It’s been over 15 months since Jon Jones had his last fight, and he's finally ready to get back inside the octagon. The No.1 pound-for-pound fighter in MMA will headline UFC 197 on April 23 as he takes on Ovince Saint Preux at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Jones had been scheduled to face Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight title, but Cormier was forced to withdraw from the card because of a foot injury. Cormier lost a unanimous decision to Jones when they met at UFC 182 on Jan. 3, 2015, but he won the belt less than five months later after Jones was stripped of the title following an alleged hit-and-run incident.
The interim light heavyweight championship will be on the line at UFC 197, guaranteeing the winner a fight against Cormier in the near future. Even though Jones no longer holds the belt, he remains the best fighter in the division, and he’s an overwhelming favorite to get the victory. UFC ranks Jones as the top challenger to Cormier’s title, while Saint Preux comes in at No.6 in the light heavyweight rankings.
Saint Preux is one of a few fighters in the last few months that has been thrust into the main event on short notice. Nate Diaz replaced Rafael dos Anjos in the UFC 196 main event on 10 days’ notice, and he forced Conor McGregor to submit in the second round of their fight. Chad Mendes replaced the injured Jose Aldo in the main event of UFC 189, and he was beating McGregor in their fight until he was knocked out late in the second round.
No fighter has been as dominant as Jones since he had his first UFC fight in 2008. His only loss came in 2009 when he was disqualified for using an illegal elbow in a fight that he was about to win. Since then, he’s gone 12-0 with four wins by TKO, four wins by submission and four wins by unanimous decision.
Jones has had a bevy of issues in between fights. Aside from testing positive for cocaine and being involved in the hit-and-run last year, he recently spent two days in jail for violating his probation.
In addition to the interim title fight, there is one championship fight on the UFC 197 card. Demetrious Johnson defends his flyweight title against Henry Cejudo, who is undefeated at 10-0. He defeated Jussier Formiga via split decision in November, and Cejudo is a significant underdog.
The featherweight fight between Yair Rodríguez vs. Andre Fili might end up being the most competitive fight of the night. Fili is just a +120 underdog, via Bovada.lv, though he’s lost two of his last four fights.
UFC 197 Fight Card
Light Heavyweight Jon Jones (-500) vs. Ovince Saint Preux (+350)
Flyweight Demetrious Johnson (-400) vs. Henry Cejudo (+300)
Lightweight Anthony Pettis (-160) vs. Edson Barboza (+130)
Middleweight Robert Whittaker (-335) vs. Rafael Natal (+255)
Featherweight Yair Rodríguez (-150) vs. Andre Fili (+120)