UFC 239 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos
Santos is a fun opponent to pit against Jones as he’s a proven finisher and relentless attacker who will be looking to take his head off.
As with nearly all of Jones’ opponent, Santos will have to deal with a major reach discrepency though since Jones abnormally lanky arms means he’ll have an 8.5″ advantage in that regard.
Santos has a very good kicking game though so he’ll be using that to try to make his mark, but he’ll also maraud forward seeking to land something big with his hands too and with his at times wild style there’s always a chance he can catch Jones off-guard.
Jones is a master at dictating range however, using his physical gifts to their best advantage, but of couse what makes him quite possibly the greatest fighter of all time is that he’s just as effective anywhere the fight goes, whether it’s operating effectively at closer range, his punishing work in the clinch, big takedowns or complete control on the mat.
Jones wrestling could become a factor here if he is having problems on the feet as that would give him a serious advantage, but I think he’ll be content to largely control the action from range, punish Santos for his reckless attempts to find a finish and eventually emerge with a third round TKO stoppage.
Jon Jones wins by TKO in Rd3.
Amanda Nunes vs. Holly Holm
Nunes has blasted her way through a who’s-who list of womena’s MMA in recent years, but Holm does present a different kind of challenge as the two-division champ looks to continue to prove she’s the best of the best.
Holm certainly won’t just meet Nunes in the middle. Instead she’ll operate on the outside, use her movement to steer clear of Holm and pick her moments to rush in for swift attacks, and despite her decorated boxing background it tends to be her kicks that are her most potent weapon.
That could frustrate Nunes, who will be looking to use her serious firepower to try and finish Holm, but will have to hunt her down and risks tiring herself out in the process, particularly since Holm’s cardio is exceptional.
There’s a lot of needless ‘busy work’ in Holm’s game though. She often throws kicks and punches that don’t come anywhere close to landing just for the sake of looking like she’s active, and it’s rare that she actually sits down on her strikes and puts real power into them.
Against some people that’s enough to eek out a win, but when she has her moments to strike ‘The Lioness’ is far more effective and she has the technical ability and power to make them count.
Throw in the fact that Nunes is also a predator on the mat too with submissions and I think that she can hurt Holm on the feet here when she does track her down and then use that to finish her on the mat via submission inside of 10 minutes.
Amanda Nunes wins by submission in Rd2.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Ben Askren
This is an interesting clash of styles and another stiff test for Askren on the feet after being lucky to emerge with a victory in his UFC debut against Robbie Lawler earlier this year.
Needless to say Askren will again be looking to get Masvidal to the mat immediately as he’s going to be completely outgunned on the feet by Masvidal’s, slick, assured and highly technical boxing ability.
‘Gamebred’ is a crafty veteran though and he’s no pushover on the mat and will be looking for opportunities to scramble back to his feet or work on a submission.
He’ll be doing his best to keep this fight standing though, and it’s going to be tough to do so, but with his razor-sharp striking I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest he can keep his distance, punish Askren for moving in on him, make it awkward to keep him down and eventually hurt him with punches and find a second round TKO finish.
Jorge Masvidal wins by TKO in Rd2.
Luke Rockhold vs. Jan Blachowicz
After a period of relative inactivity, mainly due to injuries, and some dissapointing results, former middleweight champion is now looking to rejuvinate his career with a step up to 205lbs.
Rockhold has always been a good athlete with well-rounded skills, so he’s certainly a worthy addition to a light-heavyweight division that’s not at it’s strongest right now, but nonetheless, Blachowicz will prove to be no pushover.
Blachowicz has a solid boxing game from range and Rockhold’s defense and chin is under question these days, though I’d still give him the edge on the feet with his strong kicking game, mobility and potentially more stopping power at his new weight class.
Blachowicz can also wrestle, but Rockhold is a very talented grappler with good submissions and he works well in the clinch, so overall I feel he is the all-round better fighter here, though he’ll have to go to the scorecards to get his hand raised on this occasion.
Michael Chiesa vs. Diego Sanchez
Late in his career it seems to have dawned on Sanchez that he’s much better off using his grappling skills than just brawling on the feet – especially now that his chin has finally weakened – and mat work just so happens to be something he’s always been pretty good at.
That makes this an interesting fight as Chiesa is first and foremost a grappler too with a tried and tested submission game, but I think he’s going to have a hard time getting that to work against a seasoned veteran like Sanchez.
The fact that Sanchez isn’t particularly well suited to welterweight could be a problem here, but with Chiesa’s striking game being nothing to write home about, Sanchez may well find some success there, while on the mat I actually think he’ll do well and won’t be worn down, leading him to a decision victory.
Diego Sanchez wins by decision.
Prelims [Predicted winners in bold]
Gilbert Melendez vs. Arnold Allen
Nohelin Hernandez vs. Marlon Vera
Claudia Gadelha vs. Randa Markos
Alejandro Perez vs. Song Yadong
Prelims (Fight Pass)
Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Jack Marshman
Ismail Naurdiev vs. Chance Rencountre
Julia Avila vs. Pannie Kianzad