UFC 259 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Israel Adesanya
Blachowicz has never really garnered a great deal of attention in the 205lb division until Jon Jones vacating the belt paved the way for title glory, but his rise to the top is a heart-warming story of perseverance, having lost 4 of his first 6 UFC fights, only to then win 8 of his next 9 fights.
On the other hand, Adesanya has always stood out as someone special at middleweight, and now heads up to light-heavyweight to challenge for his second title as one of the sport’s biggest stars.
A former long-time kickboxer, Adesanya has only gone from strength-to-strength during his unbeaten 20-0 run as an MMA fighter, with his elite level striking, which combines speed, power and precision, being enhanced by his very high fight EQ and ability to read his opponents to stay one step ahead.
By contrast Blachowicz’s has far less tricks up his sleeve, but he does have solid boxing fundamentals, and keeping it simple with his stiff, well-executed jab and then bringing in his so-called ‘legendary Polish power’ behind it will give ‘The Last Stylebender’ reasons to proceed with caution.
That being said, not only does Adesanya have more stand-up weapons at his disposal, but he’s also going to have a big speed advantage, and so Blachowicz would be much better off concentrating on his good wrestling and potential submission threat as it’s on the mat that ‘The Last Stylebender’ is likely to be most vulnerable.
Despite his recent success on the feet I think he would be better off focusing on his ground skills here though as he is a solid wrestler and possesses a submission threat too, which could really put Adesanya out of his comfort zone.
That could be easier said than done though. Adesanya is a master of controlling distance, has a 2″ height and reach advantage, and his speed and footwork will make life hard for Blachowicz, while he has the timing and reflexes to punish him if he starts to get desperate and doesn’t set up his takedowns well.
As such I feel good about Adesanya’s chances of becoming a double champion here and I’ll take him to dismantle Blachowicz and find a TKO finish within two rounds.
Pick: Israel Adesanya wins by TKO in Rd2.
Amanda Nunes vs. Megan Anderson
A former Invicta FC champ with a 3-2 record in the UFC so far, Anderson faces a daunting challenge as she squares up to MMA’s greatest ever female fighter.
A plus point for Anderson is that she is a true featherweight, with a 4″ height and 3.5″ reach advantage over Nunes, and she’ll be looking to bring that to bear in the striking department as she’s a solid kickboxer with good power and the comfort of knowing that she’s never been stopped by strikes.
That being said, she’s never faced anyone like Nunes before, and while the champion’s frame may be best suited to bantamweight, the fact that she KO’d Cris ‘Cyborg’ in less than a minute at 145lbs tells you everything you need to know about how lethal ‘The Lioness’ can be on the feet.
That being said, though she’s a tremendous talent on the feet and would have a huge speed advantage here, it could be that this is an ideal fight for Nunes to also flex her equally dangerous submission game as Anderson is not particularly tricky to take down and would be in all sorts of trouble against the champion’s predatory instincts there.
So, I think Nunes holds all the aces here and could gradually pick apart Anderson on the feet, but I think will opt to get the job done quicker on the mat via submission inside of 10 minutes.
Pick: Amanda Nunes wins by submission in Rd2.
Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling
Perhaps the most finely balanced of the three title fights on display here, this should make for a very intriguing bantamweight battle.
So far Yan has proven to be something of a wrecking ball in the division thanks to his relentlessly offensive striking that balances power with volume, mixing up his strong boxing ability alongside kicks.
Sterling has worked diligently to improve his stand-up and will also have a 4″ reach advantage and good speed to work with, but nonetheless, it’s going to be a real challenge to keep up with Yan on the feet.
Where Sterling really shines though is with his combination of high-level wrestling and jiu-jitsu and that’s where things get very interesting as Yan has never really been tested on the mat, especially against someone operating at this level.
Still, Yan’s takedown defense is strong, with quick reflexes and sprawls, and together with the pace and pressure he brings could well throw Sterling off his game and so I’m going to take the current champion to retain his title with a third round TKO finish.
Pick: Petr Yan wins by TKO in Rd3.
Drew Dober vs. Islam Makhachev
Makhachev hasn’t been able to fight as frequently as he would have hoped during his time in the UFC, and that’s perhaps stifled his opportunities to become a bigger name, but having now gradually compiled a six-fight winning streak, it feels like he’s now on the verge of bigger things.
A big part of that is due to his world-class wrestling – so good that Daniel Cormier claimed earlier this week that in that regard Makhachev is the best in the AKA gym – even surpassing that of Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Makhachev also has good striking and some power to go with it, with the only blemish on his record being a tough KO loss to Adriano Martins back in 2015.
There’s not the same kind of buzz about Dober despite having won six of his last seven fights, but he’s always been a tough, gritty competitor with a good work ethic who has done a nice job of steadily improving his skill-set and become more of a finishing threat into the bargain, as evidenced by his last three fights ending by way of strikes.
Dober’s best bet is to apply lots of pressure on the feet, but it’s going to be hard to keep it there as though he’s a capable wrestler, he’s just not anywhere close to Makhachev’s level and doesn’t have the best takedown defense.
That’s likely to prove very problematic here and so I’ll take Makhachev to rack up multiple takedowns and stifling top control to secure a decision victory, if not a late submission finish.
Pick: Islam Makhachev to win by decision.
Aleksandar Rakic vs. Thiago Santos
There’s a tremendous amount of firepower on show in this main card opener at 205lbs.
Both fighter’s have a proven ability to end fights on the feet, with Santos in particular having taken out numerous big names at both middleweight and light-heavyweight with his heavy hands and thunderous kicks.
That being said, Santos is not without his vulnerabilities as he’s now 37-years-old, has had to battle back from some rough knee injuries in recent times, while it’s also worth remembering he’s been KO’d a couple of times at 185lbs.
By constrast, Rakic is in his prime at 29-years-old and has never been stopped due to strikes. He might not have quite the finishing rate as Santos, but he’s still very dangerous indeed and he’s a bit more measured in his striking approach, which benefits him defensively.
A significant factor could be Rakic’s wrestling as that’s an area that should give him a competitive advantage if he chooses to utilize it.
Given their striking ability it’s easy to see either man walking away with their hand raised, but I’ll take the younger, fresher Rakic to be a little more refined in his approach, mixing in striking with wrestling to help tame Santos’ ferocity on his way to a decision victory.
Pick: Aleksander Rakic wins by decision.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Dominick Cruz vs. Casey Kenney
Song Yadong vs. Kyler Phillips
Joseph Benavidez vs. Askar Askarov
Rogerio Bontorin vs. Kai Kara-France
Amanda Lemos vs. Livia Renata Souza
Fight Pass Card
Tim Elliott vs. Jordan Espinosa
Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Carlos Ulberg
Sean Brady vs. Jake Matthews
Uros Medic vs. Aalon Cruz
Mario Bautista vs. Trevin Jones