July 20, 2024
UFC 285 predictions — Jon Jones vs. Ciryl Gane: Fight card, odds, preview, prelims, expert picks

One of the UFC’s longest-standing “What if?” scenarios will finally play out in the Octagon on Saturday night when Jon Jones finally debuts in the heavyweight division. Jones will face Ciryl Gane for the vacant heavyweight championship in the main event of UFC 285.

Jones, the longtime light heavyweight king, last fought in 2020. He vacated his belt amid a financial dispute with UFC executives and eventually began bulking up for a run at heavyweight. He meets Gane, who is two fights removed from losing in his first bid to become undisputed champion. In that fight, Gane lost a decision to Francis Ngannou at UFC 270 but has since rebounded with a knockout win over Tai Tuivasa.

Valentina Shevchenko will be in action in the co-main event as she defends her women’s flyweight title against Alexa Grasso. Shevchenko has successfully defended her title seven times entering UFC 285 and is looking to extend that record against striking specialist Grasso.

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With so much happening on Saturday night, let’s take a closer look at the full fight card with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before we get to our staff predictions and picks for the PPV portion of the festivities.

UFC 285 fight card, odds

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

  • Jon Jones -160 vs. Ciryl Gane +135, vacant UFC heavyweight championship
  • Valentina Shevchenko -575 vs. Alexa Grasso +425, UFC women’s flyweight championship
  • Matuesz Gamrot -220 vs. Jalin Turner +180, lightweights
  • Shavkat Rakhmonov -500 vs. Geoff Neal +380, welterweights
  • Bo Nickal -1600 vs. Jamie Pickett +900, middleweights
  • Dricus du Plessis -230 vs. Derek Brunson +190, middleweights
  • Ian Garry -700 vs. Son Kenan +475, welterweights
  • Cody Garbrandt -170 vs. Trevin Jones +145, bantamweights
  • Amanda Ribas -120 vs. Viviane Araujo +100, women’s flyweights
  • Marc-Andre Barriault -150 vs. Julian Marquez +125, middleweights
  • Cameron Saaiman -300 vs. Mana Martinez +240, bantamweights
  • Tabatha Ricci -280 vs. Jessica Penne +230, women’s strawweights
  • Farid Basharat -480 vs. Da’mon Blackshear +360, bantamweights

With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer, co-host of “Morning Kombat”), Shakiel Mahjouri (writer), Michael Mormile (producer) and Brandon Wise (senior editor).

UFC 285 picks, predictions

Jones vs. Gane Gane Jones Gane Jones Gane
Shevchenko vs. Grasso Shevchenko Shevchenko Shevchenko Shevchenko Shevchenko
Gamrot vs. Turner Gamrot Turner Gamrot Gamrot Turner
Rakhmonov vs. Neal Rakhmonov Rakhmonov Rakhmonov Rakhmonov Rakhmonov
Nickal vs. Pickett Nickal Nickal Nickal Nickal Nickal
Records to date (2023)
9-1 7-3 8-2 8-2 8-2

Jones vs. Gane

Campbell: The betting odds in this vacant title bout are this close for a reason. Even though Jones brings a decided wrestling advantage over Gane into his heavyweight debut, it’s hard to overlook how much the combination of three years off and his added muscle mass might affect him in the early going. At 205 pounds, Jones has also been historically used to excessive reach advantages. But against Gane, who is one inch taller, Jones’ advantage dwindles to just 3.5 inches. Gane moves like no other heavyweight and he learned in his recent shootout with Tai Tuivasa that should he continue his focus on delivering more damage, he’s capable of absorbing dangerous strikes to get there. For all of the understandable talk about Jones’ legacy and how winning a title in a second weight class might cement his claim as MMA’s G.O.A.T., it’s easy to overlook how much Gane continues to improve on the job, just over three years into his UFC journey. Provided he can get up quickly after being taken down, Gane’s movement and striking versatility could be enough to win a five-round chess match. 

Brookhouse: It is glaring how few wrestlers Gane has faced in his UFC career. It’s also obvious that it is a major deficiency in his game, given the way he was badly outwrestled by Ngannou. What’s worse, Gane looked positively lost on the ground when Ngannou took him down. There are tons of unknowns about Jones heading into the fight but what is not an unknown is that he has a solid wrestling background that he has employed against high-level competition for more than a decade. Can Gane make up that gap in a little over a year, or at least have developed enough of a takedown defense that he can go from losing a title fight because he couldn’t stop Francis Ngannou from taking him down repeatedly to being able to defend against a creative, accomplished wrestler? I don’t see that happening.

Mahjouri: Jones has to deal with far more uncertainties than his opponents. There is no discrediting Jones’ light heavyweight run, but the reality is he struggled against now-lifeless challengers Dominick Reyes and Thiago Santos towards the end. Jones is coming off a three-year absence and making arguably the sport’s toughest weight transition by moving to heavyweight. The heavyweight landscape was vastly different when conversations first sparked about Jones making the transition. The brawling, plodding heavyweights of old have been replaced by a more complete athletic package. Guys like Gane, Sergei Pavlovich and Tom Aspinall are not fighters whom Jones can easily employ speed and technique against. If I have to pick between Gane’s questionable grappling defense or the many “what ifs” surrounding Jones, I’ll side with the born-and-bred heavyweight.

Shevchenko vs. Grasso

Campbell: Is the flyweight division catching up with the dominant Shevchenko or is age starting to show minor signs of decline at 34? That’s the pre-fight narrative facing Shevchenko after a disputed split-decision win over Taila Santos last year. But Shevchenko has only looked human throughout her historic title reign (which includes a UFC female record of seven title defenses) in specific matchups, typically against larger opponents with strong grappling games. Grasso is plenty game and an accomplished boxer but everything she does well, Shevchenko does even better. Look for the champion to remind us all of her greatness. 

Brookhouse: Grasso has solid boxing and plenty of heart. But Shevchenko has the skills to take the fight wherever she needs to in order to score a win. Age and general wear and tear will catch up to Shevchenko eventually and upsets have happened to dominant champions plenty of times in the past. Still, if Grasso starts to find success on the feet, Shevchenko’s often-overlooked wrestling skills give her a path to shut that down and change the texture of the fight. That versatility is her biggest weapon coming into this fight.

Gamrot vs. Turner

Brookhouse: Sometimes you just have to ride the hot hand. Turner has been on an absolute tear of late, putting together all his potential with his tremendous size advantages to positively thrash opponents. Gamrot is the best fighter Turner has faced in this stretch and a fighter with the offensive wrestling skills to take Turner out of his game. Still, Turner’s length and power make him a very live underdog and he has the confidence to turn a fight around, even if he has issues with defending takedowns here and there. Again, ride the hot hand.

Mahjouri: Turner told CBS Sports that fighting Gamrot on three weeks’ notice likely wasn’t the wisest decision. Gamrot might just be the best pure wrestler at lightweight. Turner was preparing to fight fellow striker Dan Hooker less than one month ago. It’s certainly true that Gamrot has a reduced training camp for the fight, but his avenue for success seems so clear. Turner was taken down in three of his last six fights: once by Jamie Mullarkey, once by Brok Weaver and four times by Matt Frevola. Turner has the power to knock out anyone without warning and he’s definitely improved his defensive grappling, but I’m not confident he can reject Gamrot’s bread and butter without ample time to prepare.

Nickal vs. Pickett

Campbell: For as large as the hype is following Nickal into his UFC debut, it appears to be justified. At 27, Nickal is much more of a finished product through three pro fights than arguably any prospect in the sport’s history. The former phenom wrestler and three-time NCAA champion at Penn State is no stranger to the bright lights and could have his way with Pickett. While we may never know just how good Nickal’s chin, gas tank and striking are until he’s properly tested, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to believe what our eyes are telling us. Nickal really appears to be that good.