UFC 165: Jones vs Gustafsson Main Card Picks and Bets

UFC 165 goes down this Saturday from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The event features a battle for the light heavyweight title between current champ Jon Jones and challenger Alexander Gustafsson. As usual, the pay-per-view portion of the card starts at 10pm ET, the Fox Sports 1 prelims start at 8pm ET and the Facebook prelims start at an early 6pm ET. There are more fights than usual on this card at 13 (usual is between 10 and 12) and we can predict all of the main card fights as well as one undercard fight.

In the main event, light heavyweight champ Jon “Bones” Jones takes on Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson in what will be Jones’s sixth title defense. Jones has essentially been perfect throughout his career (besides the one questionable DQ loss to Matt Hammill). He became the youngest UFC champion in history after defeating Mauricio Rua in March, 2011 and has since defended his title an impressive 5 times. Alexander Gustafsson also just has 1 loss in his career. Gustafsson’s loss was more legitimate than Jones’s however as he suffered an anaconda choke submission loss to Phil Davis. While Jones has defeated a who’s who list of UFC light heavyweights (Rua, Evans, Machida, Sonnen, Jackson), Gustafsson is still relatively young in his UFC career with a big unanimous decision victory over Mauricio Rua in his last outing, but not a lot of other notable victories. Jones stands 6’4″ and Gustafsson stands 6’5″, but Jones’s freakishly long limbs give him an incredible 8″ reach advantage (84.5″ to 76.5″). Both men land a similar volume of strikes (3.94 for Jones, 3.98 for Gustafsson), but Gustafsson throws a lot more to reach the same volume, landing just 36% of his strikes while Jones lands 53%. Gustafsson also absorbs more strikes than Jones, 2.29 per minute to 1.44 per minute. In terms of takedowns, Jones lands slightly more (2.78 per fight to 2.56 per fight), but like the striking, Jones is more accurate at 62% to Gustafsson’s 50%. In addition, Jones has never been taken down in his UFC career with a takedown defense of 100% to Gustafsson’s 84%. What makes these numbers even more impressive is that Jones has basically fought all the best competition in the light heavyweight division, while Gustafsson has been making his way up through lower level fighters. Our model has Jones as a huge favourite and it would be very difficult to argue with that. At 1.17 to 1 though, placing a bet would be too much risk for too little reward. Even Jones inside the distance is only around 1.26, which is not worth a bet even though Jones is most likely to win inside the distance.

In the second title fight of this stacked card, interim bantamweight champ Renan Barao is set to defend his title against Eddie Wineland. It’s hard to believe that a guy like Wineland who is 2-2 in his last four outings has earned a title shot in the bantamweight division. When looking more closely however, his losses have come to #2 ranked Urijah Faber and #1 ranked flyweight Joseph Benavidez. Outside of those two losses, he has 6 straight victories including wins of #6 Brad Pickett and #7 Scott Jorgensen. Renan Barao has looked indestructible with his only career loss coming in his first fight in April, 2005. He also holds wins over Pickett and Jorgensen as well as #2 and #3 bantamweights Urijah Faber and Michael McDonald. Barao stands 5’6″ with a 70″ reach while Wineland stands 5’7″ with a 69″ reach. Both guys land a lot of strikes (3.58 per minute for Barao and 3.25 per minute for Wineland). Like Jones and Gustafsson however, the big difference lies in the strikes they absorb (2.35 per minute for Barao and 3.22 per minute for Wineland). Barao is the more likely of the two to land a takedown (1.75 takedowns per 15 minutes for Barao to 0.49 for Wineland). Barao is also better at defending takedowns against, stuffing 95% of takedowns attempted against to 80% of takedowns stuffed by Wineland. Our model has Barao as a huge favourite in this fight. Similarly to Jones, however at 1.18 to 1, there is little reason to place a bet in favour of Barao. Since we see a decision as the most likely outcome, we placed a 1 unit bet at 2.1 to 1 on the fight going longer than 2.5 rounds.

In a heavyweight bout that was supposed to take place at UFC on Fox 8, Matt Mitrione and Brendan Schaub will collide in the third bout of the main card. The odds on this one show a split betting public, Mitrione sits at 1.84 to 1 and is the slight favourite, while Schaub sits at 2.15 to 1. Both men have evolved their MMA game significantly since appearing on The Ultimate Fighter 10: Heavyweights. Schaub showed a great wrestling game in his last fight vs Lavar Johnson where he effectively took down and controlled the dangerous striker. Mitrione has continued to show an impressive striking game with TKOs of De Fries, Morecraft, Hague, Beltran and Marcus Jones. The output of our model shows this fight being incredibly close. We have Mitrione winning 54% of the time. With the current line being so close, there is little to no value in betting on either competitor. There may be some value in the under on this fight with under 1.5 rounds sitting at 2.25 to 1. If that line climbs much higher, we would be likely to place a bet.

Our second bet of the night will be in the middleweight division, where Francis Carmont takes on Costa Philippou. Carmont has won 5 straight since debuting in the UFC and will have the home-field advantage as he fights out of Tri-Star gym (home of Georges St Pierre) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Philippou has also rallied off the wins as of late as he comes into this fight on his own 5 fight win streak. Philippou is ranked #7 in the middleweight division, but whoever wins this fight will likely see their stock skyrocket. Our model, to the surprise of many, has the Tri-Star product, Carmont as the favourite to take the victory. We placed a 1.5 unit bet on Carmont at 2.8 to 1.

Our third bet of the night will be in the lightweight division as Strikeforce crossover Pat “Bam Bam” Healy takes on rising prospect Khabib Nurmagomedov. Healy has won 7 straight (we count the Miller fight as a win as it would have paid on a bet), with 6 of those victories coming against smaller names in Strikeforce. Nurmagomedov is 20-0 in his career including 4 victories in the octagon. Nurmagomedov also holds the record for UFC takedowns, landing 21 of 27 attempts in his last fight vs Abel Trujillo. Our model has Healy as a significant favourite in this one. At 2.9 to 1 too, there’s tons of value in Healy. We placed a 1.5 unit bet on Healy at 2.9 to 1.


Barao vs Wineland over 2.5 rounds. 1 unit bet at 2.1 to 1
Carmont over Philippou. 1.5 unit bet at 2.8 to 1
Healy over Nurmagomedov. 1.5 unit bet at 2.9 to 1

Other Predictions

Jones over Gustafsson
Barao over Wineland
Mitrione over Schaub

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Here are the latest odds for UFC 165:


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