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UFC 232 Betting Odds, Picks: Can Alexander Gustafsson Hand Jon Jones His First Loss?

Dec 28, 2018 11:33 PM EST
Credit:

Gary A. Vazquez, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Jon Jones

UFC 232 betting odds: Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson

  • Jon Jones -275
  • Alexander Gustafsson +215
  • Time: Approx. 11:30 p.m. ET
  • Channel: UFC Pay-Per-View

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There will be plenty of action going down in the octagon this Saturday night at UFC 232 from The Forum in Inglewood, California.

The event was originally set to take place from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, but it was moved to California last Sunday due to an abnormality in one of Jon Jones’ pre-fight drug tests.

California state athletic commission officer Andy Foster had this to say about the drug test.

“We’ve got a statement from three difference scientists, from the (WADA-accredited) lab director (at SMRTL in Salt Lake City) saying there’s no evidence of any new ingestion … This isn’t a new thing. This is what he’s been punished for already. He’s already served his time on this.”

The aforementioned “thing” that Jones has already punished for was the anabolic steroid turinabol, which was collected the day prior to his knockout victory over long-time rival Daniel Cormier at UFC 214.

Jones faced a maximum four-year suspension for his second-failed test, but JBJ’s sentence was reduced to just 15 months after he was able to cut a deal with USADA during the appeal process.

Enter Alexander Gustafsson, who lost a closely-contested unanimous decision to Jones over five years ago at UFC 165. Some, most notably Gustafsson himself, believe JBJ should’ve been handed his first real loss that night.

Alas, ‘The Mauler’ went on to lose to both Cormier (via split decision) and Anthony Johnson (TKO) before rallying with consecutive victories in his last two fights to earn another crack at Jones.

Surprisingly Jones has actually fought more recently (July 29, 2017) than Gustafsson (May 28, 2017) despite his laundry list of legal issues he’s dealt with in recent years.

Let’s break down some of the matchup’s biggest questions and attempt to find some value with the odds.

How Can Jon Jones Win?

There’s a reason why Jones has is considered the GOAT of mixed martial arts: Nobody has ever beat him. Only Matt Hamill’s forehead and Jones’ own transgressions have earned him anything other than a W inside the octagon.

There’s simply not much even the most highly-skilled fighters in the world can do against a highly-skilled killer with Jones’ attributes. Overall, JBJ stands 6-foot-4 while walking around at roughly 230 pounds and possesses a freaky 84-inch reach to complement his high-level wrestling and an ever-evolving toolbox of kicks, elbows and everything in-between.

Jones has taken pride throughout his career by beating his opponents with what’s perceived to be their own “strength”, as there largely hasn’t been anyone capable of challenging him in any facet of mixed martial arts.

That is, with the exception of Gustafsson. All three judges scored their first fight in favor of Jones, but the long-time champion was shockingly only able to secure 1-of-11 takedown attempts.

Meanwhile, Gustafsson managed to become the first man in the UFC to take down Jones, and the advanced stats indicate Gus won most of the exchanges on the feet (via Fight Metric).

Their first fight was almost entirely fought at a distance, as neither competitor was able to maintain any sort of ground control after securing their respective takedowns.

Jones’ never-ending supply of kicks grew more effective as the fight went on, and he nearly ended things in the final minute of the fourth-round courtesy of a devastating spinning elbow.

JBJ’s post-fight excuses of underestimating Gustafsson and not being in the best shape could certainly be corrected this time around, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a new strategy by one of the most-creative fighters in UFC history.

It’d make sense if “Bones” emphasized more elbows and knees this time around, as his close victory over Gustafsson appeared to reinforce his attention to the clinch game even though he was fighting shorter opponents.

Jones has already proven capable of beating Gustafsson by decision, and his recent performances indicate he now offers heightened knockout power as well.

It’d be surprising to see Jones rely so heavily on takedowns again this time around, so expect a more clinch-focused strategy that was used with great success by DC during his split-decision victory over Gus at UFC 192.

How Can Alexander Gustafsson Win?

Gustafsson (6-foot-5 and 79-inch reach) is one of the only men in the entire UFC that can at least somewhat match Jones’ natural attributes. This was evident at UFC 165, as nobody has landed more strikes on JBJ before or since their first encounter.

The Mauler works best when utilizing his deft footwork from a distance. It’s tough to name a fighter with faster hands in the entire division, and we saw the best version of Gustaffson yet during his last fight vs. Glover Teixeira.

Gustaffson was never all that close to securing a finish against Jones, but he’s since demonstrated improved conditioning and combination striking. He undoubtedly holds something of a mental edge over most of Jones’ competitors considering his success during their first matchup.

The two main takeaways from Gus’ two losses since facing Jones are …

  • Rumble Johnson-level power is capable of shutting out his lights.
  • Stopping Gus’ movement via clinches or takedowns is key.

Jones certainly possesses the attributes to accomplish either of Gustaffson’s kryptonites, although the reverse seems to hold true as well.

We don’t know what it takes to defeat Jones because we’ve never seen it happen before. With that said, Gustafsson’s lethal combination of footwork, elite takedown defense and size should give him as good a chance as anyone to implement his next-level striking ability, which already gave Jones more problems than we’ve seen from anyone else.

Current and Past Odds

There’s more value than usual for both fighters based on what we’ve come to expect during their last handful of fights.

Only current champ-champ Daniel Cormier has receiving more respect from oddsmakers than Gustafsson. The inverse also holds true, as Gus has typically worked as a large favorite himself except when facing the light heavyweight division’s only champions since March, 2011.

Prediction

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