UFC 259 Preview: Main Card

UFC 259 which goes down this Saturday night at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas Nevada. The event will be broadcast on BT Sports and can also be streamed on ESPN+. The prelims is steeped with talent with fighters such as Dominick Cruz and Joseph Benavidez set to compete. You can catch a full breakdown of that section of the card right here.

Right now we’ll focus our attention on the main card, and what a main card it is. Three title fights no less, and two other fantastic match-ups to look forward to. I’m going to break down each fight on the main card and share some thoughts on how I see these fights going.

Jan Błachowicz vs. Israel Adesanya

What a sensational fight this is! Champion vs. champion fights are always fun. Błachowicz has been on a tear in the 205-pound division since his defeat by Thiago Santos in 2019. After that defeat, ‘Big Jan’ showcased his legendary Polish power going on to knockout Luke Rockhold, Corey Anderson. A win over Jacare Souza is sandwiched in between those fights lead him on a journey to a title shot.

Błachowicz stepped into the cage against Dominick Reyes as a big underdog. Reyes had just come off a close decision victory over the champ at the time, Jon Jones. After Jones vacated the title it was left for Reyes and Jan to fight to be crowned the next champion. The doubt surrounding this fight, and if Błachowicz could win, slowly evaporated as the fight went on. Jan went on to dominate and knockout Reyes in the second round. The Polish power era was born.

For more on Jan Błachowicz checkout Sean Denny’s excellent piece on his rise through the ranks called, “An Underdog Story”.

Domination is something that Israel Adesanya is fully aware of. Twenty men have tried and twenty men have failed to topple the middleweight champion. The New Zealander brings a level of striking into the octagon that we have never seen before.

Like his Idol Anderson Silva, Adesanya entered the UFC and finished his debut with a beatiful knee and got the win over Rob Wilkinson. He then fought to a super close decision against Italian standout Marvin Vettori. A win over Brad Tavares and a quick knockout over Derek Brunson set up a fight between “The Last Stylebender” and “The Spider”.

Izzy’s once idol, Anderson Silva suddenly became a foe as the two battled to the judges’ scorecards. Emotions ran high in the cage as Adesanya got his hand raised and Silva passed along the torch to the would be champion.

The City Kickboxing star would become interim champion after winning in the fight of the year war against Kelvin Gastelum. Izzy unified the 185-pound title when he dismantled Robert Whittaker in two rounds. A stagnant performance against Yoel Romero and a stunning performance in his last bout with Paulo Costa prompted a move up in weight class. An immediate title shot was granted.

I think if this fight was in a bigger cage it would favor the middleweight champion better than his rival. Błachowicz will have an easier time cutting off the 25-foot cage. Jan will need to close the distance and get Izzy up against the cage, he will have to make this a dirty gritty fight to take this fight.

Yes, he does have the legendary Polish power but engaging in an all out striking battle here is not the road to go down. Adesanya will want to fight at distance on the feet. His use of feints are some of the best I’ve ever seen inside the octagon. Adesanya has the ability to make his opponents freeze with the use of those feints.

Izzy will have seen what Thiago Santos did in his defeat of the Polish MMA standout. Santos stayed on the outside and ate up the leg before getting a knockout finish in round three. I see that as Adesanya’s best path to victory. Jan Błahovech needs to remember that this is a mixed martial fight, and not a stand up battle. If he can utilise his size and dominate the grappling exchanges he wins this fight. I’m so excited for this!

Amanda Nunes vs. Megan Anderson

The return of one of the greatest womens fighters of all time, and I for one am glad to see it. Amanda Nunes will defend her featherweight title for only the second time, she takes on Australian fighter Megan Anderson.

Anderson has had a turbulent UFC tenure to date. A loss on her debut against Holly Holm, she then picked up a win over Cat Zingano before suffering a first round submission defeat over Felicia Spencer. Anderson then picked up a submission of her own, taking out Zarah Fairn in the first round.

The Australian celebrated a first round knockout of Norma Dumont, and the former Invita champion looked as impressive as she has ever looked the last time she stepped into the cage. To have a chance of winning this fight Anderson will need to use her height and reach and stay out of the range of the double champion.

Nunes has some devastating power. The Brazilian has won 13 fights by knockout and beaten some of the best fighters that women’s mixed martial arts has to offer. Her shining moment was a brutal knockout over Cris Cyborg, a win that sent shockwaves through the industry.

I feel that we will see a more grappling heavy approach here from Nunes. She doesn’t need to run the risk of getting caught on the feet. She will test the waters for sure on the feet, but the longer the fight stays there, the more at home Anderson will feel in the cage. Nunes can’t allowed her opponent to settle into the fight, that’s why I would expect to see a takedown from the champion pretty soon into this fight.

This may very well be the last women’s fight at 145 pounds. What’s next after this for Nunes if she can get past Anderson? There are no legit challengers currently in the 145-pound division. I would imagine a move back down to the bantamweight divison for a stint after this, if Nunes manages to get the win.

Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling

What an absolute fantastic fight this is. All week, I’ve been changing my pick for this fight, that’s a tell tale sign how good of a matchup this is. Petr Yan will make the walk to take on his most difficult match-up to date when he goes toe-to-toe with Aljamain Sterling. This is a high level fight, two guys at the top of their game and an overall intriguing stylistic encounter.

Yan has lost only once his his professional career, that was against Magomed Magomedov, who is a very good fighter. Yan won their rematch, soon after he made the move to the UFC ranks in 2018. The champion is 6-0 under the UFC banner. He has toppled the names such as John Dodson, Jimmie Rivera and Urijah Faber. A domination of Jose Aldo in his last fight saw him awarded with the bantamweight title.

Aljamain Sterling could be considered a UFC veteran having made his debut back in 2014. The New Yorker has notable victories over Takeya Mizugaki and Renan Barão in his early UFC days. Since his knockout defeat from Marlon Moraes, Aljo has ran through the ranks beating Brett Johns, Cody Stamann and Jimmie Rivera.

On top of that he looked super impressive while beating Pedro Munhoz by decision and made a real statement when he choked out Cory Sandhagen in less than 90 seconds. Aljo is coming into this fight with a massive head of steam, as is Petr Yan.

Yan, who resides in Russia but trains mainly out of Tiger Muay Thai gym in Phuket, has some fantastic boxing and is lethal in the clinch. He likes to impose his will on his opponents and is very good at getting control of the fight and maintain that control by getting his opponents on the backfoot. That is something he will need to do in order to be successful in this fight.

Sterling likes to push forward himself, and he brings a level of grappling into this fight that not many fighters can match in the 135-pound division. The striking aspect of his game has improved too through the years, engaging in an all out stand-up war is not the road to go down here for the Serra/Longo star.

This fight literally comes down to each fighters game plan, and how well they can implement that gameplan on the night. Sterling has not fought a five round fight in 8 years. Yan is more than capable of going all 25 minutes, we’ve seen that time and time again. When he steps in against Sterling, he will be fighting the best grappler that he has ever come up against.

It will be interesting to have a look at Yan’s takedown defence, how is gas tank will hold up if Aljo goes all in on a takedown. Let’s be real that is the only game plan that Sterling can implement if he is to be crowned the new champion. I’m also interested to see if Yan can stifle those takedown attempts and maintain his cardio. I have a feeling we are in for five rounds of a super technical fight here, and I am so excited to see how it all unfolds.

Islam Makhachev vs. Drew Dober

To get us warmed up for those three terrific title fights we are being treated to a lightweight clash between Islam Makhachev and Drew Dober. Makhachev has been a regular training partner of lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov for a number of years. Khabib himself has touted Islam as the future champ of the division.

Makhachev has tasted defeat only once so far in his career. The Russian has notched up wins over Nik Lentz, Gleison Tibau and Arman Tsarukyan. In his last fight he got the nod on the judges scorecards ahead of Davi Ramos. This will be a solid test for Islam when he makes the walk to take on Drew Dober.

Drew Dober is enjoying a three fight win streak coming into this fight. The heavy handed American finished Polo Reyes, Nasrat Haqparast and Alexander Hernandez all by knockout in recent times. His last taste against high level opposition was a knockout loss to Beneil Dariush in 2019. Dober will be looking to cement his place in the top 15 in the lightweight division against his Russian counterpart. This has potential to be a great fight, especially if Dober can keep it on the feet.

Thiago Santos vs. Aleksandar Rakić

The opening fight on the main card is a mouthwatering encounter between two big hitters. Thiago Santos is looking to make his way back into the win column when he fights up and comer Aleksander Rakić.

Rakić, who fights out of Serbia, suffered his only UFC defeat to Volkan Oezdemir, a fight that was very close on the scorecards. He redeemed himself by beating former title challenger Anthony Smith in his last fight and a victory over Santos on Saturday night would put him right back into the tite picture.

Santos, who fights out of Brazil, last tasted victory when he beat the current champion Jan Błachowicz back in early 2019. That win saw him take on Jon Jones, who was the champion at the time. He came out of that fight with a defeat and two busted up knees. Those injuries kept him out of the octagon for over 18 months.

When Santos returned he came up against fellow Brazilian, Glover Teixeira. Santos looked a shadow of his former self in that fight, and Teixeira fully capitalised with a fantastic performance of his own when he got a third round submission.

Coming into this fight Santos has to prove to himself and the fans, that he still has what it takes to compete in the upper echelon of the 205-pound division. This fight between two big hitters can not be anything other than entertaining. Both fighters have a kill or be killed mentality and i would be very surprised to see this fight go all the way.

If you want a full breakdown of the prelims section click here. Check out the card in full below.

Main card (BT Sports / ESPN+, 10pm ET)

Light Heavyweight Jan Błachowicz (27-8) vs. Israel Adesanya (20-0)
Women’s Featherweight Amanda Nunes (20-4) vs. Megan Anderson (10-4)
Bantamweight Petr Yan (15-1) vs. Aljamain Sterling (19-3)
Lightweight Islam Makhachev (18-1) vs. Drew Dober (23-9)
Light Heavyweight Thiago Santos (21-8) vs. Aleksandar Rakić (13-2)

Preliminary card (BT Sports / ESPN+, 8pm ET)

Bantamweight Dominick Cruz (22-3) vs. Casey Kenney (16-2-1)
Bantamweight Song Yadong (16-4-1) vs. Kyler Phillips (8-1)
Flyweight Joseph Benavidez (28-7) vs. Askar Askarov (13-0-1)
Flyweight Rogério Bontorin (16-2) vs. Kai Kara-France (21-9)
Women’s Strawweight Lívia Renata Souza (14-2) vs. Amanda Lemos (8-1-1)

Early preliminary card (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass, 6pm ET)

Flyweight Tim Elliott (16-11-1) vs. Jordan Espinosa (15-8)
Light Heavyweight Kennedy Nzechukwu (7-1) vs. Carlos Ulberg (3-0)
Welterweight Sean Brady (13-0) vs. Jake Matthews (17-4)
Lightweight Uroš Medić (6-0) vs. Aalon Cruz (8-3)
Bantamweight Mario Bautista (8-1) vs. Trevin Jones (12-6)

Ian O'Neill is the host of the SevereMMA UFC Preview show and one of the co-hosts of The Auld Triangle - Irish MMA podcast. You can find more of Ian's work on the SevereMMA Patreon where he co-hosts The Chasing Pack and The Contender. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma

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