The UFC is back in action, live from the APEX with one of the biggest and baddest cards of the year. With three title fights on the line, this one a sure fire to be exciting!
UFC 259 PPV Main Card on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
205 lbs.: UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz vs. UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya – Gosh, this is tough. On one hand, I believe that the strides Blachowicz has made combined with his strength advantage in this fight, give me concerns siding with Adesanya here. The sheer power and physical advantage is going to be telling. Throw in his sneaky wrestling abilities, which would be surprising for some to see and he’s got routes to win in this fight. However, Adesanya has fight IQ like no other and is excellent at keeping distance. His ability to avoid being hit and pick apart Blachowicz at a distance is going to the area in which I see him strive. The dynamic abilities might not show itself as much, due to what’s at stake, but I fully expect him to do whatever is necessary to outpoint the Light Heavyweight Champion. In the end, I do believe that Adesanya become the double-champ, winning via late TKO.
145 lbs.: UFC Women’s Featherweight Champion Amanda Nunes vs. Megan Anderson – I find this fight interesting in that Anderson has a height and size advantage that Nunes hasn’t had to face. However, Anderson just has too many holes for me to believe she is the one to dethrone the Goat. Nunes wins this wherever she see’s fit. In my opinion, given what’s at stake – Nunes takes this to the ground and submits Anderson in the very first round.
135 lbs.: UFC Bantamweight Champion Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling – I have argued before that I believe despite Yan being champion, that Sterling is actually the better fighter in terms of “rankings”. Yan has fought some older and weathered opponents, while Sterling beating Cory Sandhagen alone is better than anything the Champion has done. While this point has no reflection on the results, I just want it to be known I believe ranking-wise, Sterling should be ahead of Yan.
As for a prediction, I’ve got Sterling. Yan has not fought to the competition of Sterling, nor has fought anyone like him. Sterling is the complete package, being well rounded with excellent cardio. Yan might boost good takedown defense, but he has yet to fight anyone whom actually embraces the grind like Sterling. Whether it’s on the feet or wrestling, Aljo is going to demonstrate why he is the long lost Champion in the Bantamweight division. The Funk Era begins, as he finishes Yan via submission in the championship rounds.
155 lbs.: Drew Dober vs. Islam Makhachev – While Dober is a big underdog, I’m siding with him. I realize that Dober has had issues with wrestlers and Makhachev absolutely specializes in that department. However, this Dober seems like a focused and driven fighter. One whom has won six of his last seven fights. Meanwhile, Makhachev has the potential to be a champion, but the lack of fighting is making this a slow grind. That and continuing to fight dangerous, but unranked foes. Eventually that catches up to you and I think it happens here. Give me Dober to win via TKO.
205 lbs.: Aleksandar Rakic vs. Thiago Santos – I don’t see Rakic standing with Santos. I believe will try and neutralize the Brazilian, controlling him on the ground. While I do see that working for two rounds, Rakic’s lack of submission game and devastating ground-and-pound will open a window in the third round. One in which Santos will overwhelm him with power shots. In the end, I believe Santos will get his hand raised, winning via TKO.
UFC 259 ‘Prelims’ Card on ESPN (8 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Dominick Cruz vs. Casey Kenney – I’ve been saying that Kenney is the Darkhorse of the division and I still believe that. I’m just not sure what to expect from Cruz. This will be his first three round fight since fighting Takeya Mizugaki in 2014. With that in mind, his ability to just go at a faster pace and let it all out more is certainly on the table. In a tough choice here, I’m going with Cruz. I think he surprises Kenney here with wrestling and mixes in timely takedowns – one’s that edge him out in what should be close rounds. So with that, on a limb, give me Cruz.
135 lbs.: Kyler Phillips vs. Song Yadong – This is a tricky fight. I believe that Phillips dynamic striking, volume and grappling offer routes to victories. However, Yadong too is well rounded and has legit knockout power and experience. In what should be a close fight, I favor Yadong to get the “ooo” moments of the fight that lean it towards him. In the end, give me Yadong via decision.
125 lbs.: Askar Askarov vs. Joseph Benavidez – I like Benavidez in this spot. While he’s probably being written off because of the two fights against Deiveson Figueredo, I believe this type of matchup best suits him. Askarov is a well rounded fighter, but mostly leans heavy on his grappling. Benavidez welcomes that grappling all day. And when this fight is on the feet, Benavidez is the better striker. The only way I see Benavidez struggling, is if Askarov makes this fight sloppy and neutralizes the activity that Benavidez brings forth. In the end, Joey B walks away with a decision victory and knocks off a contender.
125 lbs.: Rogerio Bontorin vs. Kai Kara-France – I’m not super high on Kara-France, but this is a fight he should win. In order for Bonrorin to have success, he has to take Kara-France down. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening, especially considering Kara-France boost a 90% takedown defense. In the end, Kara-France is going to use his striking volume to outpoint Bontorin over three rounds for a decision victory.
UFC 259 Early ‘Prelims’ Card on ESPN+ (5:15 p.m. ET):
125 lbs.: Tim Elliott vs. Jordan Espinosa – It can be hard to trust Elliott, as he’s one of those fighters that puts himself into disadvantageous positions and gets submitted or even flat out runs out of cardio. However, Espinosa’s submission defense just lacks to much for me not to think Elliott catches him. I mean, Elliott has shown the ability to throw up submission attempts from wherever. Even if Elliott can’t catch Espinosa, his workhorse rate striking and wrestling is tough to compete with. If Espinosa had power or something other than wrestling to lean on, I’d favor him. However, he doesn’t. So give me Elliott to win via submission.
205 lbs.: Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Carlos Ulberg – I have the City Kickboxing product Ulberg winning. I just don’t see enough from Nzechukwu to side with him at this moment. The activity is just too low and frustrating for a guy who’s frame is ridiculous and potential could be something in this shallow division. Meanwhile, Ulberg is a pure kickboxer who has the tools to light up Nzechukwu on the feet. And quite frankly, that’s what he going to do. So with that, give me Ulberg to win via decision.
170 lbs.: Sean Brady vs. Jake Matthews – I’ve noticed that when Matthews gets a bump up in competition, he tends to struggle. Other than the victory over Li Jingliang, Matthews hasn’t beaten anyone really notable or relevant in the UFC. Hell, only three off his victories come over fighters still rostered by the UFC. What I’m trying to say is give me Brady all day in this spot. The man is a workhorse and destined for great things at Welterweight. Matthews is still young, but his game needs evolve and soon – otherwise he’s never going to be the contender he seeks. So with that, give me Brady to win via a dominate decision.
115 lbs.: Amanda Lemos vs. Livinha Souza – It’s almost odd for me to say that Souza, who was an Invicta Champion, just doesn’t seem like the beast I thought the UFC was getting when they signed her. Meanwhile, Lemos seems like something special at Strawweight. She has thus far shown a well rounded game, effectively taking down her foes easily and using her striking volume to over power them. If she can get some pop into those hands, we might have something special. So with that, I have Lemos winning via decision.
155 lbs.: Aalon Cruz vs. Uros Medic – Unless Cruz has some wrestling chops, Medic is going to eat him on the feet. With a kickboxing background and an undefeated mixed martial record, Medic is a prospect to watch. This may not be a showcase fight, but I have a strong feeling Medic is going to show out with his superior striking. So with that, I have him winning via knockout.
135 lbs.: Mario Bautista vs. Trevin Jones – While I think Jones is a fine martial artist, and he’s got a way of coming back in fights – Bautista just flashes potential and should realistically roll through this fight on sheer cage IQ. In the end, Bautista extends his win streak to three via decision.