Q & Anik is an article featured exclusively at MMAOddsBreaker.com that goes five rounds with UFC commentator Jon Anik offering his unique insight on some of the biggest UFC cards of the year. 1st Round Q: Ovince St. Preux may not have been the first choice to replace Daniel Cormier and face Jon Jones in his return fight at UFC 197. But I still think he is a unique opponent who reminds me of Rumble Johnson with his striking ability. What are your thoughts on St. Preux’s ability to make this a competitive bout? Anik: We’ve talked a lot about Ovince St. Preux, and he seems to be a little bit polarizing as far as people being split on him. You and I have been high on him, and others, for whatever reason, haven’t been. Still largely a developing fighter, there’s no doubt he has a lot of natural gifts – a lot of power – good instincts, he’s a freak athlete. He has had a tendency to gas a little bit, and I think his cardio’s definitely going to be tested with an abbreviated training camp in a five-round fight. But he has been in big spots before…he fought Glover Teixeira in a main event in Nashville, he headlined in Brazil against Shogun Rua and won, so I don’t expect the spotlight to be too much for him. I just expect the opponent to probably be too much for him. I think a lot of people are dismissive of what St. Preux’s done, but when you look at the body of work on paper, what he did in Strikeforce and what he’s done in the UFC (7-2), I think he’s certainly worthy. I’m excited to see what he can do with this showcase, it just might be a bad night to be fighting a returning and hungrier than ever Jon Jones. I think what makes St. Preux an interesting challenge is that there aren’t a lot of guys that he’s comparable to. It’s definitely a kick-heavy attack, there’s a lot of power from the left side with his kicks and his hands. He likes the head kick. I think the first round’s going to be pivotal for him, he really needs to get off to a good start and try to play to the fact that Jon Jones hasn’t fought in 15 months. 2nd Round Q: Jones obviously has been out of action for more than a year, but he was a massive favorite in some of his recent fights, closing higher than -800 against Alexander Gustafsson, Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort. I personally thought he would be a bigger favorite here, although I guess oddsmakers are taking the long layoff into consideration and giving some respect to St. Preux. Didn’t you think he’d be bigger chalk? Anik: It’s a good question. It seems to me, more so with the men’s game than the women’s game, when you have these title fights, people are more of the belief that anything can happen and someone can get caught more easily. I just think for whatever reason, with the men, the lines are less pronounced than, say, Ronda Rousey versus Holly Holm. Is it the recent history of MMA, Nate Diaz coming through as a similarly priced underdog in a big spot? I think there’s this general consensus that these underdogs are live in MMA, whereas in other sports, it’s more of an afterthought. In other sports, you can easier stage a comeback over time, whereas in MMA, when the lights go out, there is no comeback. So to bet against Jon Jones, who’s never lost before, in this type of comeback fight, you’d almost need to be in that +600 or +700 range, where a lot of gamblers throw a unit down just to have some action on the fight. To me, +400 or +450, I just don’t know that it’s juicy enough to get people to the window. Jones at -700 or -800 wouldn’t be overpriced and would probably get two-way action, at least get some action on St. Preux. 3rd Round Q: Henry Cejudo reminds me of a mix between Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm in that he is a former Olympian who won a medal and was at the top of his game in another sport before crossing over to MMA. He is unbeaten but has been underwhelming at times without any really impressive wins to date. Do you think he has been holding back at all previously until getting this title shot versus Demetrious Johnson? Anik: Styles make fights, and I think it’s still open to interpretation as to whether or not Holly was holding back against Marion Reneau (the fight before she defeated Ronda Rousey). As a fighter, you’re constantly measuring risk and reward. I think for Henry Cejudo, he felt like he had the Chico Camus fight in hand, and yet to me still was very offensive down the stretch in that third round. It’s really hard to say, even when you’re fighting top contender types, what is going to happen when you move up to that level of a Demetrius Johnson. There are just so many unknowns. Cejudo against almost anybody in the world at +300 would seem enticing. But short of DJ having an off night or making a mistake and Cejudo capitalizing, I think DJ is primed to make the better adjustments and just has more ways to win. He hasn’t had an off night yet, really. And even if you want to make a case for Henry Cejudo, power to ya if you really want to walk to the window and bet against Johnson in current form. Cejudo obviously has a lot of skills, an Olympic gold medal in wrestling, really tight, crisp, technical boxing. A lot of people think he’ll have a power advantage in this fight but I’m not sure I would go that far. Seemingly against almost anybody else, he would have a lot of different ways to win. I think at times in the UFC, he’s been a points fighter, and I just don’t expect him to be able to out-point Demetrious Johnson over 25 minutes. If you take a finisher’s approach, he certainly has the athletic tools to potentially put DJ in trouble. But Johnson does everything as well as anybody as I’ve ever seen. When I start to see DJ in certain places below -400, my immediate thought is maybe you want to throw this guy in with somebody else and create some value for yourself that way. 4th Round Q: Anthony Pettis has an extra large matchup with Edson Barboza in a featured lightweight fight on the main card. I know he’s coming off consecutive losses for the first time in his career, but again I thought Pettis would be a bigger favorite here, certainly -200 or higher. What do you think of the betting line? Anik: All these experts and people that I trust are picking Barbosa including Kenny Florian on our podcast. I think you’re going to see a lot of people like him in that +150 range. I said it’s a bad time to be fighting Jon Jones, I’m not sure it’s a great time to be fighting Anthony Pettis, though. He’s made some changes after back-to-back losses. He’s presumably worked on some strategy stuff with Jackson-Winklejohn MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With his back up against the wall, I really expect Pettis’ best. I’m curious to see who will lead the dance because I think both have a lot of countering ability. I think you’re going to see Pettis take his aggression and his in-fight focus up a notch. The gambler in me, when I see Anthony Pettis at -175, I’m salivating. But a lot of experts seem to be going the other way. 5th Round Q: Finally, former women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza is coming off a comparable layoff to Jones and has seen a number of different contenders rise in the rankings since she has been out. What do you think of her chances in her comeback fight as a solid favorite against Juliana Lima? Anik: I think Juliana Lima’s a pretty good test right now. She’s a little older, she’s won her last two in the UFC. She’s a Muay Thai striker with some pop. It’s just amazing how much the game has changed since (Esparza) fought (Joanna) Jedrzejczyk more than a year ago. (Esparza) was the favorite that night and just got stopped in devastating fashion. Now she returns, and you’re right. It’s not that the game has passed her by, but if she hasn’t made good use of the time off, the division may have. For Esparza, she needs to prove against another striker that she can be better defensively and really dictate where the fight goes, which for her, she wants it on the ground. She’s someone who really needs to go in and try to dominate and make people want to see her in these high-profile fights again. I think it’s a good test for her and a good chance for her on a big card to prove that she’s still relevant. It’s hard to believe that she could leave relevance so quickly, but this division is on fire, so we’ll see. Disclaimer: Mr. Anik is contractually prevented from wagering on UFC events. His opinions posted here are for information and entertainment purposes only.