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Guide to UFC 259: Blachowicz vs. Adesanya


Getting prepared for UFC action this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event with our Guide to UFC 259.

UFC 259
Date: March 6, 2021
Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada

Main Card
Start Time: 10:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN+ PPV

UFC Light Heavyweight Championship: Jan Blachowicz (c) vs. Israel Adesanya

Overall Records: Blachowicz 27-8, Adesanya 20-0
UFC Records: Blachowicz 10-5, Adesanya 9-0
Last Fight: Blachowicz def. Reyes (title fight), R2 TKO, UFC 253 (9/26/20), Adesanya def. Costa (title fight), R2 TKO, UFC 253 (9/26/20)
Last Five Fights: Blachowicz 4-1, Adesanya 5-0
Rankings: Blachowicz LHW C, Adesanya MW C
Betting Odds: Blachowicz +190, Adesanya -240
Preview: The main event sees Blachowicz defending his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship for the first time, as UFC Middleweight Champion Adesanya moves up a weight class in an attempt to become a two-division champ. The last time we saw both men in action was on the same night last September when triumphed, with Blachowicz defeating Dominick Reyes for the vacant title and Adesanya beating Paulo Costa to keep his title. Adesanya comes into this fight a perfect 20–0, and he’s on a quest to not only stay undefeated, to not only become a two-division champion, but the end goal of fighting and conquering Jon Jones. If he wants Jones, he’s going to have to get past Blachowicz, who has improved tremendously.

Blachowicz was on the verge of being cut from the UFC roster after going 2–4 in his first six fights, but he’s won eight of nine since then, and has become a worthy champion in a Jones-less division. Many of his recent victories have ended finishes, and he is a well-rounded fighter. Adesanya is a fantastic striker, though, and perhaps the best in the entire sport today. You know he’s not going to wrestle you, as he has scored zero takedowns in UFC, and has only attempted three to begin with. However, he has excellent takedown defense, defending 86% of takedowns attempted on him, and when he’s been taken down, he’s gotten right back up. Adesanya has 11 knockdowns in his nine UFC fights, which is already the third-most in middleweight history. His skill and technique will translate to the higher weight, and his speed should be far quicker than Blachowicz, but the big question is whether he’s added enough size to make up for the power difference.

The thing with Adesanya is he isn’t necessarily a power puncher—he doesn’t have those one-punch knockouts. It’s his high-volume combinations and flurries that knock guys down and end them, and his kicks to all areas of his opponent that add even more to his repertoire. Blachowicz does have trouble with well-rounded strikers, and he is going to give up a couple of inches in reach to Adesanya. Blachowicz has power, and Adesanya has shown he can take a punch and can duck away from punches, but taking a punch from a light heavyweight is way different than taking a punch from a middleweight.

So, who is going to win this fight? Adesanya is a big betting favorite, so there’s lots of value in Blachowicz there. Adesanya is the better fighter, and skill-wise, Adesanya wins this ten times out of ten. That is not to discredit Blachowicz, that is just how great Adesanya is. The weight is going to be the key. We will find out at the weigh-ins how Adesanya looks, and it’s likely he’ll still give up size inside the Octagon on Saturday. I favor skill over size, and Adesanya made a bigger fighter in Costa look like nothing in his last fight. I like Adesanya in this, but it’s not the lock that many want you to think it is. It should be a great fight, especially in the smaller Octagon.

UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship: Amanda Nunes (c) vs. Megan Anderson

Overall Records: Nunes 20-4, Anderson 11-4
UFC Records: Nunes 13-1, Anderson 3-2
Last Fight: Nunes def. Spencer (title fight), UDec, UFC 250 (6/6/20), Anderson def. Dumont, R1 KO, UFC On ESPN+ 27 (2/29/20)
Last Five Fights: Nunes 5-0, Anderson 3-2
Rankings: Nunes WFW & WBW C
Betting Odds: Nunes -1100, Anderson +650
Preview: The second of three title fights on the card is floating under the radar, and has really been the forgettable title fight on the show, which is a shame because it only features arguably the greatest female fighter in the history of the sport. Two-division champion Nunes returns to action for the first time since June, for the first time since becoming a parent, as she defends the featherweight title, potentially for the final time. Anderson is getting a title shot a little later than she hoped for, as she was originally going to get one in her debut, but it ended up taking until her sixth UFC fight to finally get it. Anderson has won two straight, coming off back-to-back finishes, and this is a fight that will determine her future. A win by Anderson gives her a win over the greatest of all-time, but a win by Nunes could signal the end of the division, which currently only has four fighters in it—one of whom is Nunes, who fights in two divisions.

Nunes is an extremely well-rounded fighter. She lands a lot, avoids getting hit quite a bit, has great takedowns, has tremendous takedown defense, great conditioning, and a black belt in jiu-jitsu. You name it, she’s got it. Anderson is a tall woman, standing six-foot tall, and she’s going to have a three-inch reach advantage on Nunes. She has some knockout power, but she isn’t an overwhelming striker, landing less than two significant strikes per minute in her UFC career. She gets hit more than she lands, and her striking defense is on the low end. She also only defends around half the takedowns attempted on her, and she still has some trouble working from her back.

She has a tremendous head coach in James Krause, but Nunes also comes from one of the best camps in the world, American Top Team. Nunes has been dominant, and I’m not liking Anderson’s chances in this fight. There’s a reason Nunes is a twelve-to-one favorite, and in all honesty, those odds could be higher. Look for Nunes to continue to show why she’s the G.O.A.T. in women’s MMA.

UFC Bantamweight Championship: Petr Yan (c) vs. Aljamain Sterling

Overall Records: Yan 15-1, Sterling 19-3
UFC Records: Yan 7-0, Sterling 11-3
Last Fight: Yan def. Aldo (title fight), R5 TKO, UFC 251 (7/11/20), Sterling def. Sandhagen, R1 SUB, UFC 250 (6/6/20)
Last Five Fights: Yan 5-0, Sterling 5-0
Rankings: Yan C, Sterling #1
Betting Odds: Yan -120, Sterling -110
Preview: What may be the most exciting title fight of the three on the card is the first that’s going to take place as Yan defends the UFC Bantamweight Championship against Sterling in a much-anticipated match-up. With no disrespect to Cory Sandhagen or any other bantamweights, these two are the two best 135-pounders in the world, and they’ve been trash-talking a ton leading up to this, so it should be a ton of action. Yan has a fantastic 15–1 record, with his last seven wins coming inside the Octagon. Sterling is coming into this fight on a five-fight win streak. With both having the impressive win streaks, the level of competition in those fights strongly favors Sterling.

When you look at Yan’s recent five wins, they came over Jose Aldo, Urijah Faber, Jimmie Rivera, John Dodson and Douglas Silva de Andrade. Two of those, Aldo and Faber, are Hall Of Famers and legends, but past their primes. Sterling’s win streak has seen him beat Sandhagen, Pedro Munhoz, Rivera, Cody Stamann and Brett Johns. Sandhagen is the third-best bantamweight in the world and next in line, and Sterling made him look foolish in submitting him in just over a minute. Both have been dominant in their recent wins, but Sterling has taken his game to a level it hadn’t reached before.

This is a classic battle between striker and grappler, with Yan being the striker and Sterling the grappler. However, both are good in the other’s strengths. Yan is a high-volume striker, landing over six strikes per minute. Sterling lands just under five strikes a minute. Yan also eats more strikes than Sterling. Sterling goes right after opponents with pressure and takedowns, and when he gets his opponents to the mat, he is always showing off his black belt in jiu-jitsu, as he has eleven submission attempts in UFC, and eight wins by submission in his career. Yan has strong takedown defense, but he hasn’t faced the pressure that Sterling will bring.

A big difference between the two is Sterling has been fighting and acting like a man on a mission, his only motivation and goal is to win that title. He has shown to be more hungry than Yan, and that passion could lead to a win. Yan is a tremendous fighter, and he has the tools to get it done on the feet, and let’s not act like Sterling hasn’t been finished before. This is a fantastic fight, and could easily end up being the best fight on the show. The betting odds slightly favor Yan, but this feels like a toss-up. I’ve said on the In The Clinch podcast that I have Sterling ending 2021 as the bantamweight champion, and I’m sticking to my guns here. This should be great.

Lightweights: Islam Makhachev vs. Drew Dober

Overall Records: Makhachev 18-1, Dober 23-8 1 NC
UFC Records: Makhachev 7-1, Dober 9-4 1 NC
Last Fight: Makhachev def. Ramos, UDec, UFC 242 (9/7/19), Dober def. Hernandez, R2 TKO, UFC On ESPN+ 29 (5/13/20)
Last Five Fights: Makhachev 5-0, Dober 4-1
Rankings: Makhachev #14
Betting Odds: Makhachev -360, Dober +270
Preview: A high-level lightweight match-up featuring two guys on win streaks trying to break into the top ten and the 155-lbs. title picture gets great placement on this card. Makhachev makes his long-awaited return to action after having not fought since September 2019, and he has been hyped up by Khabib Nurmagomedov as the guy to lead the division now that he’s retired. Makhachev has won six straight coming into this, and is an impressive 18–1 in his career. Dober enters this fight having won three straight, and six of his last seven overall. Dober’s three-fight win streak has seen him win all three by knockout, with the first two coming in 70 seconds or less. Dober’s striking has improved tremendously over his recent fights, and he comes into this fight riding the most momentum he’s had in his career.

Makhachev was supposed to fight Rafael Dos Anjos in 2020, but it fell apart due to Makhachev suffering a staph infection. Hopefully he doesn’t see Dober as a step down from Dos Anjos, because Dober is not an opponent to take lightly at all. Dober trains at elevation with the fitting Elevation Fight Camp, which has come on as one of the strongest camps in the sport. He is well-rounded, but his striking is what has been showcased lately. He’s been landing a lot more in his recent fights and should have the edge on the feet over Makhachev, who doesn’t throw a lot. Makhachev knows how to avoid getting hit, as his striking defense is a whopping 72% and he has been hit less than one time per 15 minutes. Only twice has an opponent landed double-digit strikes on Makhachev, and those were just 13 times in 15-minute fights.

Makhachev’s strong suit, much like a lot of Dagestan fighters and training partners with Khabib, is his takedowns. His 68% takedown accuracy is the best in UFC history at lightweight, and he’s only been taken down once in his UFC career. Dober only has a 17% accuracy in takedowns, and he’s primarily just a striker, and his takedown defense rate is just 58%. Dober is going to need to keep this standing if he’s going to win, and Makhachev’s lone loss saw him knocked out inside the Octagon. If Makhachev gets Dober down, it might end up being a very long night for Dober. This is a quality fight, but Makhachev is looking to make a statement, and he’s a big betting favorite for a reason. This should be good as well.

Light Heavyweights: Thiago Santos vs. Aleksandar Rakic

Overall Records: Santos 21-8, Rakic 13-2
UFC Records: Santos 13-7, Rakic 5-1
Last Fight: Teixeira def. Santos, R3 SUB, UFC On ESPN 17 (11/7/20), Rakic def. Smith, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 33 (8/29/20)
Last Five Fights: Santos 3-2, Rakic 4-1
Rankings: Santos #2, Rakic #4
Betting Odds: Santos +130, Rakic -160
Preview: The main card kicks off with an exciting light heavyweight bout pitting number two and number four in the 205-lbs. rankings against each other in a fight that has great implications in the division moving forward. Santos is looking to get back into the win column after dropping his last two fights. He fought for the title once, coming up short against Jon Jones in a razor-thin split decision loss where he tore every ligament there is in his knee and suffered a cracked tibia. He came back in November, but was submitted by Glover Teixeira. A win would set him back on track for a title shot, and he does hold a win over champion Jan Blachowicz. Rakic has won six of his seven UFC fights, with his lone loss being a split decision to Volkan Oezdemir. He got back into the win column with a decision win over Anthony Smith in August in a fight where he wasn’t overly impressive, but fought a smart fight to win.

This should be fireworks on the feet as both are traditional knockout artists. Santos has scored 15 knockout wins out of his 21 career wins, while 9 of Rakic’s 13 wins have been by knockout. They both land a lot of strikes and are good at avoiding being hit. Santos does have 13 knockdowns in his UFC career, which is inside the top-ten in UFC’s all-time record books. I don’t see a ground fight coming into play, but in the event it does, Rakic has great takedown defense and Santos has a black belt in jiu-jitsu. Rakic will have a slight reach advantage, but I think he gives up some power to Santos, and Santos can mix his strikes up better.

This is an excellent fight, reminiscent of when Santos fought Jimi Manuwa in the main card opener of a stacked UFC 231 card a couple of years ago. That one ended quick, and this one could as well inside the smaller Octagon. Santos’ fiancé, Yana Kunitskaya, just scored a win, and that momentum could ride him to a win. This should be a banger while it lasts.

Preliminary Card
Start Time: 8:00 p.m. ET, 5:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN & ESPN+

Bantamweights: Dominick Cruz vs. Casey Kenney

Overall Records: Cruz 22-3, Kenney 16-2-1
UFC Records: Cruz 5-2, Kenney 5-1
Last Fight: Cejudo def. Cruz (title fight), R2 TKO, UFC 249 (5/9/20), Kenney def. Wood, UDec, UFC 254 (10/24/20)
Last Five Fights: Cruz 3-2, Kenney 4-1
Rankings: Cruz #11
Betting Odds: Cruz +105, Kenney -135
Preview: An interesting bantamweight bout headlines the preliminary card as a former champion looks to get back on track against a rising prospect seen as one of the futures of the division. Cruz returns after a layoff that would be long for most fighters, but is actually short for him considering his history, as he tries to end a two-fight losing skid. Cruz, a long-time UFC and WEC Bantamweight Champion, will fight in only his second non-title fight in the last eleven years, and the last time he was in a non-title fight, it wasn’t a pretty night for his opponent, Takeya Mizugaki, as Cruz finished him in a minute. Cruz is coming off a title fight loss to Henry Cejudo in May, which was his first fight since December 2016. He technically looked good as his footwork was still there, but it was clear he lost some speed. Whether that is age catching up, injuries catching up, cage rust or the fact that Cejudo’s speed is outstanding, that will become evident in this fight.

Kenney has gone 5–1 during his first two years with UFC, with the lone loss coming to Merab Dvalishvili, who is a tough fighter to beat. Kenney showed some great wrestling and striking in scoring two wins over the span of 21 days in Abu Dhabi in October, though Cruz is a massive step up in competition compared to who he’s beaten in his last three fights. Cruz’ footwork is well-known and it allows him to find openings to strike that most don’t find, even if he isn’t the most accurate fighter in the world. He also has an incredible 73% striking defense, which shows his footwork keeps him from getting hit. When he lost to Cejudo, it was Cejudo utilizing leg kicks to slow him down, and Kenney is going to need to use the same strategy.

Cruz’ quickness also opens up a really good takedown game, and Kenney only defends around half of the takedowns attempted on him. Kenney does land a lot of strikes per minute, but he does tend to get hit often as well. This is just a super interesting fight on paper and will be a true test for both- whether Cruz can still contend or whether Kenney is a true contender. It’s hard to predict who will win because there is still the unknown of Cruz, but if he can turn the clock back, this is a fight he would win back in the day.

Bantamweights: Song Yadong vs. Kyler Phillips

Overall Records: Yadong 16-4-1 1 NC, Phillips 8-1
UFC Records: Yadong 5-0-1, Phillips 2-0
Last Fight: Yadong def. Vera, UDec, UFC On ESPN 8 (5/16/20), Phillips def. Else, R2 TKO, UFC On ESPN 16 (10/3/20)
Last Five Fights: Yadong 4-0-1, Phillips 4-1
Rankings: Yadong #14
Betting Odds: Yadong -150, Phillips +120
Preview: A bantamweight bout featuring two young prospects here as the 23-year-old Yadong takes on 25-year-old Phillips. Yadong has been on UFC’s roster since he was 19, and all he’s done in UFC since is to go unbeaten. He’s got five wins and a draw, and the draw would’ve been a win had he not gotten himself deducted a point for an illegal knee. Even with that, he remains with no losses in UFC, and is coming off a big win over Marlon Vera, even though it was a decision that had a lot of question marks. As for Phillips, this is only his third UFC fight, but he’s scored two impressive wins so far and he’s made it no secret he feels ready to challenge some ranked fighters, and he gets one here. He’s got tons of potential, even though this will be just his tenth pro fight, but a win here would likely see him vault into the rankings and make him a contender.

Phillips is going to have a five-inch reach advantage, and he lands over six strikes per minute, and his striking differential is among the best in the bantamweight division. He also has a strong takedown game, while Yadong has good takedown defense. Yadong trains with the Team Alpha Male camp, and he might be the best overall fighter in that camp right now, and he’s improving every time out. His submission game and defense is strong, he has three submission wins, and he has underrated power. Six of Phillips’ eight wins have come by stoppage, so he’s a high-rate finisher as well. This is a really strong fight between prospects, and is very close on the betting odds. I like Yadong due to his experience, but this is another real toss-up fight that could be very fun.

Flyweights: Joseph Benavidez vs. Askar Askarov

Overall Records: Benavidez 28-7, Askarov 12-0-1
UFC Records: Benavidez 15-5, Askarov 2-0-1
Last Fight: Figueiredo def. Benavidez (title fight), R1 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 30 (7/18/20), Askarov def. Pantoja, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 30 (7/18/20)
Last Five Fights: Benavidez 3-2, Askarov 4-0-1
Rankings: Benavidez #2, Askarov #3
Betting Odds: Benavidez +110, Askarov -140
Preview: An important flyweight fight takes place here as Benavidez looks to return from being down in the ditches, but he has a tough task ahead of him in the undefeated Askarov. Benavidez is coming off the sting of not being able to finally close the deal and become the UFC Flyweight Champion, as he came up short in two chances against Deiveson Figueiredo in 2020. He was knocked out in his first chance in February, then submitted in his second chance in July. After that July fight, it seemed like Benavidez might hang up the gloves, but he is determined to not go out that way, and decided to keep fighting. If he feels he still has plenty to prove, then fighting the next highest-ranked opponent will show if he does.

Askarov comes in unscathed in his career, with no losses in his thirteen pro fights. He has only three UFC appearances, and started it off with a draw against current top contender Brandon Moreno, but has since scored back-to-back wins over Tim Elliott and Alexandre Pantoja. He may feel he has something to prove, because not only does he want to get that title shot, but he wants to score a finish, as all three of his UFC bouts have gone the distance, while his prior ten fights all saw him win by finish. Askarov is a master of sport in combat sambo, and he has some decent takedowns. He is always going for them, averaging two a fight, but also averaging eleven attempts a fight, so he’s at just an 18% takedown accuracy. Benavidez has great takedown defense, and his footwork is good enough to keep opponents out of takedown range.

Their striking stats are similar, but Askarov is more accurate, while Benavidez has better defense. Benavidez does have 17 finishes in his 35 career fights, and has only been finished three times, though two of those were in his last two. A fight on the feet slightly leans towards Benavidez, while a grappling contest is more relatively even. Askarov has a lot of momentum, while Benavidez has a lot to prove. This is another interesting veteran against prospect fight, and will have plenty of implications at 125 lbs.

Flyweights: Rogerio Bontorin vs. Kai Kara-France

Overall Records: Bontorin 16-2 1 NC, Kara-France 21-9 1 NC
UFC Records: Bontorin 2-1, Kara-France 4-2
Last Fight: Borg def. Bontorin, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 25 (2/15/20), Royval def. Kara-France, R2 SUB, UFC 253 (9/26/20)
Last Five Fights: Bontorin 4-1, Kara-France 3-2
Rankings: Bontorin #8, Kara-France #8
Betting Odds: Bontorin +115, Kara-France -145
Preview: A pair of flyweights, both of whom are looking to get back into the win column, square off here as Bontorin takes on Kara-France in a fun match-up. Bontorin is fighting for the first time in just over a year. He started his UFC career with two straight wins, but dropped a decision to Ray Borg in his last fight, though Borg did miss weight for that fight. Kara-France started his UFC run on a strong start, winning his first three fights, but has since lost two of his last three, the last one being a submission loss to Brandon Royval in an incredible fight in September. Kara-France has the experience edge of the two, and he will be eager to have a good showing with so many of his teammates fighting on the card, including in the main event. He’s an exciting fighter with power, but he is still searching for his first finish inside the Octagon.

These two have very different styles, as Kara-France is all action with his striking, willing to throw as much as possible, as his strikes landed per minute is second among active UFC flyweights. Bontorin is not much of a striker, but he has a strong ground game, with eleven career wins by submission. Kara-France has strong takedown defense, so it might be tough for Bontorin to get him down. Bontorin doesn’t have good striking defense, and Kara-France can definitely exploit that. This is another close fight on paper, and a very important one for both as they want to stay inside the top ten. I like Kara-France better in this one.

Early Preliminary Card
Start Time: 6 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN+

Flyweights: Tim Elliott vs. Jordan Espinosa

Overall Records: Elliott 16-11-1, Espinosa 15-8 1 NC
UFC Records: Elliott 5-9, Espinosa 2-3
Last Fight: Elliott def. Benoit, UDec, UFC On ESPN 13 (7/15/20), Dvorak def. Espinosa, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 36 (9/19/20)
Last Five Fights: Elliott 2-3, Espinosa 2-3
Rankings: Elliott #12
Betting Odds: Elliott -130, Espinosa -130
Preview: Another flyweight battle is next on the card as Elliott and Espinosa look to find proper footing in a competitive division. Elliott got out of his funk in his last fight, scoring a decision win over Ryan Benoit in July. Prior to that, Elliott had lost five of his seven fights during his second UFC stint, including a three-fight skid before the win over Benoit. Espinosa finds himself in what should be considered a must-win situation. He won his UFC debut in March 2019, but he’s since dropped three of his last four fights, including a decision loss to David Dvorak in September. With both needing to do everything they can to be in the win column, the stakes are suddenly higher in this fight. Elliott has a funky style that Espinosa is going to have to find his way to combat. Elliott is a strong takedown artist, as he averages over four per fight, though Espinosa has a 90% takedown defense rate.

Espinosa doesn’t do takedowns much, as he averages less than one a fight and only is accurate on 28% of his attempts, but he does land more on his feet than Elliott. Espinosa is more of a flat-footed striker, though, while Elliott uses a lot of footwork, movement and fients on the feet to keep opponents guessing. Elliott’s striking is a set-up for his grappling. Despite Elliott being so good on the ground, he has been submitted five times, and Espinosa does have seven career submission wins, so it isn’t like Espinosa is a slouch on the ground. Espinosa will also have a slight reach advantage, which could come into play. This is another close fight on paper that is a real toss-up, and with both men in desperation mode, it could end up being wild. This should be a strong fight as well.

Light Heavyweights: Kennedy Nzchukwu vs. Carlos Ulberg

Overall Records: Nzchukwu 7-1, Ulberg 3-0
UFC Records: Nzchukwu 1-1, Ulberg 0-0
Last Fight: Nzchukwu def. Stosic, UDec, UFC On ESPN 5 (8/3/19), Ulberg def. Oliveira, R1 KO, Dana White’s Contender Series 34 (11/4/20)
Last Five Fights: Nzchukwu 4-1, Ulberg 3-0 (only 3 pro fights)
Betting Odds: Nzchukwu +195, Ulberg -250
Preview: A pair of young, talented light heavyweight prospects takes place here as Nzchukwu and Ulberg look to score a win on Saturday night. Nzchukwu is fighting for the first time since August 2019, and is coming off a decision win over Darko Stosic. He has a ton of potential, and he’ll need to show if he’s improved after 17 months of strictly training and not competing. Ulberg is only fighting for the fourth time in his professional career, but he’s started off strong with three straight wins, including a knockout win in November on the Contender Series to get his UFC contract. Being one of the main training partners of Israel Adesanya doesn’t hurt, either, as Ulberg has been playing Jan Blachowicz during camp while also preparing for his fight, and he wants to get the momentum for City Kickboxing started early.

Nzchukwu is a physically impressive light heavyweight, and he is going to have a six-inch reach advantage in this fight. He’s got some power, with four wins by knockout, but he’s also shown he can fight a full fifteen minutes. Ulberg has some professional kickboxing experience and power of his own. This one is likely going to stay on the feet as Nzchukwu has yet to attempt a takedown in his short UFC career, and Ulberg might not even know what a takedown is yet. Ulberg is going to give up some size, yet he’s a pretty big favorite in this one. There has to be some confidence from the camp coming into this week, but to say he’s almost a lock over Nzchukwu is some disrespect to Nzchukwu. I feel this is another toss-up fight, but it does feel like someone will go to sleep here.

Welterweights: Sean Brady vs. Jake Matthews

Overall Records: Brady 13-0, Matthews 16-4
UFC Records: Brady 3-0, Matthews 10-4
Last Fight: Brady def. Aguilera, R2 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 33 (8/29/20), Matthews def. Sanchez, UDec, UFC 253 (9/26/20)
Last Five Fights: Brady 5-0, Matthews 4-1
Betting Odds: Brady -225, Matthews +175
Preview: A welterweight bout that could easily be a main card fight on any of these Fight Night shows is buried down deep in the prelims here, and I feel it isn’t getting the love or respect it should be getting as a high-level fight. Brady is undefeated with a perfect 13–0 record, with UFC wins over the likes of Court McGee and Ismail Naurdiev thus far. He has shown strong striking and strong takedowns so far, and he is a very bright prospect. Matthews knows all too much about being a bright prospect, as he’s had that label on him for years. He is still only just 26, as he made his UFC debut when he was only 19, and he has quickly reached 15 fights in his UFC career. He had mixed success, going 4–3 during his first seven fights, but he learned and grew, maturing more as a fighter as he’s moved up to welterweight, where he’s gone 6–1 over his last seven. He’s shown good striking and grappling throughout his career, and he still can find himself in the title picture some day.

It’s crazy that despite being younger, Matthews has more UFC fights than Brady has pro fights, and that has to account for something in this match-up. Brady does land a lot of strikes and score a good amount of takedowns, and he has also never been taken down in his UFC career. Matthews is a strong grappler who isn’t as dangerous on the feet, but he has a black belt in jiu-jitsu and seven career submission wins. Brady is also a black belt in jiu-jitsu and has three submission wins. Like I said, this fight really should be higher up on the card or on a main card somewhere–it is that great of a match-up. It should be a strong fight. Brady is a decent-sized betting favorite, but Matthews can not be counted out in this one, as he is Brady’s toughest test thus far. I tend to like Matthews a little more in this one, but it is also hard to go against Brady and his perfect record. I expect a real high-level fight in this one.

Women’s Strawweights: Livinha Souza vs. Amanda Lemos

Overall Records: Souza 14-2, Lemos 8-1-1
UFC Records: Souza 3-1, Lemos 2-1
Last Fight: Souza def. Yoder, UDec, UFC 252 (8/15/20), Lemos def. Inoue, UDec, UFC On ESPN 15 (8/22/20)
Last Five Fights: Souza 4-1, Lemos 3-1-1
Rankings: Souza #15
Betting Odds: Souza +150, Lemos -185
Preview: Souza and Lemos are both looking to move up the strawweight rankings and get themselves inside the top ten and into the title picture. Souza is looking to score her second straight win, as she got back into the win column with a decision over Ashley Yoder in August. She has a strong 14–2 career record, with ten of those wins coming by stoppage. Lemos has been on the roster since 2017, but has only fought three times, as she was the victim of a two-year suspension from USADA. She returned from that in December 2019 and has won both of her UFC fights since coming back, scoring wins over Miranda Granger and Mizuki Inoue. In her eight career wins, she has scored seven by finish, but Souza will be the toughest test of her career.

Souza is a well-rounded fighter. She has good striking, but isn’t an overly pressure fighter. Her takedowns are good, and she goes after submissions on the ground constantly. For Lemos, the sample size is small, but she lands a lot on her feet, but also gets hit a lot as well. She has completed every takedown she’s attempted in UFC, and has defended every takedown attempted on her. Souza is also good at being able to avoid getting hit. Souza has the clear experience edge, and has fought the likes of Yoder, Angela Hill and Brianna Van Buren in her career. I see that experience being the key factor, even though Lemos enters the fight as the betting favorite. I’m not expecting fireworks, but it should be a decent fight.

Lightweights: Uros Medic vs. Aalon Cruz

Overall Records: Medic 6-0, Cruz 8-3
UFC Records: Medic 0-0, Cruz 0-1
Last Fight: Medic def. Gonzalez, R1 TKO, Dana White’s Contender Series 27 (8/4/20), Carlyle def. Cruz, R1 TKO, UFC On ESPN+ 27 (2/29/20)
Last Five Fights: Medic 5-0, Cruz 4-1
Betting Odds: Medic -170, Cruz +140
Preview: Two young fighters, both of whom made it onto the UFC roster through the Contender Series, square off in this one. Medic is making his UFC debut, and comes in with an undefeated record, though he is still early in his career being only 6–0. However, he was one of the most-talked about signings from the most recent run of the Contender Series. All six of his wins have come via a finish, and he’s only been past the first round once. Cruz will be fighting for the second time inside the Octagon. He was signed off the Contender Series in 2019, but suffered a defeat to Spike Carlyle in his UFC debut in February. Cruz isn’t a prolific finisher like Medic, as he’s only won four of his eight fights by stoppage, but he’s also been finished in all three of his losses.

Medic has a lot of power and lands a lot, as he scored two knockdowns in his Contender Series fight, while also getting hit only twice. He is incredible accurate on the feet as well. Cruz also tends to land a lot, but he’s not very accurate on the feet. He will have a seven-inch reach advantage, though, and he will need to use that because Medic is the more talented fighter of the two. Cruz also gets hit a lot, and was finished in just 85 seconds in his last fight. It is two young fighters looking to make a statement, but history of the two shows this doesn’t look like it will last long. I’m very high on Medic as a prospect, and this should be his coming out party.

Bantamweights: Mario Bautista vs. Trevin Jones

Overall Records: Bautista 8-1, Jones 12-6 1 NC
UFC Records: Bautista 2-1, Jones 0-0 1 NC
Last Fight: Johns def. Bautista, R2 TKO, UFC 247 (2/8/20),  Jones NC Valiev, UFC On ESPN 15 (8/22/20)
Last Five Fights: Bautista 4-1, Jones 2-2 1 NC
Betting Odds: Bautista -250, Jones +195
Preview: A pair of bantamweights open the card as Bautista and Jones look to leave a big mark for the rest of the card to match. Bautista is still young in his career. He came into UFC early, coming in on short notice with just six fights in his career, and was thrown quickly to the wolves as he debuted against Cory Sandhagen. He lost that fight, but has since scored two straight wins over Jin Soo Son and Miles Johns. He is taking this fight on short notice as a replacement for Randy Costa, but he’s been eager to get back fighting. Jones is looking to ride the momentum as he’s technically won three straight fights. His UFC debut was an incredible showing, as he scored a massive upset in a come-from-behind win over Timur Valiev, but the win was taken away after he failed a post-fight drug test for marijuana.

Jones is one of the more unlikely fighters to be on the roster, as he wasn’t even on the radar for the promotion until the pandemic started, as he showed up to Las Vegas to stay ready and told everyone who would listen that if UFC needed a short-notice fighter, then give him a call. It worked out well the first time, and it needs to this time as well. This one feels pretty even on paper. Bautista tends to land a lot, but also gets hit a lot as well. Jones took a ton of strikes from Valiev in his debut, but showed toughness as Valiev was unable to finish him despite there being moments where it could’ve been stopped. Bautista is a more polished fighter and finisher, but Jones has only been finished once, by submission, in his career. Bautista is the betting favorite in this one, and he should be, and Jones is going to be scoring another upset if he gets the win here. They have the potential to get this stacked card off to a good start.

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