If one were to make a Mount Rushmore of all-time mixed martial arts fighters, Jon Jones has to be on it. In fact, purely on talent alone he might be No. 1. It’s a talented family overall as Jones’ two brothers, Arthur and Chandler, were/are NFL players. However, Jon Jones is also a world-class knucklehead at times with the mistakes he has made in terms of failing drug tests and some legal issues.
There’s no question, though, that Jones remains one of the UFC’s biggest stars, and Jones (23-1) defends his light-heavyweight title on Saturday night at UFC 235 in Las Vegas against fellow American Anthony Smith (31-13). Oddsmakers don’t expect much of a bout with Jones at -850 (he opened as high as -1250) and Smith at +525 (opened at +700) on the UFC odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Jones became the youngest champion in UFC history at age 23 back in 2011 but was stripped of the belt in 2017 for one of those positive drug tests. His UFC 214 victory over Daniel Cormier was changed to a no-contest. Jones returned to the Octagon at UFC 232, but because he tested positive for a trace amount of steroids the state of Nevada wouldn’t sanction him for the scheduled card in Las Vegas. In an unprecedented move, UFC 232 was moved to Los Angeles, and Jones won by third-round knockout over Alexander Gustafsson.
The 30-year-old Smith is largely an unknown to the casual UFC fan. He’s a former middleweight who has competed as a light heavyweight for less than a year. Smith enters on a three-fight winning streak, finishing Volkan Oezdemir, Mauricio Rua and Rashad Evans. Smith has never been close to this big of an underdog at sports betting sites.
The co-main event features Tyron Woodley (19-3) defending his welterweight belt against Kamaru Usman (14-1). Woodley opened around -155 and is now listed at -165 for the bout with Usman at +135. It’s the fifth title defense for Woodley since winning the belt from Robbie Lawler at UFC 201. Woodley last fought as a slight underdog at UFC 228 vs. Darren Till but won by second-round submission. It was Woodley’s first submission victory since 2009.
Usman, nicknamed the “Nigerian Nightmare,” is considered a rising star in the UFC on a 13-fight winning streak. Usman was a -300 favorite last time out in beating former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos by unanimous decision in “The Ultimate Fighter 28” finale.