Two weeks ago
Jul 2, 2019

UFC 239 preview: Inform your Jones vs. Santos predictions

Analysing the Jones vs. Santos odds

How Jon Jones established his dominant reign

What can we learn from Santos’ record?

Jones vs. Santos predictions: Where is the value?

UFC 239 preview: Inform your Jones vs. Santos predictions

Jon Jones is looking to defend his light heavyweight championship against Thiago Santos at UFC 239 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on July 7. Will the American be successful in his defence attempt? Read this article to inform your Jones vs. Santos predictions.

Jon Jones, 31, is often touted as the UFC’s most talented fighter. He is essentially unbeaten over 25 professional fights, barring one disqualification he was given for illegal elbows.

At the end of 2018, the American virtuoso regained his license following a doping suspension and reclaimed the 205-pound title. Another successful defence against Anthony Smith at UFC 235 makes the Jackson-Wink product 1-0 for the year.

Santos, a 35-year-old Brazilian, is as violent as they come. Victorious in eight of his last nine bouts, he’s been even better upon moving to the light heavyweight division after a career at middleweight. Santos has won three straight at the limit, all of which came via stoppage.

Tale of the tape

Jones

Name

Santos

31

Age

35

6'4"

Height

6'0"

205 lbs

Weight

204 lbs

84.5"

Reach

76.0"

24-1-0

Record 21-6-0

Analysing the Jones vs. Santos odds

Jones is still a hefty favourite (1.174*) after opening at 1.125 to win. Santos, on the other hand, saw an initial line of 7.250 but has shortened to 5.340*.

This means that since the odds were initially posted, the market movement has strongly suggested that Santos has more of a chance than many may have initially thought.

At first, the odds gave Jones around an 87% chance of winning. Now, however, while still short, that has dropped to under 82%. Those who took Santos early will be watching with interest to see if his price continues to drop. Anyone looking to bet on Jones may be looking to sit tight in the hope his odds continue to rise.

How Jon Jones established his dominant reign

In February, Jones seemed to have cleaned out the division (again). He turned away Anthony Smith with relative ease, winning by a five-round decision. The triumph made Jones 13-0-1 in championship fights. The big stage is all he’s competed on since thumping around Shogun Rua for the belt in 2011, which made him the youngest UFC champ ever.

The lone blemish in his championship run was a third-round knockout of Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 that was overturned to a no-contest by the California State Athletic Commission. Traces of an anabolic steroid were found in the pre-fight drug screening. And he was eventually handed a 15-month suspension. 

"While Jones has shown complacency for a nice points win, Santos always goes out on his shield."

Jones returned to the cage for the UFC’s New Years weekend show, finding himself opposite Alexander Gustafsson for the second time. Though Gustafsson’s inside boxing made him competitive the first time around, Jones controlled the range of the rematch by repeatedly whipping leg and middle kicks into the Swedish fighter. A takedown in the third round spelled the end for Gustafsson as Jones mounted him and pounded him into the mat until referee Mike Beltran pried the champion off.

The title picture hadn’t changed all that much in Jones’ absence and recycling a former challenger was all the division could muster up. Fortunately for the UFC, a pair of former middleweights were carving out a place for themselves in the 205-pound pantheon. 

First, “Lionheart” Smith turned in back-to-back Performance of the Night efforts to gain a crack at Jones. However, Smith didn’t stand a chance. His midsection was under heavy abuse through the first couple rounds. And the rest of him really felt the brunt of the champion’s offense in the third and fourth round.

He eventually caught an illegal knee but refused to bow out. The two dabbled along the fence for the final, monotonous round, resulting in a clear points win for Jones.

What can we learn from Santos’ record?

Just two weeks prior to Jones’ victory of Smith, Thiago Santos, who happens to share a common opponent in Smith, blasted former KSW champion Jan Blachowicz. A left hook in Round 3 put a charging Blachowicz on the ground where Santos jammed some 25 unanswered hammerfists before the stoppage.

Santos jumped to 205 pounds after a spotty run in the middleweight division. Carrying a 13-5 Octagon record into Vegas, the Brazilian destroyer turned professional in 2010. After smashing his domestic competition to bits, he was called in to make his UFC debut in 2013 where he was easily submitted by Cezar Ferreira in less than a minute.

In turn, Santos entered his next fight a sizable underdog (opening at 4.00) against Ronny Markes. But this time he introduced fans to his violent ways, folding an overweight Markes with a liver kick and crushing him on the ground for a first-round stoppage.

Over the next four years, it was give and take for the American Top Team standout. Uriah Hall continually beat him to the punch in their three-round contest. He then won four fights before Gegard Mousasi’s clean punching was too much to handle, losing by KO to the current Bellator champion.

After another of string of four straight wins—more impressively, in one calendar year (from February 2017 to February 2018)—David Branch brought Santos back down to earth with an early knockout that saw the Brazilian hit the deck from a chopping right hand.

"Jones' game revolves in and around clinches. Santos knows this and will engage like he always does - kill or be killed."

But in September 2018, when the headliner for UFC Sao Paulo was scratched, Santos gladly stepped into the limelight and a light heavyweight battle against Eryk Anders. Santos was forced to fight off a mauling Anders and while on the seat of his pants, he found an opportunity to drive elbows into Anders for a TKO.

Santos again tried his hand at 205 pounds against an equally a scary finisher in Jimi Manuwa. In the process he proved he could carry his power up in weight.

The two traded ferociously in the first five minutes. Manuwa was twice floored and Santos ate a number of huge right hands. But in the final minute of Round 2, Santos created space out of a clinch to deliver a right hand across the chin of his opponent. The finish earned him Performance of the Night - an extra $50,000 was his. And after a subsequent bludgeoning of Blachowitz, so too was a title shot.

Jones vs. Santos predictions: Where is the value?

It’s hard to see a path to victory for Santos. That’s not a knock against him, Jones has just never come close to being defeated. There isn’t a skillset the defending champion hasn’t faced. Save for a winging hook that takes the head off Jones, the American should prove too much for his Brazilian opponent.

All told, Jones hasn’t faced a proper puncher like Santos since taking on Glover Teixeira or even Rampage Jackson. Cormier obviously packs a punch, but the heavyweight champion’s game revolves in and around clinches, and otherwise doesn’t have the one-shot lethal spark Santos does.

Santos knows this and will engage like he always does - kill or be killed. While Jones has shown complacency for a nice points win, Santos always goes out on his shield.

Of his 27 pro bouts, Santos has only heard the final bell in six of them, which suggests this fight will not be going the distance. The challenger’s murderous, fast-twitch punching can at best be compared to his countryman Vitor Belfort, who similarly jumped up from the middleweight division to face Jones. Despite an early scare from a tight armbar, Jones muscled up his man on the ground to secure a submission victory.

Jones to win outright might seem a bit short to some so there could potentially be some value in taking the American to win inside the distance.

This guest contribution comes from Robert Contreras. You can follow Rob on Twitter via @PaperweightRob.

Odds subject to change

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