- T.R. Foley
In what will be more of a spectacle than a legitimate title fight at UFC 159 on Saturday night, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones takes on Chael Sonnen, who moves up in weight class as a gigantic underdog against Jones.
While the main event probably won't be close, the majority of the other fights on the card promise to be more compelling matchups, as Michael Bisping takes on Alan Belcher and Roy Nelson takes on Cheick Kongo.
Here's a breakdown of the statistics and odds surrounding the fights to see where betting value lies in UFC 159.
Jon Jones (minus-900) versus Chael Sonnen (plus-600)
It's customary for Jones to be valued as a big favorite, and the trend won't stop against Sonnen, as most fans see this fight as more of a publicity stunt related to the TUF franchise than a true title match. And while minus-900 may have been a bit too much against some of Jones' previous opponents, those odds may be exactly right against the seriously overmatched Sonnen.
The biggest disparity, as with most Jones fights, will be the champion's gigantic reach advantage -- a whopping 11-inch edge over Sonnen. While most fighters make use of their reach advantage to outstrike opponents, Jones has most impressively used the edge to keep opponents from landing takedown attempts. Remarkably, he has maintained a 100 percent takedown defense against some of the top competition in the division, having never been put on his back in 12 UFC fights.
Jones' strength bodes particularly poorly for the wrestler Sonnen, whose main strength is his unparalleled ability to take opponents down. Landing a very high 3.94 takedowns per 15 minutes at an efficient 60 percent rate, Sonnen is usually able to impose his will on opponents by getting them to the ground and maintaining a dominant position. While it wouldn't be surprising if Sonnen was the first to get Jones to the ground, it also wouldn't be surprising if he wasn't able to take him down -- let alone keep him there.
This leaves us with the question of how Sonnen will fare standing if this is his only option against Jones. Not only does Jones possess a reach advantage in terms of striking, but he also lands more strikes per minute (3.92) than Sonnen (3.24), while landing strikes at a higher percentage (52 percent for Jones versus 44 percent for Sonnen). And with both fighters holding very similar defensive striking abilities, Sonnen will likely find himself at a disadvantage on his feet in the event that his double-leg takedown isn't effective.
Given that Jones has the tools to counter Sonnen's best shot -- and will outdo him standing -- consider a very large minus-900 favorite a reasonable price for the nearly sure thing.
Insider's value pick:
John Candido of FightMetric breaks down the bouts of UFC 159, indicating where the value picks lie, including the feature fight of Jon Jones versus Chael Sonnen as well as Roy Nelson versus Cheick Kongo.