On Saturday evening in Las Vegas, Nevada, UFC 235 plays host to a championship double header.
In the main event, Jon Jones will embark on his third title run in the UFC, defending his recently reclaim light heavyweight title against the surging Anthony Smith. In the co-main event, Tyron Woodley looks to defend his welterweight title for the fifth time against The Ultimate Fighter 21 winner, Kamaru Usman.
It’s a championship weekend with a number of great bets for fans of UFC betting available, so let’s get down to it.
Jon Jones needs no introduction. At only 31 years old, he has already staked his claim to being the greatest fighter in MMA history. So far, the only thing that has stopped him from being unilaterally understood as such is that he has a terrible habit of self-sabotage outside of the cage.
But inside the cage, Jones is a virtuoso without equal, capable of doing everything and doing it all better than anyone else.
Anthony Smith is a very solid fighter. A career middleweight, Smith moved up to 205 pounds last June after the weight cut became too much for him and rattled off three quick finishes, vaulting himself to the top of the light heavyweight rankings off the back of his aggressive style and serious knockout power.
For as impressive as Smith has looked since moving up to 205 pounds, some of that is smoke and mirrors. Light heavyweight is among the least talented divisions in MMA, and two of Smith’s wins came over former champions who are well past their primes.
In Jones he faces possibly the greatest fighter ever who appears to be just hitting his stride. Simply put, this is a nightmare for Smith and the odds reflect that, with Jones at -835 per 888Sport.
And though those odds are long, the fact of the matter is they are not long enough. Jones should be well over a -1000 favorite, as a Smith upset here would be the biggest shocker in MMA history. Straight up, Jones is textbook parlay fodder, as is the Jones By Finish prop at -500.
For gamblers looking for a little more bang for their buck, the only question that needs to be asked is how Jones will end the fight.
Jones’ ground-and-pound from top position is among the most violent the sport has ever seen, but he is also an underrated submission threat, and Anthony Smith has proven susceptible to being submitted before.
A smaller play on Jones by Submission at +190 with 888Sport is a worthwhile play for someone looking for a little more excitement.
Though Woodley has a long way to go to establish at the best welterweight ever from an accomplishment perspective, with regard to pure skills he’s not far off.
An NCAA D-I All-American wrestler at Missouri, Woodley has turned himself into one of the most dangerous strikers in the welterweight division with his otherworldly speed and power.
He’s also among the smartest strategic fighters in the game, more than willing to engage in tactics that give him the best chance to win, even if they don’t please the fans. Woodley prefers to slow the pace of a fight down to a crawl to maximize his dynamism and power.
Usman is, in many ways, a still developing product. An NCAA D-II national champion, Usman’s striking game is still coming along. He has the skeleton of a serviceable striking game and is more than willing to engage but he can be sloppy on the feet and hittable.
Where Usman really shines is grinding opponents down with his pace and wrestling.
Woodley and Usman present an interesting clash of styles. Usman likes to push a high pace and come forward, whereas Woodley wants to more measured pace and is willing to retreat often.
And on paper, Usman’s strategy of pressing the action is a good way to attack Woodley, as Woodley’s biggest flaw is his lack of activity which allowed Stephen Thompson to nab a draw against him despite Woodley clearly being the superior fighter.
However, actually pulling that off is another beast entirely.
Woodley has some of the best takedown defense in MMA history, so Usman is going to be forced to spend most of the fight on the feet with him. And on the feet, Woodley is the much more dangerous fighter.
Usman has been hit cleanly before and striking-wise, his pace can serve as a detriment as it opens him up to Woodley’s counters. Few people can taste Woodley’s power and survive and even if Usman is able to, once he gets hit, the terms of engagement will shift dramatically in Woodley’s favor.
The champion is currently -148 with Karamba, and considering his many advantages in the fight, that is a great bet.
Though the main and co-main event bouts are obviously the ones being most talked about, UFC 235 is one of the deepest cards in recent UFC memory, with two former champions also fighting on the main card, and some of the hottest prospects in the sport competing as well.
Here is a brief rundown of some other tasty betting options on the rest of the card.
Lawler is a legend in the sport and the man Woodley took the welterweight title from. Askren is an Olympic wrestler sporting and undefeated MMA career who has won belts in every organization he’s competed for.
Lawler is certainly less durable than he used to be, but against, Askren that won’t matter, as Askren has terrible striking and is exclusively a wrestler. Lawler has always been a good defender of takedowns and if Askren has to strike for any amount of time, he’s in trouble.
Lawler has miles on him, so he could lose, but at +230 with Bethard. he’s worth an underdog bet.
Zabit Magomedsharipov is one of the brightest featherweight prospects in MMA. Since joining the UFC in 2017 he has gone 4-0 with three submissions.
Jeremy Stephens is on the other end of the spectrum. A veteran of the Octagon since 2007, Stephens is tied for second most fights in UFC history, with most of his wins coming by violent knockout.
This is a classic passing the torch fight. Zabit pushes a relentless pace and should overwhelm Stephens with volume and grappling. Zabit is currently -265 at 888Sport and is a perfect parlay companion for Jon Jones at -177
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