Main Card 10pm EST on PPV
Jon Jones vs Thiago Santos — Light Heavyweight Championship
Amanda Nunes vs Holly Holm — Women’s Bantamweight Championship
Jorge Masvidal vs Ben Askren
Luke Rockhold vs Jan Blachowicz
Diego Sanchez vs Michael Chiesa
Prelims 8pm EST on ESPN
Gilbert Melendez vs Arnold Allen
Marlon Vera vs Nohelin Hernandez
Claudia Gadelha vs Randa Markos
Alejandro Perez vs Yadong Song
Early Prelims 6:15pm EST on UFC Fight Pass
Edmen Shahbazyan vs Jack Marshman
Ismail Naurdiev vs Chance Rencountre
Pannie Kianzad vs Julia Avila
Main Event – Jon Jones vs Thiago Santos for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship:
Jon Jones (24-1 MMA) fought four times between 2014 and 2017. A plethora of failed drug tests and legal issues lead to the inactivity. “Bones” now appears to be looking to make up for the lost time. This Saturday, at UFC 239, Jones will step into the Octagon for the third time in six months.
Standing across from him will be Brazilian destroyer, Thiago Santos (21-6 MMA). Santos is 8-1 in his last 9 fights. After spending most of his career at middleweight, Santos moved up a weight class last year and has had three wild fights since. The heavy-handed “Marreta” (or sledgehammer in English) has won 15 of 21 victories via KO/TKO.
Jones’ absurd reach puts him outside of his opponent’s ranges and he batters them with kicks to the body and legs. On the inside, Jones has a nasty clinch game chock full of elbows, shoulder-wrenching, and takedowns. Should he take the fight to the ground, Jones possesses a smother top game and vicious ground and pound.
It’s no secret that Santos will have to get to boxing range and look for those massive hooks he’s finished many other men with. He may be well-suited to just go full beast mode and attempt to take Jones out of his game early on. Because once Jones finds his range and rhythm, his opponents have been in for a long night.
Co-Main Event – Amanda Nunes vs Holly Holm for the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship:
In many ways, this fight is similar stylistically to our main event. Holly Holm (12-4 MMA), Jones’ longtime training partner, is going to want to stay on the outside and pick apart the champion. A former kickboxing champion, Holm is adept at staying moving and landing her kicks from the outside.
Amanda Nunes (17-4 MMA) lives for the boxing range. It’s here she can let her heavy hands fly and generally deal out serious damage. The champ-champ is also a black belt in jiu-jitsu, which she hasn’t shown much recently, but it’s nice to have in the back pocket should it be needed.
Nunes is going to have to close the distance in order to retain her title. It’s in the pocket where she’s melted the likes of Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg. Nunes isn’t all brawl, though. She had a very technical fight with Women’s Flyweight Champion, Valentina Shevchenko.
Lock of the Night – Jon Jones to beat Thiago Santos:
Yes, Thiago Santos has the ability to knock out anyone, but it’s just really hard to bet against Jon Jones at this stage in his career. After each of his layoffs, he came back looking even better than before. Now, we have a Jones who has been consistently in camp for over half a year. The oddsmakers have “Bones” as the biggest favorite on the card and I tend to agree with them.
Upset of the Night – Jorge Masvidal to beat Ben Askren:
Jorge Masvidal (33-13 MMA) has had his ups and downs. He’s lost some close bouts due to his inactivity in the cage, but when he’s on, Masvidal is one of the most underrated competitors in the sport. On the feet, this one won’t even be close. Masvidal has some of the best boxing and head movement in the game.
We all know Ben Askren’s game. The highly decorated amateur wrestler loves to punish his opponents with his “funky” stylings on the mat. Masvidal has shown some stellar takedown defense – stopping 77% of the takedowns attempted on him throughout his career. Masvidal also survived the grappling of Demian Maia and just barely lost a split-decision to the jiu-jitsu ace.
Askren (19-0 MMA) is a higher level wrestler than anyone Masvidal has fought, but should “Gamebred” be able to stop the shots, look for him to box up a frustrated Askren.
Fight of the Night – Diego Sanchez vs Michael Chiesa:
We all know Diego Sanchez (29-11 MMA) is an absolute madman and when paired with the right opponent, Michael Chiesa (15-4 MMA) has proven his willingness to engage in a war. Sanchez has been awarded “Fight of the Night” honors seven times in his 14-year career with the UFC. Chiesa has earned that distinction twice in his much shorter career with the promotion.
Both are top-notch grapplers, so it’s unlikely we see one completely smother the other there. We will likely see some fun exchanges on the ground and both men throwing down on the feet.
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Brandon is a long-time combat sports fan who has covered fights since 2017. His work can be found at The Scrap News, The Body Lock, and Fansided MMA. Follow Brandon on Twitter (@B_S_Sibcy).