This week’s UFC 285 marks the return to active competition for one of MMA’s greatest athletes, Jon Jones, at heavyweight nonetheless!
Five early prelim bouts begin at 3:15 p.m. PT with four preliminaries kicking off at 5 p.m. PT. Finally, at 7 p.m. PT, the two-title bout main card drops.
Jon Jones -160 vs. Cyril Gane +135
Heavyweight (265 pounds) Championship | Main Event
Finocchiaro: I’ve long maintained that Jones is the most complete, lethal mixed martial artist to date when one considers aggression, size/length, athleticism, fight arsenal, and level of opponent faced.
Entering this fight, hesitation around the currently unranked Jones centers on his being away from competition for some three years, the fact that he’s now thirty-five years old as well the added weight he’s acquired to compete as a heavyweight.
Jones, a former championship Juco wrestler, will be an inch taller than Gane and will hold a three-inch reach advantage. He enters with a superior fighting pedigree, and he possesses a more complete fight arsenal founded in wrestling but completed with a black belt in Gaidojutsu and a purple belt in BJJ.
Jones is the complete fighter, but after three years away, with this added weight and against this formidable foe, what can we expect? How will Jones navigate in this new weight class if/when this fight goes into the championship rounds?
Gane, ranked number one in the heavyweight rankings has been quite active, climbing the heavyweight ranks the last three years while Jones has been away. A fighter with a kickboxing base, Gane is a unique specimen. He moves like a middleweight, yet he possesses the striking power of a heavyweight delivered with precision, speed, ferocity and intent.
Gane is relatively new to the UFC and combat sports overall. He relies on deft footwork, evasive defense and precision volume striking, often set up by the employment of damaging kicks which effectively maim opponents. From there, damaged foes become somewhat immobile, which allows the nimble Gane to close in for the stoppage.
I firmly believe leg kicks will be foundational to Gane’s attack in this bout.
A professional fighter since 2018, Gane is 8-1 in the UFC, and he’s defeated legitimate competition, though none of the athletes Gane has competed against were able to present him with any threat whatsoever when it came to wrestling/grappling.
Still in development as a fighter and regarded as somewhat singularly versed, Gane finds himself with a great opportunity. The questions regarding Gane revolve around his lack of wrestling ability, the experience he gives away to Jones, and finally, the level of competition he’s faced, acknowledging that it’s Jones who is stepping up a weight class.
Jones' game plan will be to immediately smother Gane and force him to expend energy trying to defend takedowns while he strives to keep Jones from clasping onto him.
Gane must manage space and be able to navigate in space. He must attempt to make this a classic kickboxing match where his footwork, athleticism, distance control, and strike evasion may be displayed.
Jones' focus is acute because he is aware of the formidable challenge Gane presents, but that also means there is some pressure on the GOAT to perform to solidify his position as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.
In the end, it’s my judgment that we’ll see a motivated, focused, conditioned heavyweight Jon Jones on Saturday, and that’s bad news for any living heavyweight.
Jones' experience, fight weaponry, his unrelenting wrestling which I believe will be the foundation of his attack on Gane, and his drive to remain MMA’s greatest are fueling this run. I believe he will accomplish his goal Saturday night.
Pick: Jones -165
‘Bout Business Podcast released Jones 115 at open. With that in mind I suggest investing in Jones ASAP at current pricing or for my digital release please read on.
Total in this fight: 4.5 Rds. Over -145
Kuhn: It wasn’t long ago that we saw Ciryl Gane get outwrestled by former champion Francis Ngannou. And now, Jon Jones returns with dominant grappling performances through many years of facing top talent. But Jones has never faced a striker like Gane, who combines true heavyweight power with precise and technical striking.
Ignoring the complicated and massive layoff, and further questions about Jones jumping weight classes, it’s the type of matchup where I’d lean toward the wrestler. Even assuming Jones can’t outstrike Gane, Jones has proven he can frustrate his opposition and avoid big threats. If it’s the same Jones, that should include finicky striking at long range, then crafty takedowns from the clinch. If he gets the fight down, he’ll clearly win rounds and perhaps threaten submissions. But given all the uncertainty, this will be one of my smallest Jones plays ever.
Pick: Lean Jones ML
Valentina Shevchenko -600 vs. Alexa Grasso +450
Women’s Flyweight (125 pounds) Championship | co-Main Event
Kuhn: There’s no arguing with the performance metrics of Shevchenko. She looks every bit the dominant champion on paper as she does in the cage. One day, a challenger will come that’s just a little faster, younger, and less damaged, enough to dethrone the champ. And perhaps Grasso fits the profile, but even at such steep odds I don’t really expect her to win.
Grasso’s stats are solid. Her boxing has propelled her to victory standing up against decent opposition. Yet she’s fallen short against good grapplers, and that hints at Shevchenko’s best path to victory.
On the feet and on the mat, Grasso is competent enough to hang in there and stretch rounds. The same could be said for Shevchenko who, even in uphill losses against a superior striker like Amanda Nunes, still hung in for five full rounds. There’s no value in Shevchenko’s price, and if anything, there’s some small value if you can find an extreme Grasso return, but we can at least expect Grasso to put up a good fight and force the Over.
Pick: Over 3.5 rounds
Marc-Andre Barriault -125 vs. Julian Marquez +105
Middleweight (185 pounds)
Kuhn: It’s a matchup that won’t get too much attention down on the prelims, but sometimes you can find value there. Marc-Andre Barriault will look to test the chin of Julian Marquez at Middleweight. Historically, Marquez has been more successful on the ground, but in the UFC, he has yet to land a takedown. Presuming that Barriault doesn’t initiate grappling and can maintain some stretches of distance fighting, it will be the sloppy defense of Marquez that’s the biggest opportunity in this fight.
Barriault has slightly better striking on paper, thanks to tighter defense. And being slightly bigger, his offense should find a target often. That will add up over time, with Barriault edging out rounds and maybe seeing a late finish.
Pick: Barriault ML
Mateusz Gamrot -175 vs. Jalin Turner +150
Lightweight (155 pounds)
Finocchiaro: Superior matchmaking here in that we have contrasting fight styles clashing for top-six positioning in the highly competitive lightweight division.
By the end of this fight, it will be clear whether tenth-ranked Jaiin Turner has the wrestling chops to fight his way into that top tier by fending off and defeating a most formidable and well-rounded mixed martial artist in Gamrot.
We’ll discover if a shortened fight camp of under three weeks is enough preparation for the seventh-ranked Gamrot, who enters this bout off a loss, to prepare appropriately for such a tall, long violent striker like Turner.
In this fight, Turner will look to take advantage of the added space in the larger octagon to measure the incoming Gamrot and eventually flush him with a straight right or devastating knee. Turner’s motivations are to finish and finish violently as in all thirteen of his victories, he has won via finish.
Gamrot’s path to octagon control is to navigate himself to a position where he’s forcing the taller, longer striker backward and eventually against the cage. From ’up close and personal’ confines, Gamrot must then clasp onto Turner to drag him down to the floor for a flogging from the top position.
Turner needs to find Gamrot entering the pocket, and he must do it early before the wrestler is able to usurp the energy from him. It’s my estimation that Turner has five minutes by which to catch the forward-pressing Gamrot before Gamrot’s pressure begins to affect his ability to ward the unrelenting wrestler off.
Turner’s a beneficiary of a full camp, but he was preparing for a long, tall, striker in Dan Hooker. Now on three weeks’ time, he will need to perform a crash course in wrestling and takedown defense.
Meanwhile, Gamrot was in Poland just over three weeks ago eating Paczki and had to travel to southern Florida for a much-abbreviated camp to prepare for this viper of a striker in Turner.
It’s my take that Gamrot weathers a furious round one from Turner, then turns the tide and closes in for a finish or dominant decision.
Pick: Jones -160/Gamrot -225; parlay +135
Total for this fight: 2.5 Rds. Under -145