It’s likely the deepest MMA card of the year thus far Saturday night at UFC 214 from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, highlighted by a rematch between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones for Cormier’s light heavyweight title. However, the champ is a +200 underdog at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com with Jones at -260.
It’s rare you see a champion as such a sizable underdog in the UFC, but that tells you how good Jones is – or at least could be again. For a handful of years, Jones was the pound-for-pound king of the sport and ruled the light heavyweight division after first taking the title in 2011 at age 23. The problem is that Jones can’t get out of his own way outside the Octagon.
He was to fight at UFC 200 last summer against Cormier but was pulled after submitting a positive sample for a banned performance-enhancing substance and suspended for a year. Jones (22-1) was the light heavyweight champ when he beat Cormier in a convincing unanimous decision title defense in January 2015 (testing positive for cocaine prior to that). Alas, Jones was stripped of the belt later that year because of a hit-and-run conviction in New Mexico.
A rematch with Cormier was scheduled again for April 2016, but Cormier was forced to pull out with an injury. Jones instead fought Ovince Saint Preux, on short notice, at UFC 197 and beat him by unanimous decision. The only guy to beat Jones was Matt Hamill in The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale in December 2009. Some have criticized the UFC for even giving Jones a title shot again so soon considering all of his issues.
Cormier (19-1) won the vacant title over Anthony Johnson by third-round submission in May 2015 and has defended it twice, beating Alexander Gustafsson by split decision and, this past April, Johnson again by submission (this time in Round 2). Sandwiched in between those fights was a non-title victory over another pound-for-pound legend, Anderson Silva, as Jones’ replacement on short notice at UFC 200.
Also on the card, Tyron Woodley will defend his welterweight belt against Demian Maia, with Woodley priced at -210 and Maia at +170 on the UFC 214 odds. Woodley (17-3-1) won the belt with a first-round knockout of Robbie Lawler at UFC 201 last July. Woodley has since fought Stephen Thompson twice, to a majority draw in November 2016 and a majority decision win in March.
Maia (25-6), the division’s No. 1 contender, is on a seven-fight winning streak since back-to-back losses to Rory MacDonald and Jake Shields.
Finally, the most feared female MMA fighter on the planet, Cris “Cyborg” Justino, takes on Tonya Evinger for the UFC’s vacant featherweight title. It’s vacant because former champion Germaine de Randamie refused to fight Justino (17-1). Evinger (19-5) is an Invicta FC champion but a +650 underdog with Justino at -1100.