Much of the recent talk in the world of mixed martial arts has revolved around Conor McGregor and UFC 200 on July 9, but two elite UFC fighters are set to fight this weekend. Jon Jones and Demetrious Johnson headline the card at UFC 197 on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Sitting atop UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings, Jones is looking to remain the No.1 contender to the light heavyweight championship. Johnson is considered the No.2 pound-for-pound fighter in UFC, and he’ll defend his flyweight championship before Jones fights in the main event.
For Jones, it’s his first fight since he retained the light heavyweight championship against Daniel Cormier on Jan. 3 of last year. He hasn’t been back in the octagon since because of a string of incidents outside the cage, including a felony hit-and-run charge that forced him to drop the belt. After Cormier withdrew from a scheduled rematch because of an injury, Ovince Saint-Preux stepped in and became Jones’ new opponent.
Saint-Preux replaced Cormier just three weeks before the fight. He’s the No.6 contender for the belt, and Jones is a heavy favorite, with his betting odds moving up to -550 at Bovada.lv. Saint-Preux is a +375 underdog, and though Jones wasn’t initially prepared to face him, he’ll be more than ready to win a 13th consecutive fight.
“It’s a little curveball,” Jones told Sports Illustrated. “I try to look at interesting fighters like this as opportunities to grow. I try to be excited by the challenges. You know, since the fight’s been changed, me and my coaches, we’ve spent even more time together, you know, thinking about what we need to do, what adjustments we need to make. We’re making the appropriate changes. We just have to kind of work overtime to be comfortable with our new strategy.”
Jones has been the most dominant fighter in UFC over the past few years. While stars like McGregor, Jose Aldo and Anderson Silva have suffered losses, he’s been unbeatable, holding the belt for more than four years before he was forced to vacate it. Prior to beating Cormier by unanimous decision, he defeated Glover Teixeira and Alexander Gustafsson, who are the No.3 and No.4 light heavyweight contenders.
Johnson has true losses on his record, unlike Jones, whose one defeat came when he was disqualified for using an illegal elbow in a fight he was about to win. But the champ hasn’t lost since he moved up to the flyweight division. He won the title in 2012, successfully defending it seven times in the last three and a half years. Jones is tied for third in UFC history with eight successful title defenses in a row.
This time, it will be Henry Cejudo who tries to upset Johnson. Cejudo is an Olympic gold-medal wrestler, and he’s won all 10 of his professional MMA fights. He defeated Jussier Formiga by split decision in November, and now he’s getting his first title shot.
Johnson has withstood challenges from top wrestlers before, and he’s confident he can do the same on Saturday.
"It's not like he has gone out there and out-wrestled a lot of his opponents," Johnson said, via ESPN.com. "Not taking anything away from Henry Cejudo's gold medal, I'm just saying a lot of you are so fixated on his gold medals. He won one tournament, and that was it."
A loss for Johnson wouldn’t be quite as shocking as a loss for Jones. Johnson is a -400 favorite, and Cejudo has +300 odds.
Jones by unanimous decision
Johnson by submission