It has been a minute since Jon Jones and Conor McGregor both competed in the UFC. Jones last fought in February 2020, which was before the pandemic, while McGregor suffered two losses to Dustin Poirier. McGregor injured his leg in the summer of 2021, all while Jones sat out. Now, both are returning this year and it will be interesting to see how the UFC betting odds see their chances for success.
Jones Returns as a Heavyweight
After years of speculation, Jones finally makes his heavyweight debut in the UFC. This goes all the way back to 2012 when the former light heavyweight champion hinted at it. It’s better late than never as Jones spent the bulk of the last three years getting in shape to challenge for the heavyweight title.
It will be a Herculean challenge for Jones as he meets the former interim champion in Ciryl Gane. Folks betting online slightly favor Jones (-145) for their UFC 285 main event fight in Las Vegas on March 4. His opponent, Gane, has only lost to the former champion, Francis Ngannou. The Frenchman has otherwise dominated his competition.
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) February 13, 2023
It’s curious to see how Jones performs with the move up in weight. Jones typically enjoys a significant size advantage against his light-heavyweight peers. He usually has a lengthy reach advantage thanks to his 84½-inch reach. While he still has that over Gane, who has an 81-inch reach, the natural heavyweight is bulkier.
Jones could also be rusty not having fought in over three years. Gane fought six times during this span. The last time Jones faced a lengthy layoff was from 2015 to 2016. He fought Ovince Saint Preux coming off a 16-month layoff. “OSP” was a similar-sized opponent and while Jones beat him decisively, it was not as dominant as his lengthy online sports betting odds (down to -750) indicated.
And going back to his last few fights, Jones did not look impressive. He was almost disqualified against Anthony Smith and he barely defeated Thiago Santos and Dominick Reyes. Moving up in weight against a new breed of a heavyweight as a betting favorite? Jones will achieve new heights if he cashes as chalk yet again.
Will McGregor Recapture Any Glory?
While McGregor remains one of the UFC’s most lucrative draws, his days as a top fighter appear to be behind him. McGregor won nine of his first 10 UFC fights. But since boxing Floyd Mayweather, McGregor is just 1-3 in the UFC. His lone win came against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, who was in the midst of retiring on a seven-fight winless skid.
McGregor’s last fight was also an abomination: he broke his leg against Poirier. As if that was not humiliating enough, he went on a post-fight tirade and insulted his opponent’s family. It will be over two years when McGregor returns against Michael Chandler at an event still to be determined by the UFC.
Expect the advanced UFC odds to have their fight as a pick’em and rightfully so. Both Chandler and McGregor will throw haymakers at each other until someone gets knocked out. While Chandler has the NCAA Division I wrestling to give McGregor fits, he’d rather make a point by knocking out McGregor.
The best UFC bet will be for the fight to not go to a decision. If McGregor finishes Chandler, he’ll be fast-tracked to a title shot or another big fight. Either way, McGregor must win this fight so he can preserve what little legitimacy he has left as a UFC contender.
Given McGregor’s likely odds, Jones is a better bet to have a successful return. But for the UFC’s sake, both better win in impressive fashion.