Jones opened as a -305 favorite, but his price has only increased as sportsbooks adjust the lines to account for his unwavering support. The 24-year old champion is currently at -550, with Jackson coming back at +400.
“It showed us how much hype Jon Jones really has,” said MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas. “And it could be legitimate, but Quinton Jackson is not going to sit where he’s at now against anyone else in the light heavyweight division - no way, not close.”
Rampage has stirred up a slew of pre-fight controversy by calling out Jones for being “fake” and accusing him of spying on his training camp. Oftentimes, that kind of promotion prompts more tickets being printed on the underdog.
But it hasn’t happened here, somewhat to the surprise of oddsmakers. Jackson is usually a public favorite and one of the most recognizable fighters in the UFC. He’s erased concerns about a lack of motivation for this fight by moving into the MusclePharm Gym in Denver, where UFC 135 will take place Saturday, so he can train more often and acclimate himself to the infamous mile-high altitude.
I think he does have a legit shot. The guy has an experience edge and he’s got the power. It’s definitely going to be the toughest test Jon Jones has ever had.
Experience typically plays less of a role in MMA oddsmaking than some believe. But that changes in one instance - a five-round championship fight.
Jones has crushed everyone in his way and hasn’t even been forced to go a full three rounds in the last two and a half years. Jackson has two five-round championship affairs on his résumé, going 1-1 in those bouts.
If Jones doesn’t finish him in the first few rounds, then you never know, Jackson has shown he can go five rounds, especially if he’s serious about it.
Jones is also returning from a minor hand injury, but it only kept him out a month longer than anticipated. He initially sought surgery but multiple doctors advised against it. The injury likely won't play any role at UFC 135 and mentioned that it had no effect on posting the lines.
While many see the odds as out of hand (UFC President Dana White called Rampage’s hefty underdog status “absurd” to a group of reporters Wednesday), it’s difficult to justify a shot on Rampage. Aside from experience, Jones has most of the other conceivable advantages.
If you really want to be invested in this fight your best opportunity lies with a prop bet. There are a couple of different options that should become available close to fight night. Look for either a knockout finish, the fight to end within the distance, or a bet on the ‘under’ for rounds whether it is 3.5 or 4.5 rounds. I don’t expect this fight will go the distance and a TKO/KO is the most likely result, the payout on these options won’t be huge, but they will be better than a bet on Jones and less risky than one on Rampage.
Other UFC 135 picks
Matt Hughes (+370) vs. Josh Koscheck (-470)
This is another one to stay away from. Go with Koscheck if action is a must, but it’s dangerous to lay that high of a price with a fighter coming back early from a severe injury.
Nate Diaz (-260) vs. Takanori Gomi (+210)
If Diaz makes the mistake of playing Gomi’s game, which is exchanging strikes, he could very well lose his third straight. It’s a rather likely scenario.
Travis Browne (-365) vs. Rob Broughton (+295)
Browne deserves a tougher opponent and he’ll prove it Saturday night.
Ben Rothwell (-345) vs. Mark Hunt (+275)
Mark Hunt’s only MMA win in the last five years came against Chris Tuchscherer. Enough said.
Tony Ferguson (-345) vs. Aaron Riley (+275)
Ferugson’s hands are going to drop Riley early.
Nick Ring (+140) vs. Tim Boetsch (-170)
In the most competitive fight of the night, Boetsch should be able to grind out a decision. A lot depends on Ring’s takedown defense, so proceed with caution.
Junior Assuncao (-120) vs. Eddie Yagin (-110)
“The Filipino Phenom” is one of the best bets on the card. Yagin has the skills to make a dent in the UFC’s bantamweight division.
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