thiago, his aggression may very well play right into Jon’s hand. Marreta’s path to victory is clear: throw everything including the kitchen sink at Bones in hopes of dealing concussive damage. The longer this fight goes on, the less likely are the odds that Santos lands a knockout strike. And I just can’t pick someone whose best chance is a striker’s chance, to beat Jon Jones. Nor have I seen the type of takedown defense or ground skill from Santos that would allow him to survive until the final bell without Bones choking him out or destroying his face with brutal elbows from the top position as he’s done to many of his past opponents.
The real burning question headed into this fight is how many picograms of Turinabol will show up in Jon’s bloodstream this time around. I wonder if there are any sportsbooks taking prop bets on this action.
Prediction: Jon Jones by submission or TKO (ground and pound).