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Posted on July 16, 2012 by Jack Thurman

Jon Jones Opens A Big Favorite Over Dan Henderson

Jon Jones will defend his UFC light heavyweight title against veteran Dan Henderson at UFC 151 in Calgary, Alberta on September 1, 2012 and based on the opening betting odds for the fight linesmakers aren’t expecting an upset. Despite the fact that Henderson is a highly respected and accomplished fighter Jones has been installed as a whopping -650 UFC betting favorite to retain his crown. Takeback on Henderson is +475–by far the biggest underdog price he’s been assigned during his career.

Before we look at the fighters involved in this matchup let’s consider a little bit of sports betting theory. At -650, the implied probability (also called ‘theoretical break even’) on Jones is 86.67%. This means that for Jones to be considered an ‘overlay’ (a term professional sports bettors use for a wager that offers good line value) you need to assume that he has a greater than 87% chance of winning this fight–and even at 87% if offers just a fractional overlay. Most serious sports bettors would require a much higher threshold to pull the trigger on a bet so it’s not a stretch to suggest that you’d have to think Jones has a 90% or higher chance of winning to obviate a bet on him.

Henderson, meanwhile, has an enticingly low theoretical breakeven at +475. At this price his implied probability/theoretical breakeven is 17.39% (the two figures add up to greater than 100% due to the ‘vig’). Think Henderson has at least a 20% chance of winning? Then he represents an overlay and a good value.

Jones is considered the ‘next big thing’ in the sport despite the fact that he’s still a raw talent at the age of 24. He’s got a long way to go in some of the technical aspects of fighting but his journey from his MMA debut in 2008 to being on a short list of the ‘pound for pound’ best in the sport today is phenomenal. His record of 16-1 is slightly misleading–the one loss was by DQ against Matt Hamill for illegal elbow strikes in a fight he was dominating. The problem with betting Jones–and especially at such a big price–is that its difficult to determine if he really *is* that dominant or if he’s just been the beneficiary of catching big name opponents on the downside of their careers. He won the UFC light heavyweight title from an over the hill Shogun Rua (a fighter with a track record of sloppy training habits no less) and has defended against nothing put past their prime opponents–Rashad Evans, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson’ and Lyoto Machida.

Although Henderson fits that profile as well (he’s 41 years old, 17 years older than Jones) he’s a very dangerous opponent on paper–a tough, well rounded fighter that has been in with the best of the best at several weight classes. All of Henderson’s losses are to top flight opponents and he’s 7-1 in his last 8 fights with the only defeat by decision to BJJ virtuoso Jake Shields.

We’ll have a full matchup analysis and offer our UFC betting picks during the week before the fight.

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