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  • Jones-Smith and Woodley-Usman: How to bet UFC 235 🀜

    Jones-Smith and Woodley-Usman: How to bet UFC 235

    ESPN PLUS ($ MATERIAL)


    ​​​​​​The Jon Jones era in the light heavyweight division is back in full swing, as the champ will defend his belt against rising contender Anthony Smith at UFC 235 on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. In a surprising twist, it will be the first time in Jones's 19-fight UFC career in which he's faced an opponent younger than he is.

    Smith, 30 (born July 26, 1988), will enter the cage just over a year younger than Jones, 31 (born July 19, 1987), meaning Jones will lack the youth advantage that has been wind in his sails as he cruised through the generally older division of competition.

    Meanwhile, Tyron Woodley is facing probably the best wrestler he's seen in his six title appearances, making his own dominant skill set potentially less so. With two champions putting their belts on the line as betting favorites, the question is whether either is due for an upset.

    UFC welterweight title matchup: Champion Tyron Woodley (-145) vs. No. 2 Kamaru Usman (+125)

    Historically, Tyron Woodley hasn't gotten much love from betting lines. He fought as a pick 'em or underdog in most of his title fight appearances, being clearly favored just once against aging Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist Demian Maia. He's a slight favorite against Usman, but barely, and the line has been dropping through fight week.

    Perhaps the market is enamored with Usman's nine-fight winning streak, or maybe they like his wrestling base and aggressive style. But while the stats support his dominant wrestling to date, his credentials don't quite stand up to Woodley's. Woodley has excellent grappling stats, despite relying on them much less than Usman. And that's because Woodley's hands have made the difference in so many fights.

    Usman's success has been though pressure, both on the feet and on the ground. But he won't be able to push forward against the threat of Woodley's dangerous counter punching, and even if Usman gets a takedown, it's unlikely to stick. That means at some point he'll be putting his slightly below average striking defense against the hardest puncher in the division (by far). Woodley has shown that he can be patient, sometimes to the dissatisfaction of the crowd, and yet that skill and fight IQ could be critical here.

    E+ recommends: The numbers are much closer than against Woodley's last several opponents. We still lean towards the champ to successfully defend his title, but only slightly. When his price was higher, the value was gone, yet we could see near pick 'em prices during fight week making Woodley a small play. Questions about his recent hand injury and out-of-cage workload also temper our support in anticipation of a close fight here. Apparently, the numbers like him more as the underdog he normally is during fight week.
    UFC light heavyweight title matchup: Champion Jon Jones (-800) vs. No. 3 Anthony Smith (+550)

    Jones giving up a youth advantage for the first time ever in his UFC career is certainly an interesting stat, but given the matchup at play, it won't work against him. That's because Smith is hardly a fresh prospect, and has actually fought far more often and taken more cumulative damage than Jones. While again the challenger has some wrestling credentials, they don't stand up to those of the champion. In the Octagon, Smith has won more often by heart and toughness than by efficient offense and a tight defense.

    That likely won't cut it against the offensive arsenal that Jones can deploy on the feet and on the ground. Jones is possibly the hardest fighter to reach while standing at a distance, fighting intelligently and efficiently at range, picking opponents apart before finding an opening. Those openings will certainly come against Smith, and Jones is perfectly suited to exploiting them.

    E+ recommends: The odds are so steep that we need mainly worry about Jones injuring himself in the cage, or a fluky haymaker from Smith that he's capable of throwing despite being on the retreat. But if Jones is cautious and smart, he'll get this to the ground and get a stoppage before the night is done. Picking the submission or TKO prop is tricky with Jones, as he often ends up in back mount and can finish either way. Just take Jones inside the distance to get a better price, albeit still in the expensive realm of parlay fodder for most.

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