[Editor’s note: this post has been updated as of April 4 in the wake of Daniel Cormier being replaced by Ovince St. Preux in the main event.]
You can’t blame the UFC for wanting to get one of their biggest stars back in the ring, but the timing of UFC 197 could be described as curious, to say the least. Almost a year to the date after the hit-and-run that resulted in Jon Jones being suspended from the UFC, the light heavyweight will make his return to the ring against Daniel Cormier Ovince St. Preux in Las Vegas (April 23).
It was back on April 27, 2015, that Jones was sought in connection to a hit-and-run with a pregnant woman in New Mexico. The UFC stripped Jones of his title and suspended him indefinitely which, in this case, meant six months. (He was reinstated last October.) That’s a pretty quick return for a guy who has had a string of issues in his career, including testing positive for cocaine before his last fight.
We’ll see if Jones can stay on the straight and narrow long enough to actually fight for the Light Heavyweight Championship in UFC 197; but if not, that isn’t the night’s only big fight. Demetrious Johnson will take on Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo for the Flyweight Championship as well.
Here’s an early look at both matchups.
Ovince St. Preux (+450) Daniel “DC” Cormier (+250) vs Jon “Bones” Jones (-675)
The last time he stepped in the ring, Jon Jones (21-1, 9 KOs) won a unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) over Cormier at UFC 182.
“Bones” is younger (28 years old to St. Preux’s 32), taller (6’4″ to 6’3″), and has a longer reach (84.5 in. to 80.0 in.): on paper, he has all the advantages going into this one. But one thing Jones doesn’t have is recent experience. Will his lengthy absence from the octagon play a major part in this fight?
St. Preux (19-7, 9 KOs) has won eight of his last ten fights and is coming off a win against Rafael Cavalcante (unanimous decision) in February. But that was his first bout since being submitted by Glover Teixeira last August.
St. Preux is a solid striker who tends to keep fights standing, if he can. (He does have five submission wins in his career, but you wouldn’t call his blue belt in jiu-jitsu a difference-maker.) He’s been able to dominate lesser opponents with his long reach and accurate strikes, but Jones is a different caliber of opponent – and one that matches up well against St. Preux’s strengths.
In essence, St. Preux is a poor man’s Jones. He has a similar style and looks to employ similar tactics in the ring, he just doesn’t do it nearly as well.
While “Bones” is technically 21-1, his one loss came on a disqualification for an illegal elbow in the Ultimate Fighter 10 finale. He has yet to enter a ring and be out-fought by an opponent.
Statistically a better striker and grappler, Jones should come out on top in this one as long as he stays focused. Look for him to announce his return by stopping St. Preux in the early rounds.
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (-400) vs Henry “The Messenger” Cejudo (+300)
Johnson (23-2, 4 KOs) has held the Flyweight belt since September 2012, successfully defending his title eight times since then. However, Cejudo (10-0, 4 KOs) is undefeated in ten fights to start his career and says he’ll be the one to end Johnson’s dominant run.
“Everyone is beatable,” Cejudo told MMAjunkie. “There’s not a human being on this earth that shoots bolts of lightning from their eyes and fire from their ass. Everybody puts their pants on one leg at a time, and that’s the way I see it. To me, it’s all about the strategy. It’s all about the game plan and it’s all about the adjustments.”
Cejudo might have confidence, but can he make the adjustment to going five whole rounds with Johnson? Cejudo hasn’t proven he can get the knockout or submission on higher level opponents – his last six fights have gone to decision. With two extra rounds in the title fight, the young Olympian’s endurance will be tested against Mighty Mouse, who has gone five rounds seven times in his career (including his last bout against John Dodson in September).
This fight is pretty straightforward. Johnson is second in the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings, behind only Jon Jones. Like the fight before, roll with the favorite to finish off Cejudo before the final bell, likely by submission.
(Photo credit: legendashow (Originally posted to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/].)