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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.

Mayweather stops Nasukawa in 1st round, flooring him 3 times

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SAITAMA, Japan (AP) It took less than three minutes for Floyd Mayweather to knock down his Japanese kickboxer opponent Tenshin Nasukawa three times in a totally one-sided bout of exhibition boxing on New Year’s Eve.

Nasukawa’s father threw in the towel after 140 seconds of the first round on Monday as his 20-year-old son bravely teetered around the ring trying to get up.

It was a quick and definitive victory for the 41-year-old American. Mayweather was gracious in victory, hugging the weeping Nasukawa and calling him “still a great champion.” Nasukawa, however, barely landed a clean punch against the vastly more experienced Mayweather.

The rules for the three-round contest – organized by The Rizin Fighting Federation and held at Saitama Super Arena on the northern outskirts of Tokyo – were no kicking allowed and no official record of the match.

Mayweather said: “Tenshin is still undefeated. I’m still undefeated.”

Mayweather has won all 50 of his pro fights, while Nasukawa has an undefeated record in kickboxing and mixed martial arts.

“It’s all about having fun,” Mayweather told reporters after the fight, praising Nasukawa as a “young hungry lion.”

The Mayweather-Nasukawa bout culminated an evening of more than a dozen fights, streamed by FITE for a fee, but not in the U.S. Fuji TV was the broadcaster in Japan.

Mayweather, who hadn’t fought since beating UFC star Conor McGregor more than a year ago, said he was retired and came to Tokyo to give an opportunity to a younger fighter like Nasukawa.

“I told Tenshin to `hold your head up high,”‘ Mayweather said.

Nasukawa said after the bout that he was grateful for the experience and that he had learned a lot.

Fans – and possibly Nasukawa himself – appeared taken back that Mayweather showed little mercy in the exhibition.

“He is first class,” Nasukawa said.

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Melee at UFC 229 after Nurmagomedov chokes out McGregor

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LAS VEGAS — Conor McGregor tapped out in the fourth round of his comeback fight at UFC 229 against Khabib Nurmagomedov, who then climbed over the cage and set off a brawl by scuffling with another fighter in McGregor’s corner on Saturday night.

The wild scene occurred after McGregor (21-4) got caught in a choke by Nurmagomedov (27-0), who defended his lightweight belt with an impressive victory over the Irish star who infamously attacked a bus carrying Nurmagomedov in Brooklyn last April.

The men in McGregor’s corner appeared to respond with taunts, and Nurmagomedov climbed over the fence and fought with Dillon Danis, a Bellator welterweight who trains with McGregor. Meanwhile, two men entered the cage and sucker-punched McGregor, who defended himself before security personnel separated everyone.

Nurmagomedov and McGregor both left the ring before the championship belt could be put around Nurmagomedov’s waist.

Before the post-fight madness, Nurmagomedov firmly asserted his grappling dominance over McGregor’s striking skill in the Irish superstar’s first MMA bout in 23 months. McGregor hadn’t been in a fight since losing his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather last year, and Nurmagomedov proved an insurmountably tough opponent for his comeback.

Nurmagomedov and McGregor made no secret of their mutual loathing in the past few months, and the UFC used footage of McGregor’s attack on the bus to promote UFC 229, which could be the best-selling pay-per-view card in UFC history.

Four security guards separated the fighters while they didn’t touch gloves before the bout, and Nurmagomedov went for a takedown in the opening minute while dominating the opening round.

Nurmagomedov staggered McGregor with a right hand early in the second round, but McGregor got up and landed a flying knee. Nurmagomedov made another takedown and steadily improved his position throughout a dominant round, eventually standing and raining down blows on the prone McGregor.

Nurmagomedov decided to stand and strike with McGregor in the third round, apparently unafraid of McGregor’s famed power. McGregor landed several significant shots, but Nurmagomedov took them and eventually reasserted control against the cage.

McGregor did decent work in the fourth round before Nurmagomedov got control, climbed on McGregor’s back and finally submitted the former two-division champion.