UFC 239 is just around the corner and it surely has the potential to be one of the most stacked cards for this year (if not ever). From the promised three-piece meals with a soda to the dominant champions defending their belts yet again, we are up for an incredible night of fights that will keep us on the edge of our seats!
Let’s dive into each of those fights now and dissect the chances of either one of the fighters to win…
Jon Jones Vs. Thiago Santos
A card of this magnitude has to have a deserving main event, and what is more deserving than seeing one of the most dominant champions the UFC has ever seen headline against a notorious knockout artist? That’s right, on July 6th the Brazilian “Sledgehammer” will test his skills and power against arguably one of the best in the business currently.
John Jones has returned to the octagon 6 months ago from a layoff caused by a doping controversy and has pledged to be one of the most active champions ever since. That really seems the case, as the fight with Santos is the third he is taking in these 6 months. He claims that the Light Heavyweight division has gotten a new wave of fresh talent and he wants to further prove himself as the greatest of all time by quickly letting them all know that their only chance of gold is changing weight classes.
Training at the Jackson Wink Academy alongside his long-time coach staff has proven to work over time and Jones doesn’t seem to want to change any of that, since he claims he has found the golden environment for him.
In terms of stylistic matchups, Jones hasn’t been truly tested against an explosive knockout artist. The closest we’ve seen him get to that was the fight with Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, but that fight didn’t ultimately happen. Still, the ever-improving ground game and advanced takedowns are most likely going to be his weapon of choice, just like he did in his fight against Vitor Belfort.
The range knowledge that “Bones” has turned into a sweet science is going to be another problem for “The Sledgehammer”. Santos’ explosiveness will most likely be nullified against short and quick elbows in the pocket. Staying on the outside of Jones isn’t going to be a good idea as well, unless he wants to get his knee hammered by those oblique kicks Jones love so much.
Where Santos excels and poses a treat is on the feet. That is where the Brazilian claims to want to finish the fight. Biting your mouthpiece and going forward can just be Jones’ kryptonite, although I have at least 5 examples of where this didn’t work out well for his opponent. What we end up with is usually a startling fighter that has no idea or plan on how to close the range and get the fight to Jones instead of the other way around.
Ultimately, a fight is a fight and there is always the puncher’s chance, even though Jones is perhaps the best when it comes to distance control, so overall it is really hard to see him get flattened on the canvas. What is far more likely is that we see a gassed out Santos going 5 rounds with Jones just like Anthony Smith did, only because “Bones” wanted to prove a point and didn’t finish the fight at the earlier opportunities he had.
Amanda Nunes Vs. Holly Holm
Oddly enough, Amanda’s take on her second belt happened at the same night Jones Regained his throne as the Light Heavyweight Champion. Now, 6 months later, these two are fighting on the same card. Against her will go one of Jon’s best friends and Jackson Wink teammate – Holly Holm.
Nunes is riding an impressive 8 win streak against heavy opposition such as Chris Cyborg (the former UFC Featherweight champion), Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, and Valentina Shevchenko (twice). What’s interesting is that Holm has a loss against three of those female fighters, so that puts her in an interesting position.
Holm’s last win was more than a year ago and that might play a major role into this fight, as Nunes has been staying quite active. Still, it is hard to prepare for the unique kickboxing style of “The Preacher’s Daughter” and Nunes is in for a long night.
Taking everything into account and completely disregarding MMA Math, as it is never right, I see the fight not lasting more than a few rounds and Nunes getting it done via submission or a TKO.
Jorge Masvidal Vs. Ben Askren
I think I speak for everybody when saying that this might be one of the few UFC cards (apart from UFC 217) with three main events. All jokes aside, everybody in the MMA world is stoked about this upcoming bout and it just feels like it will deliver, especially after all the things that have happened the past few months.
In summary, Jorge’s impressive knockout victory over Daren Till put him on the shortlist for title contenders. Still, the fact that he has lost his last two bouts and this was his first victory in three years meant that he had to work a little harder to get that elusive title shot. Who else to fight for it but the other person gunning for the same prize, right? “Funky” Ben Askren has been a controversy ever since he got into the UFC, or even before that during his feud with Dana White. Still, even after a victory over one of the top killers in his division, many are still convinced that he is a fluke.
The fight between those two will be a test for them both and will definitely be one to keep your eyes open for as it might go either way. Still, it will hardly last 3 rounds with a killed like Masvidal inside the octagon. Ben’s plan hasn’t really changed over the years and going three rounds with him dominating the ground game is a sure-enough way to victory for him.
Jan Błachowicz Vs. Luke Rockhold
We are four fights deep into this card and it is still getting insanely good fights – that is how you know you are up for a special night. Błachowicz Vs. Rockhold is my personal favorite fight of the night here mainly because of the long awaited return of the former Middleweight Champion.
Blachowicz is the last victim of the LHW title contender Thiago Santos and was going to be at his spot had their fight went the other direction. Still, it was a fairly competitive bout up until the knockout and Jan has all the potential to be a huge force in his division. Rockhold, on the other hand, is on a mixed streak in his last 5 fights and has been long awaited to return into fighting after his devastating loss to Yoel Romero.
Either way, that fight is going to be fireworks, as both men like to stand and trade and they are also quite proficient in their ground abilities. A hungry Rockhold can really end the fight within one round, although Blachowicz is sure to be a tad more careful and defensive after his last fight, so this going to a decision after 3 rounds of war isn’t too much of a stretch.
Diego Sanchez Vs. Michael Chiesa
The last fight on the card is surely a great opening to an even greater main card. Diego Sanchez is coming off from that victory over the young prospect Mickey Gall and Chiesa is moving up a weight class after failing to make weight for his UFC 226 bout. At the weight ins and on the interviews following that he said that he is done with the Lightweight division.
Unfortunately for Chiesa, though, he stands in the way of a very hungry and motivated Diego Sanchez that has the veteran experience behind his back as is about to go into his 41st professional MMA fight.
Everything can be expected from this fight but it is likely to be a chess-match with a lot on the line for both these men.
Gilbert Melendez Vs. Arnold Allen
It is a long night ahead for the previous Lightweight Strikeforce champion, as he is facing the young prospect in the face of Arnold Allen. Allen is currently riding a 5 win streak and is looking to improve that with a win in the preliminary headliner. A win over Melendez is always respectable, even though the ex champion isn’t in his prime anymore. Still, he proved to be in top shape in his previous fight with Jeremy Stephens, where both fighters earned a “Fight Of The Night” bonus.
Arnold Allen is a master of the choke submissions and Melendez has such a loss to Pettis so it wouldn’t surprise me if we see a submission victory early on. Opposite of that, a decision victory will clearly favor the more active and dynamic veteran.
Marlon Vera Vs. Nohelin Hernandez
In this fight we will be watching the Ultimate Fighter: Latin America contender (Marlon Vera) versus one of the top guys from the notorious American Kickboxing Academy gym. Both men are relatively new to the fight game and both are looking for a finish that will get their name further up the ladder and perhaps deserve them a ranked shot next.
These fights always prove to be the most interesting as both men put everything on the line. I expect either a TKO or a submission in the early rounds by the more experienced Vera.
Claudia Gadelha Vs. Randa Markos
Gadelha went a long way from fighting for the belt to being a preliminary card opener. Still, she has been gaining a lot of experience over the last one year, be it in victory or defeat. In her last four fights, she has wins over “The Cookie Monster” Carla Esparza and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. She isn’t up for an easy night, though, as she faces a rather experienced opponent in the face of Randa Markos. Her last win over Angela Hill has put her on the ranked contenders’ list and she is currently looking to solidify her name in the division by beating the ex title contender.
With a solid ground game, Gadelha is surely going to rely on that, while Randa will most likely put it all on the line by going straight into the pocket with the Brazilian. A first-round finish isn’t out of the picture for both of the fighters, although a decision win for the wrestling-heavy Claudia Gadelha is a possible outcome.
As a whole, UFC 239 is shaping up to be a fantastic card supported by a solid undercard. The main events will have two belts on the line and will surely shape the future for those two divisions. Will Nunes lose her belt to the experienced striker in the face of Holly Holm or will Santos shock the world by knocking out what many consider one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time? We are about to find out!