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Jones, Johnson Big Betting Favorites on Saturday’s UFC 197 Card

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Jon “Bones” Jones makes his long-awaited return to the Octagon on Saturday when he takes on Ovince Saint Preux in the main event at UFC 197 as a strong -600 betting favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The former UFC Light Heavyweight champion will be looking to claim the interim crown in Saturday night’s showdown at MGM Grand Garden Arena, following a 15-month absence.

Owner of a professional MMA record of 21-1, Jones claimed a unanimous decision victory over Daniel Cormier in his last fight at UFC 182, successfully defending the Light Heavyweight title he held at the time as -170 chalk and extending his current unbeaten streak to 12 fights.

After Jones was stripped of the belt in April 2015, Cormier claimed the vacant Light Heavyweight title with a win over Anthony Johnson. Cormier was originally scheduled to face Jones at UFC 197 before a foot injury forced him to withdraw, clearing the path for Saint Preux’s first shot at the interim championship.

Saint Preux takes on Jones sporting +400 odds after earning a unanimous decision against  Rafael Cavalcante against UFC Fight Night 82, paying out at -360 odds to improve his pro record to 19-7. However, he has struggled against top flight competition in recent years.

The 33-year-old was submitted by Glover Teixeira in the third round of their main event at UFC Fight Night 73, disappointing as -115 chalk, and also dropped a unanimous decision to Ryan Bader at UFC Fight Night 47 as a +140 underdog.

While Jones is currently pegged at No. 2 on the OddsShark Pound-for-Pound Rankings, he has been unable to end a fight inside the distance in his last three outings, also settling for unanimous decision wins over Teixeira as -550 chalk at UFC 172, and over Alexander Gustafsson as a -1100 favorite at UFC 165 in one of the greatest UFC battles of all time.

In other UFC 197 betting action, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson looks to continue his domination of the UFC Flyweight division when he puts his title on the line against Henry Cejudo as a -400 betting favorite.

Undefeated in his last 10 bouts, Johnson last defended his crown at UFC 191 with a unanimous decision win over John Dodson as a big -550 favorite, while Cejudo tries to extend his perfect MMA record to 11-0 as a +300 underdog.

Anthony Pettis is listed as -175 chalk in his Lightweight matchup with Edson Barboza, who sits at +145 odds for Saturday, while Robert Whittaker is -335 chalk in his Middleweight clash with Rafael Natal, who trails at +255.

Odds lean toward Thompson against Woodley for Saturday’s UFC 209 card

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The odds for the rematch reflect popular consensus that Stephen Thompson outfought Tyronn Woodley when they first met for the UFC welterweight championship.

Thompson, the challenger, is the -160 betting favorite against +130 strap-holder Woodley in the co-main event for UFC 209: Woodley vs. Thompson 2 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The two will meet for the second time in fewer than four months when they step into the Octagon at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday.

In their first fight, Thompson was able to dictate terms and Woodley often ceded control of the Octagon, which gave Thompson time and space to connect with kicks and strikes. One could theorize that three and a half months of analyzing that fight has helped Thompson figure out how to maintain that advantage while upgrading his defense.

That said, Woodley is stronger in cinches and at grappling – when he chooses to use those skills. His patience and strength could help him drag the fight out and pick spots to land his big overhand right.

Elsewhere, Khalid Nurmagomedov is a -190 favorite against +155 underdog Tony Ferguson, as they square off for the interim lightweight title in the co-main event.

Nurmagomedov’s 24-0 career record might give bettors pause about picking against him, but this is the first time he has ever faced a five-round bout and Ferguson might be the more tireless fighter. Ferguson, with his six-inch edge in reach, should have the advantage in stand-up situations.

Rashad Evans is the -230 favorite against +180 underdog Daniel Kelly on the UFC 209 betting lines in a matchup of mirror-image middleweights, as each relies on wearing down opponents. The bout is unlikely to end early and Kelly tends to get stronger as a match goes on as he gains a feel for his opponent’s tendencies.

It’s something of a toss-up, although some bettors might shy away from Evans in his debut at 185 pounds and go with Kelly strictly on betting value.

Alistair Overeem is listed at -145 against +115 slight underdog Mark Hunt in a heavyweight bout. Overeem, who will have something to prove after losing his last bout against Stipe Miocic in September, has a multi-faceted repertoire and can punish opponents when he gets them into clinches.

Hunt is a strong counter-puncher who comes into this matchup with greater knockout capability, but Overeem’s edge in grappling makes him a solid chalk pick.

And in a lightweight bout, Lando Vannata is a -270 favorite against +210 underdog David Teymur. Vannata is more of a striker, while Teymur, with his background in Muay Tuai, is more of a kickboxer.

A win would validate why Vannata thus far has made a rapid ascension through the lightweight division, but Teymur will get his chance to land some devastating kicks. He’s also a left-hander, which can sometimes be a difficult matchup. There is upset potential here.

Ronda Rousey slight favorite against Amanda Nunes at UFC 207

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Betting lines can be influenced by popularity, which is important to keep in mind when looking at the women’s bantamweight title bout between Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes that will be the culmination of UFC 207 on Friday in Las Vegas.

Rousey is the -140 betting favorite with Nunes nominally the underdog at +110, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Rousey is fighting for the first time since losing her title to Holly Holm in November 2015, while Nunes is making her first defense since her victory by submission against Miesha Tate in July.

Since she has been away for so long, Rousey is a bit of a blank slate, but during her title reign she had the knack for using her judo background to get a fight to the mat. That might give her a shot at nullifying some of Nunes’ punching power and forcing the champion, whose cardio is below-average, to burn energy getting out of clinches and back on her feet. Of the two, Nunes is the more powerful puncher.

Dominick Cruz is a -225 favorite on the UFC 207 odds in his bantamweight title defense bout against underdog Cody Garbrandt (+175). One case for the challenger is that Garbrandt, who is undefeated in the UFC, averages more significant strikes per minute than Cruz, and hits at a higher percentage. His quick-strike power gives him a chance to get the win, but the unknown variable is his stamina. Cruz has shown throughout his career than he can elude heavy punchers and allow his stamina to carry the day.

T.J. Dillashaw is listed at -240 in his bantamweight bout against John Lineker (+190). Dillashaw’s propensity to strike early and frequently, along with being sounder technically than Lineker, makes him the clear favorite. Lineker’s brawling style makes him entertaining to watch, but he’s not efficient in his striking and that can land a fighter in trouble if he is unable to land a knockout.

Dong Hyun Kim is a -145 favorite against Tarec Saffiedine (+115) in a welterweight match that was moved to the main card after Cain Velasquez was scratched from his showdown with Fabricio Werdum. Kim, who has won six of his seven fights with the lone defeat coming against Tyron Woodley, has been able to handle any opponent who is isn’t elite. Saffiedine has dropped two of his last three fights and, from a betting perspective, doesn’t offer great value as an underdog.

And in a late add to the main card, Ray Borg is a slight -135 betting favorite against Louis Smolka (+110) in a flyweight bout. Borg is the savvier grappler of the two whereas Smolka has greater reach and striking ability. Smolka’s defense might not be strong enough to prevent Borg from turning this into a fight that is contested mostly on the mat.