The stage was set for the undisputed UFC Light Heavyweight king to be crowned this Saturday night in Las Vegas as former champion Jon Jones (21-1) and current title holder Daniel Cormier (17-1) were scheduled to meet for the second time.
The UFC 197 main event was to mark Jones’ return to the Octagon for the first time since successfully defending his strap against Cormier back in January of 2015. But an injury during training suffered by Cormier has forced the 205-pound titlist to pull out and put his rematch with Jones on hold.
The MGM Grand Garden Arena will still play host to a light heavyweight title fight as a UFC interim champion will be crowned instead. The main event now pits Jones against Ovince St. Preux (18-7) and oddsmakers have installed the former 205-pound champion as a heavy favorite to capture UFC gold once again. The current line has Jon Jones listed as high as -600, with the take back on St. Preux +450.
Jones’ struggles outside the cage have been well documented over the past 15 months so rather than revisit those inner demons, let’s instead focus on the upcoming bout.
For St. Preux, who is 3-2 over his last five fights, this is almost like a free-roll as losses to both Ryan Bader and Glover Teixeira would have made his road to a title fight difficult. But he now finds himself with an opportunity to become a UFC champion by beating arguably the most dominant mixed martial artist of all time in Jones.
St. Preux is a southpaw with both devastating knockout power and an excellent submission game. He isn’t a volume striker but instead likes to take his time and land big as is evident by the fact he lands half the amount of strikes per minute than Jones does. St. Preux has been successful on 53% of take downs and has averaged 1.5 per 15 minutes.
For Jones, the main question is whether or not he’ll have ring rust after being out for as long as he has. He’ll enjoy a 4-inch reach advantage against St. Preux, which is something Jones has had against every opponent to date.
Though most always point out how Jones’ offense has overwhelmed everyone he’s faced, it’s his defense that makes him so difficult to beat. He’s been able to avoid 66% of opponents’ strikes and 94% of take downs, which has afforded him the luxury of not taking much punishment inside the Octagon and also allowing him to dictate where the fight takes place.
Couple all of that with amazing athleticism and a skill set that’s continued evolving and it’s no wonder he’s been able to dominate many of the sport’s biggest names.
PICK: JON JONES
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