The UFC is heading back to T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for their year end show on December 29th. UFC 232 is set to be headlined by a Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson rematch for the Light Heavyweight title. The first fight between these two men was one of the best fights of the past five, so this fight has been often talked about for the past 4 years. The co-main is equally as huge, with women’s featherweight champion putting her belt on the line against Amanda Nunes, the current women’s bantamweight champion. This is really the first time Cyborg is fighting against an opponent who has a legitimate shot of beating her.
The two title fights sell the event, but there are also some other quality fights on the main card including Condit vs Chiesa, Latifi vs Anderson and Mendes vs Volkanovski. The undercard is also solid with big names like Arlovski, Zingano and BJ Penn all in action.
I’m still buzzing from UFC 231 where I was watching live and cashed a big bet on Max Holloway in the main event.
Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson
Everyone is making a big deal about Jon Jones being out of the octagon for a year and a half, since his win over Daniel Cormier at UFC 214. Yes, it seems like a long time because of all the uncertainty surrounding Jones return due to the drug tests, but in reality, a year and a half really isn’t that long to be out of the cage. Jones was out for a year before that fight with Cormier from other drug related issues and still went out and had what I consider the best performance of his career, stopping Cormier in 3 rounds. I’m not concerned about ring rust for Jones, and fully expect him to be at his best in this fight.
The funny thing is that Gustafsson has actually been out of action for even longer. He hasn’t fought since May of 2017, two months before the Jones vs Cormier fight. I’m not saying I expect Gustafsson to have ring rust either because he’s also used to going over a year between fights, but it’s just interesting that’s a big storyline with Jones even though he’s fought more recently than Alex.
Overall, I just think Jones is the superior martial artist and he simply doesn’t allow himself to lose. The fight with Gustafsson at UFC 165 was the closest of his career, but it was the first time Jones had to deal with another very tall fighter, and I think the fact Jones has been in their with Gus once before will actually benefit him more than Gustafsson, because Jones can adjust his strategy. I’m kind of expecting Jones to be quite defensive in this fight, but to do enough to clearly win at least 4 rounds.
Play: Jones -285
Cris Cyborg vs Amanda Nunes
I went with the favorite in the main event, but I’m going with the challenger in this one. Cyborg has the big name and has built a repuation as a scary martial artist, but she’s mostly been beating up cans in her MMA career. I’m not saying that’s her fault, because she’s had a difficult time finding opponents willing to step up and compete with her, but this also means she’s had far less experience in the cage against elite opposition, compared to Amanda Nunes.
Cyborg’s only fight against a top level opponent was against Holly Holm at UFC 225. Cyborg cruised to an easy decision win against a Holm who was mostly fighting defensively, so Cyborg actually looked very good and measured in that fight, but it’s really the only chance we got to see her against a top level striker.
Amanda Nunes has beaten the likes of Sara McMann, Shevchenko twice, Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey and Raquel Pennington on her title run. These are all top level opponents, which means Nunes has a lot of experience against other quality fighters. None of these women are on the level of Cyborg, but they all have very different styles and this should pay dividends for Nunes in this fight with Cyborg.
Nunes is moving up in weight, which will benefit Cyborg, but she is easily the most powerful and dangerous striker at 135 lbs, so I don’t expect her to really be giving up that much power to Cyborg.
Add in the fact that Nunes has shown the ability to counter effectively, especially in her recent fight with Shevchenko, and I think she has the ability win this fight from her back foot if Cyborg decides to be aggressive.
I don’t think Nunes gets the respect she deserves among fans, but a win over Cyborg will be impossible to ignore. I could see Nunes getting the finish in this fight and instantly becoming the undisputed GOAT of women’s MMA.
Play: Nunes +210
Carlos Condit vs Michael Chiesa
Carlos Condit is basically an automatic fade for me these days. He’s lost 4 straight fights in the UFC and is 2-7 in his last 9, yet people still consider him a top level welterweight. The fact of the matter is that the book is out on Condit. You take him down and grind him out, or you take him down and submit him. He has a shot against purely stand up fighters, but once he faces a guy with any wrestling ability at all, he has very little shot outside of landing an early KO.
Chiesa is moving up to welterweight, and even though I think he’s also an overrated fighter, I think he has the clearest of clear paths to victory in this fight. Chiesa will get the takedown and either get a submission, which he’s known for, or grind out a decision.
Chiesa does have to also be careful on the mat because he’s prone to getting submitted himself, but I think he will be careful in this one as he’s on his own two fight losing streak, and safely work for a submission, while ensuring he keeps position.
Play: Chiesa -165
Corey Anderson vs Ilir Latifi
This is a battle between two light heavyweights who each have two big wins in a row. Anderson beating Cummins and then Teixeira, while Latifi beat Pedro and then submitted OSP.
This is a very hard fight to call and I think the odds are spot on, but I’m going with Latifi. He’s short and stocky and has 100% takedown defense. If he can stuff Anderson’s shots, then Anderson doesn’t have many other ways to mount offense.
Look for Latifi to stuff the takedowns and either land one of his own or land a knockout strike from in close on Anderson.
Play: Latifi -170
Alex Volkanovski vs Chad Mendes
This is another very tough fight to call where I think the odds are fairly accurate.
That said, I’m taking Volkanovski in this fight with Mendes. He looks like he improves each time out and his last two wins over Kennedy and Elkins were both very difficult against guys who are difficult to look good against.
Mendes returned from his PED suspension with a huge TKO win over Myles Jury, but this is another step up for him as well, and we didn’t really get to see that much from him in that 2 minute fight with Jury. There still is the concern that with Mendes off the sauce how is his endurance, which was already a concern with Mendes after he gassed out in the second round against McGregor.
If Volkanovski can survive the first round against the very powerful Mendes, I think he could start to take over the fight in the second and third. This may be a good live betting opportunity of Volkanovski is down after round 1.
Play: Volkanovski +140