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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:00 PM

UFC Betting Notebook

The ESPN Era of the Ultimate Fighting Championship will get started on Jan. 19. Before previewing the UFC on ESPN+ 1 card and giving out our picks later in the week, let’s get you caught up on the promotion’s latest news.

Jon ‘Bones’ Jones made a triumphant return to the Octagon on Dec. 29 when he defeated Alexander ‘The Mauler’ Gustafsson by third-round knockout. Jones hooked up his supporters as a -285 favorite, cashing tickets for those who backed him to win inside the distance at an inexpensive -110 price.

As we’ve all known for many years now, there isn’t anything about Jones that doesn’t involve controversy. One week before UFC 232 was to take place at T-Mobile Center in Las Vegas, the promotion made an unprecedented move by relocating the event to the Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles.

The reason was that the same banned substance that Jones had in his system for his last fight against Daniel Cormier, a third-round KO win that was later changed to a no-contest, was found again. Jones served a 17-month suspension for the initial flunked drug test, although USADA ruled that Jones didn’t knowingly ingest the banned substance. Nevertheless, when USADA announced a small presence of the substance was still in Jones’s system, the Nevada Athletic Commission ruled that it didn’t have time (the news broke around the Christmas holidays) to investigate the matter and refused to sanction the fight.

Therefore, all the fighters and their teams had to make last-second changes to travel to California. In other words, Jones caused every fighter on the card to go through a process that was a complete pain the ass while they’re attempting to focus on fighting and cutting weight.

That’s not even mentioning how many thousands of fans had to cough up extra money to go from Vegas to L.A. (assuming they even wanted to at that point). Regardless of these circumstances, Jones showed up at the UFC 232 presser 48 hours before the fight and showed his true colors once again. He was an arrogant asshole, scolding a female media member and telling her “she sucked” after she asked him completely fair and relevant questions. Jones offered zero apologies to fans or other fighters impacted by his actions that prompted the change in venue.

Then at the weigh-ins and in all his postfight interviews, Jones did what Jones always does. He played the Religion Card, offering all glory and thanks to God in the first minute or so before going into complete a-hole mode and calling out other fighters and reminding all that he’s always been the champ despite multiple arrests and suspensions that got him stripped of the belt.

What was comical about Jones’s trash talking toward Cormier is that he went to great lengths to imply that there was no reason for Jones to go up to heavyweight and face D.C., who is now the heavyweight kingpin after knocking out Stipe Miocic in the first round last year. But if you’re saying to Cormier that “Daddy is back,” how can you refuse to take him on at heavyweight when you’ve for years talked about eventually making that move. In fact, after his previous win over Cormier, Jones called out Brock Lesnar to fight him in that division.

That’s Jones for you. He expresses an opinion in a tweet and then deletes that tweet an hour or two later. He says something one day, only to imply the exact opposite a week or two later. He constantly plays the Religion Card, yet his actions are always that of a complete scumbag who doesn’t have a religious bone in his body.

With Cormier possibly defending his strap against Lesnar once he pays the NAC the $250,000 fine he owes for testing dirty in his UFC 200 win over Mark Hunt and gets through the six-month window of USADA testing, it appears Dana White and Co. want Jones to defend his 205-pound belt against Anthony ‘Lion Heart’ Smith, who has gone 3-0 since moving up from middleweight to the light-heavyweight loop.

Smith posted first-round KO wins over former UFC LHW champs Rashad Evans and Shogun Rua in his first two scraps at 205. Then in October, he submitted Volkan Oezdemir in the third round to improve to 6-1 in his last seven fights. Jones is expected to face Smith in the UFC 235 headliner on March 2. As of Jan. 15, [...] had Jones listed as a -900 ‘chalk’ with Smith at +550 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $550).

If the Cormier-Lesnar fight doesn’t happen in the coming months, you could see Miocic get a rematch with D.C. At this point, it doesn’t appear that D.C. and Jones are going to fight again, at least not in early 2019.

Welterweight champ Tyron Woodley will take on Kamaru Usman in the UFC 235 co-main event. Colby Covington, who beat Rafael dos Anjos last year to win the interim welterweight strap while Woodley was injured, isn’t happy at all about being passed over in favor of Usman.

Most books have Woodley as a -185 ‘chalk’ against Usman, who is a +150 underdog. Usman, the TUF21 winner, is 9-0 in the UFC but only has two finishes to his credit. His best victories have come over Dos Anjos and Demian Maia.

Woodley won the 170-pound title by dusting Robbie Lawler via first-round KO at UFC 201 in Atlanta on July 30 of 2016. Since then, he retained his belt in a majority draw vs. Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and then successfully defended it three times, including a second-round submission of Darren Till at UFC 228.

Also on the UFC 235 card, welterweight Ben Askren will make his promotional debut against Lawler. Askren’s contract was acquired by the UFC in a rare trade with the ONE FC promotion for the rights to former UFC flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson. Most spots have Askren installed as a -300 favorite versus Lawler, who is returning from a torn ACL and is an underdog in the +235/+240 neighborhood. We should point out that Askren, who has an 18-0-1 career record and is the former ONE and Bellator welterweight champ, and Woodley are long-time friends and teammates who are unlikely to ever share the Octagon together.

What’s going on with the Diaz Brothers lately? Well, Nick Diaz was matched up to face Jorge Masvidal at UFC 235, but all indications are that that fight won’t happen. Masvidal is still listed as a -180 ‘chalk’ at  with Diaz as the +155 underdog. Diaz, who hasn’t fought since January of 2015 in a decision loss to Anderson Silva that was later ruled a no-contest when Silva popped dirty for a banned substance, has made social-media posts in recent months expressing distaste for the UFC and a desire to be released.

As for Nate, he was going to fight Dustin Poirier, but ‘Diamond’ had to pull out with an injury. Diaz spent this past weekend trolling Conor McGregor and lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov on social media. A third fight with McGregor could be on the horizon at some point later this year.

What’s next for McGregor? First, he and Nurmagomedov must deal with the NAC and likely face some punishment for the post-fight brawl after ‘The Eagle’ submitted ‘The Notorious’ late last year. McGregor has expressed interest in a rematch but also implied that he’s fine with not getting it immediately. If he doesn’t have to deal with a lengthy suspension (which is doubtful), he could rematch Poirier, Diaz or featherweight kingpin Max Holloway (for the 145-pound strap or in a fight at 155).

UFC 234 will take place on Feb. 9 in Melbourne, Australia. Middleweight champ Robert Whittaker will make his first official title defense against Kelvin Gastelum. Whittaker, who has won nine straight fights and hasn’t tasted defeat since losing to ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in a welterweight scrap back in 2014, won the interim middleweight strap with a narrow unanimous-decision win over Yoel Romero at UFC 213.

Whittaker was later promoted to unified champ. His first title defense was supposed to come in a rematch with Romero at UFC 225, but the ‘Soldier of God’ missed weight to make it a non-title fight. Whittaker won by split decision over Romero in a scrap that’s probably the co-favorite to win 2018 Fight of the Year honors along with Poirier’s win over Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje.

Most books have Whittaker listed as a -250 ‘chalk’ vs. Gastelum, who is a +190 underdog. The 27-year-old Gastelum has won back-to-back bouts over former champ Michael Bisping and Jacare Souza.

Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya is the rising star of the middleweight division. He is 15-0 overall and went 4-0 in his first four Octagon appearances in 2018. Adesanya will take on Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva on the main card of UFC 234. With a win, he’ll likely secure a title shot against the Whittaker-Gastelum survivor.

Most books have Adesanya listed as an enormous -600 ‘chalk’ against Silva, the former champ who is a +450 underdog.

Former two-time heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez has been out for more than two years, but he’s booked to make his return in the UFC on ESPN+ 2 headliner against Francis ‘The Predator’ Ngannou, who ended his 0-2 skid with a first-round KO win over Curtis ‘Razor’ Blaydes on Nov. 24. Most books have Velasquez as a -240 favorite with Ngannou as the +190 underdog.

Othe bouts on that Feb. 17 card include Jimmie Rivera (-200) vs. Aljamain Sterling (+170), Luke Sanders (-190) vs. Renan Barao (+150), Paul Felder (-165) vs. James Vick (+135) and Kron Gracie (-365) vs. Alex Caceres (+255).

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards



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