Tag Archives: UFC 259

UFC 259 Fallout: Blachowicz proves size matters, Sterling rightful champ

So it turns out that size does matter in the UFC and that Jan Blachowicz is the real deal in the light heavyweight division, in case you weren’t sure.

The legendary Polish power wasn’t on show in the UFC 259 main event, but the light heavyweight champion successfully defended his crown against the middleweight superstar that is Israel Adesanya as he handed the 185lbs champion the first defeat of his career.

It was a relatively cautious display from both in the early rounds, as they exchanged leg kicks and jabs for the most part and you could’ve made an argument for them going either way. The championship rounds belonged to the 37-year-old though, as he finally used his wrestling and took Adesanya to the ground with relative ease before controlling from top position and landing ground and pound for the win.

While many expected Adesanya to become a double champion due to his stunning striking skills and superstardom, Blachowicz proved size matters – especially when there is a genuine weight discrepancy. In all the other two-weight title fights, the eventual double champ has gone up to their more “natural” division and they usually end up staying there.

For Adesanya, he’s already king at his natural weight class as evidenced by weighing at as low as 183lbs before. While he came in at 200.5lbs before this fight, that’s usually what we’d weigh on fight night in the middleweight division. He didn’t put on any weight whatsoever, while Blachowicz probably weighed around 230lbs in the cage.

It shows that the weight classes are in place for a reason and while Adesanya is a legit phenom when it comes to mixed-martial arts, talk of Blachowicz not being a true or deserving champion are firmly quashed.

UFC 259: Blachowicz v Adesanya : News Photo

Both men will go their separate ways now, with Adesanya returning to 185lbs and likely to face one of Robert Whittaker, Paulo Costa, Darren Till or Marvin Vettori while Dana White confirmed that Blachowicz’s next title defence will come against veteran Glover Teixeira at some point this year.

In the other men’s co-main event, we saw a first as Aljamain Sterling was crowned the new bantamweight champion of the world after Petr Yan was disqualified for an illegal knee in the fourth round.

Yan was winning on two scorecards when he had Sterling knelt down on his knees and trying to control his posture. The Russian seemingly asked his corner if he could throw a strike and when his corner incorrectly replied with a yes, he threw a violent knee to Sterling’s face. The referee had already told him Sterling was a down opponent, making the strike illegal, an thus an intentional foul.

After consultation with the doctor and Sterling, the fight was waved off meaning Yan was disqualified and in turn loses the belt. Sterling threw the belt on the floor after the official decision was announced and cried in the octagon, before revealing in the post-fight interview that he didn’t want to win that way and they would run it back immediately.

UFC president Dana White confirmed that he wanted to make that happen, while Yan apologised on social media citing a mere miscalculation on his part saying he just assumed that Sterling’s knee wasn’t on the ground.

A rematch will go down well among fans, who had enjoyed a fantastic fight up to that point. Yan had begun to assert his dominance with Sterling’s pace beginning to fade after a promising start but they’ll have to do it all over again.

While many seem to be calling Sterling a “paper champ” in honour of what he called Yan in the build-up to their fight, he is the rightful champion. It isn’t his fault that Yan kneed him while he was downed and basically concussed him and he was clearly struggling afterwards with his eyes glazed over and staggering around.

Some suggested that the title shouldn’t change hands on a DQ, which is just baffling to me considering it would allow the champion a cheap way out of a fight if they were losing late on. But some also suggested that the rule about kneeing a downed opponent is a bad rule anyway.

Whether it is or isn’t is besides the point though, because the rule is in place right now and is known by everyone as an illegal strike. He gets the win due to not being able to continue and Yan won’t be overly punished and will get an immediate rematch so we can get a true finish to the fight.

UFC 259: Blachowicz vs Adesanya – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Trevin Jones def Mario Bautista via Knockout, Round 2 (0:47)

Tentative start to the card as Bautista and Jones trade leg kicks and feints to feel each other out for the first minute or so of the bout. Bautista pushes forward with a flurry that Jones avoids and the two clinch up, with Jones controlling the underhooks and landing some nice knees to the thigh. Both fighters exchange body kicks, with Bautista landing a bit cleaner. Jones landing lots of leg kicks from the outside, as Bautista responds with some fast hands with a nice hook in particular. Jones lands a left hand and goes for a takedown as the round ends but Bautista fights it off well. 10-9 Bautista but not much in it.

Bautista comes out with some nice combos once again and Jones goes back to the leg kicks. Both exchange strikes and Jones slips a punch then throws a lead uppercut that drops Bautista! He follows up with some big ground and pound and the referee ends it early! Huge knockout win for Jones!

Uros Medic def Aalon Cruz via Knockout, Round 1 (1:40)

Fast start to the fight from Medic as he walks forward and clips Cruz with a big right hand quickly to the temple! Cruz looks for a takedown but Medic brushes him off and lands a big left hand too, then follows it up with a flying knee. Medic lands a barrage of strikes and the fight goes too long before the referee steps in and ends it! What a debut.

Amanda Lemos def Livinha Souza via Knockout, Round 1 (3:39)

Slow start to the bout as Lemos takes the centre of the cage and backs Souza up against the cage, landing jabs and hard leg kicks. Souza looks wary on the feet early on as Lemos lands a straight right hand that drops her! She goes for the ground and pound but Souza tries to grapple to survive and manages to tie her up. She goes for a heel hook but Lemos avoids it and starts landing huge strikes from the ground once again too. Lemos lands a stinging jab that drops Souza again and a few more strikes sees the referee step in and call it a night. What a performance from Lemos.

Sean Brady def Jake Matthews via Submission (Arm Triangle Choke), Round 3 (3:28)

Competitive start to the round with both guys standing in range of the other and exchanging small flurries of punches and leg kicks. Matthews using his range advantage well and throwing his jab nicely, but Brady avoiding it well and landing nice leg kicks. Matthews throws a big right hand that drops Brady but Brady doesn’t seem too hurt and manages to recover into top position after Matthews tried to grab the neck. Brady landing nice short shots from the top and trying to control the posture by holding the neck, but Matthews doing well to avoid too much damage in the final minute as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Matthews.

Brady opens up the round a bit more aggressive, taking the centre and being first with the jabs and short hooks. Matthews eventually takes control once again though and uses his length to start throwing some nice strikes. Brady shoots for the takedown and gets it first time and immediately takes the top position. He tries to work to the back but Matthews defends against the cage as Brady starts working for a guillotine. Good defence from Matthews as Brady continues to work the top mount and starts throwing nasty body strikes while wrapping up the neck. Matthews really struggling to do anything from his back as he gives up the position and Brady starts raining down punches as the round ends. Definite Brady round, 19-19 for me.

Matthews takes the centre early in the final round and tries to land a couple of flurries, but Brady trying to slow him down with some chopping leg kicks again. Brady lands a beautiful counter left hook that drops Matthews to one knee, but he stays patient and stays standing. He fakes a takedown but Matthews sprawls and it allows Brady to jump on his neck to threaten a guillotine. He moves to take the back and takes him against the cage to start throwing nice strikes on the ground and dominant once again. Brady continues to work the position and steps over into a head and arm choke to secure the tap out. Brilliant performance.

Kennedy Nzechukwu def Carlos Ulberg via Knockout, Round 2 (3:19)

Fast start from Ulberg as he hurts Nzechukwu! Ulberg on the back foot but threw some front kicks and a combination of strikes wobbles Nzechukwu but he keeps a high guard and survives the beating for now. Nzehukwu continues to walk forward but Ulberg stays patient and lands some nice leg kicks. Nzechukwu starting to come forward and land strikes of his own and a left hand wobbles Ulberg! Ulberg starts throwing some heavy body shots but Nzechukwu keeps coming forward and both men are trading in the centre now! Ulberg is very tired nowbut still landing the heavier shots as the round ends. 10-9 Ulberg. What a round!

A slower start to the round for Ulberg as he starts picking his shots more and landing jabs nicely. Nice on-two from Nzechukwu lands but both men landing heavy on each other. Big body kick from Ulberg followed with a one-two but there’s an accidental thumb in the eye that causes a short break in the action. Ulberg’s volume is higher but the power has diminished greatly from the opening exchanges and Nzechukwu’s cardio is carrying him through this bout right now. Nasty low kicks from Ulberg and a right hand lands then Nzechukwu lands a HUGE right hand!! Oh my god what a knockout!!! Kennedy Nzechukwu!

Tim Elliott def Jordan Espinosa via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2, 30-25)

Fast pace to start this fight with Espinosa flicking out jabs and kicks as Elliott walks him down and applies pressure. A clinch against the cage and Elliott lands some nice knees before they break and Espinosa lands a nice left hook before another clinch against the cage. They separate again and Espinosa throws a big head kick that misses by inches and Elliott is able to take him down and get on his back. Espinosa fighting the hands well as Elliott looks for a rear-naked choke but he gets his back to the cage and is able to avert that threat. Elliott controls the position for the rest of the round and should have that in the books. 10-9 Elliot.

Second round starts exactly as the first ended, with Espinosa throwing a head kick that Elliott ducks and gets the takedown but this time Espinosa is able to get back up to his feet quickly. Elliott pushes the pace and lands a second takedown quickly and stays in the half guard grinding away with short strikes. Elliott starting to suffocate Espinosa with pressure and a great wrestling game, riding the back and looking to sink in a rear-naked choke. Espinosa gets away from it but Elliott is smothering him and beating him up bad as he lands elbows and chokes him with his forearm until the round ends. That’s a 10-8 round, so 20-17 Elliott.

Espinosa opens the round with a flying knee but Elliott catches him with ease and takes the fight down to the ground immediately and starts throwing heavy strikes. Espinosa throwing some elbows from the bottom and cuts Elliott open badly, but he continues to be completely smothered by the top game. Elliott throwing heavy shots and some elbows of his own and then Espinosa throws up an armbar attempt that Elliott avoids and he controls from top position for the rest of the round. Great performance from Elliott.

PRELIMS

Kai Kara-France def Rogerio Bontorin via Knockout, Round 1 (4:55)

Good start to the round from Bontorin as he comes forward and strikes well, with a few leg kicks and some nice right hands. A right cross wobbles Kara-France and Bontorin goes in for a takedown and dumps him down with ease, then takes the back immediately. Bontorin threatening the rear-naked choke straight away and dominating on the back, flowing perfectly with a body triangle locked in but Kara-France is fighting the hands brilliantly to avoid the submission. He finally shakes Bontorin off and they get back to the feet with 30 seconds remaining. Bontorin looks tired but Kara-France comes forward and lands a three punch combo that puts Bontorin out!! Walk off KO!! Wow!!

Askar Askarov def Joseph Benavidez via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x2. 30-26)

Good competitive start to the fight as Askarov throws some nice front kicks from the lead leg, while Benavidez looks to throw looping hooks. Askarov’s kicks doing damage early on to the mid-section, but Benavidez lands a nice one-two. Askarov keeps it coming and lands a big right hook, then a left hand behind it. Askarov eats a right hand from Benavidez then lands another right hand of his own, before he goes in for the takedown. He closes the distance, wins the scrambles and lifts before taking the back and threatening the submission before the round ends. 10-9 Askarov.

Benavidez comes out strong in the second round, looking to swarm him against the cage with his looping hooks but Askarov takes it and returns fire with his own. Askarov wobbles Benavidez with a right hand and goes right back to the takedown attempts, getting a lift and putting the fight on the ground immediately. Askarov dominating the grappling exchanges, landing short strikes on the ground while taking the back and threatening with choke positions too. Benavidez stays on the ground for the remainder of the round until with five seconds to go Askarov cracks him with a huge right hand on the feet. Huge round for Askarov again. 20-18.

Final round and Askarov staying very patient as Benavidez comes forward knowing he needs a finish. Lovely question mark kick lands flush on the chin of Benavidez but he eats it and comes forward again, moving forward with a head kick of his own that just misses. Right hook from Askarov lands and knocks Benavidez off balance but he gets back up quickly. Head kick again from Askarov is partially blocked by Benavidez but still lands enough to wobble him as we enter the final two minutes. Benavidez throws a big superman punch that lands clean but Askarov eats it and replies with a jab into the final minute. Lots of attempts from Benavidez for big strikes but he’s nowhere near Askarov and this should be a comfortable decision win. 30-27.

Kyler Phillips def Song Yadong via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Positive start for Phillips as he comes with a big right hand earlier then a spinning kick that just misses. Yadong eventually takes the centre and starts throwing some straights but Phillips throws a stunning head kick that lands flush but Yadong just eats it. Amazing. Phillips tries another spin but misses again as Yadong lands with a nice uppercut then misses with a spin kick of his own. Phillips landing first with his jabs and right straights so far but Yadong continues to move forward. Phillips changes levels and goes for a takedown but Yadong scrambles back up to his feet immediately and eats a one-two as the round ends with an exchange against the cage. 10-9 Phillips.

Yadong comes out strong in the second round but Phillips being first again. Phillips slowing down a little from the first round but still landing heavy and as they break from a clinch he throws a beautiful spinning back kick again. Song trying to close the distance and landing big hooks but Phillips doing well to be first and stay out of the way. Nice jab from Phillips knocks Yadong off balance on his way in, then after some back and forth on the feet Phillips slides in for a big takedown and gets it beautifully. Yadong scrambles his way back to the feet once again but he’s starting to look desperate. Big right hand lands from Yadong but the round ends with both men fresh. 20-18 Phillips.

Phillips looks calm as they enter the final round, with Yadong knowing he needs the finish. Phillips shoots for a takedown early but Yadong sprawls quickly and gets up to throw heat straight away. Nice flurry to the body ends with a left hook to the chin, but Phillips moves away and keeps his guard high. Both men exchange a straight right and Yadong is starting to close the distance a bit more and land better shots. Another exchange in the pocket that Yadong wins, but Phillips shoots in for a takedown and for the first time is able to keep him down. Phillips looks to take his back but Yadong reverses and ends up on top in the final minute. The round ends with Yadong on top and Phillips looking for a submission in what should be a Phillips decision win. 29-28.

Dominick Cruz def Casey Kenney via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)

Cruz starts with an immediate takedown attempt that is sprawled on by Kenney but breaks away from the front headlock position and starts landing some leg kicks. Kenney takes the centre and starts backing Cruz up against the cage with both guys exchanging low kicks. Big left hand lands from Cruz but Casey eats it and keeps walking forward, before Kenney throws another strong leg kick. Very back and forth round, I edge it 10-9 to Cruz.

Strong start to the round from Kenney as he lands a big leg kick that drops Cruz to one knee for a second. Cruz rallies with a nice one-two but Kenney starting to get the timing down a bit more and is landing cleaner shots now. Straight left from Kenney lands before two more leg kicks. Cruz lands a nice right hand to the body followed by a straight right to the face, but Kenney keeps coming forward and throws a body kick. Cruz avoids a right hand and charges forward with several clean shots to the face but Kenney takes them and lands two back of his own. Big right hand from Cruz lands but Kenney responds with another leg kick. Left hand from Kenney lands on the chin and then he grabs the neck for a guillotine attempt but Cruz is safe and the round ends. 19-19 but close yet again.

Cruz shoots in for a takedown early on then abandons it and lands a big left hook up top. Shoots back in for a takedown again against the cage, but Kenney looks to defend with a guillotine attempt although Cruz is on the right side to avoid the threat too much. Cruz takes half guard and starts landing some body shots but Kenney then gets up to his feet with ease and they go back to striking. Left hand from Kenney staggers Cruz who then is able to evade an attack and lands a counter right hand. Kenney lands a couple of big hooks but Cruz responds with three big punches of his own as we enter the final 90 seconds. Cruz denies another takedown attempt from Kenney and lands a big knee to the body, then follows up with a one two. Cruz then shoots for a takedown of his own and gets Kenney down and holds him down against the cage to see out the fight. 29-28 Cruz for me, but a great fight.

MAIN CARD

Aleksandar Rakic def Thiago Santos (29-28 x2, 30-27)

Tense opening to the fight as both men throw out feints and feelers but neither committing too much just yet. Santos charges forward with his left hand but Rakic steps back and lands a nice check right hook. A few leg kicks from each guy as Rakic takes the centre, but Santos staying patient on the outside. Big left hand from Santos but it’s blocked well from Rakic and they reset in the middle. Rakic fakes the right hand and Santos throws his left, which he slips and he throws a big head kick but Santos ducks under it. Nice jab from Rakic then a big body kick from Santos lands. 10-9 Rakic but not much action in that one.

Rakic takes the centre immediately as the round starts and lands a nice jab but both men being cautious once again. Rakic faking a level change and Santos threatens with a kick up the middle before trying to close the distance with his left hand but just missing. Rakic clinches up with Santos against the cage and both guys trade knees to the body and thighs. Another action-less round for the most part as we enter the final minute. Santos swings his left hand but misses and Rakic counters with a right hand and the round ends. 20-18 but not the most impressive performance so far.

Santos shoots for a takedown early on in the third round but Rakic is able to hold him off easily and turns the tables to put Santos against the cage. Huge body kick from Santos lands and Rakic tries to grab the leg but it looks like it hurt him a little. They trade leg kicks again before more feinting and missed hooks from both fighters. Rakic goes for a takedown but Santos defends well and starts landing some big elbows to the head. Rakic tries again but it’s defended well and Santos lands some nice knees in the clinch that follows as we enter the final minute. Not much happens in the final minute and it should be a win for Rakic on the scorecards. 30-27 or 29-28.

Islam Makhachev def Drew Dober via Submission (Arm Triangle Choke), Round 3 (1:37)

Good start from Dober as he fires in a low kick followed by a jab, before Makhahev shoots for a single leg takedown and gets the fight to the ground immediately. Makhachev in half guard but very heavy on top in a chest to chest position as he goes body head with strikes. Makhachev slides into mount momentarily but Dober gets it back to half guard before he passes into side control. Makhachev tries to slide onto the back of Dober but he manages to move away before Makhachev slides through quickly back into side control. He takes the back and then transitions to an armbar, but runs out of time and Dober survives. 10-9 Makhachev.

Second round once again and Makhachev avoids a big hook before another single leg takedown and trip gets the fight back to the ground. Makhachev is able to tie the legs of Dober up between his own and starts pressuring with his top game again with body strikes. Completely dominant so far from Makhachev in full guard, landing more and more ground and pound with a flush elbow to the face. Round ends with Makhacehv in control, 10-8 round. 20-17.

Dober throws a big left hand that Makhachev slips and then he goes for a bear hug like takedown and gets it. Dober attempts a kimura to defend but Makhachev is able to step over and defend it. As soon as Dober lets go Makhachev slides his shoulder under the chin of Dober and secures the submission out of nowhere! Super impressive performance from Makhachev.

Aljamain Sterling def Petr Yan via Disqualification (Illegal Knee), Round 4 (4:29)

Fast paced start to this fight from Sterling as he moves forward quickly and is right in the face of Yan applying lots of pressure. Constantly touching him and kicking his body and making it really uncomfortable. Body kick attempt from Sterling lands and gets caught by Yan who throws him to the ground. Sterling lands a flying knee and keeps coming forward then gets a takedown himself. Yan is able to get back to the feet then lands a big right hand that drops Sterling! Both fighters keep up the high pace for the rest of the round, super close. 10-9 Sterling but could go either way.

Sterling comes out fast again in the second round and goes for a takedown but Yan is able to defend it well and ends up standing with Sterling on the floor under him. The referee stands them up after some leg kicks from Yan and then Sterling goes in for the takedowns once again, but Yan defends well for the most part. Sterling goes for the takedown against the cage but Yan is defending well as we enter the final minute. Sterling steps away and tries to trip him but it fails and he continues to come forward. Yan ends up behind Sterling and takes him down for the final 15 seconds. 20-18 Sterling for me, but could be 19-19.

Third round and Yan is starting to go for the body a bit more as Sterling starts to slow down. Sterling still touching him with jabs but Yan is taking over now a bit more, landing more shots and seeing everything Sterling is doing. Sterling trying to throw more strikes but he’s considerably tired and the champ is opening up a bit more with some takedowns of his own as well as a few solid right hands. 29-28 either way.

Fourth round and Yan is taking over the fight now. Sterling is shooting in with lazy takedown attempts and Yan is dominating the striking exchanges and landing at will almost. Yan stuffing all the takedown attempts at chopping away at the legs and body of Sterling, controlling the entire pace of the fight. Yan holds Sterling down and throws an illegal knee to the head of Sterling! Oh my goodness. Sterling is out of it right now and the referee calls in the doctor and waves the fight off. Wow. New champion via DQ.

Amanda Nunes def Megan Anderson via Submission, Round 1 (2:03)

Anderson takes the centre of the cage and Nunes takes her time to step forward.. big overhand right lands from Nunes and rocks Anderson immediately. She steps forward and lands two more that drop Anderson. She lands some ground and pound then switches to an armbar and triangle at the same time to force the submission. The best ever.

Jan Blachowicz def Israel Adesanya via Unanimous Decision (49-45 x2, 49-46)

Composed start to the fight from both fighters as Adesanya looks to get his range with feints while Blachowicz takes his time coming forward. Adesanya throws a few head kicks that are blocked by Blachowicz, who throws a few leg kicks that land and some right hands that miss. A few more leg kicks from each fighter as the fight continues at a relatively slow pace. Adesanya lands a nice body kick but is forced backwards as Blachowicz comes forward with a left straight. Round comes to an end without much action but probably an Adesanya round for pressing the action.

Adesanya comes out with a bit more speed in this round and flicks out his leg kicks well, but Blachowicz starts checking them. Blachowicz fires back with a nice one-two that lands on Adesanya but doesn’t connect quite flush. Adesanya chopping away at the leg of Blachowicz who lands a nice jab to the body and closest the distance and tries to clinch, but Adesanya escapes quickly. Adesanya lands an inadvertant low blow that causes a very short break in the action before a second low blow moments later is also accidental and causes a break. Blachowicz comes forward with a flurry into a clinch pop Adesanya gets out and keeps landing jabs and low kicks. 20-18 Adesanya but not a lot of big moments so far.

Blachowicz comes out harder in the third round and starts blasting some punches that land, then shoots in for a takedown and gets it. He tries to take Adesanya’s back but Izzy slips away and counters with a big left hand that rocks Blachowicz! Adesanya lands a few jabs but stays relatively calm before Blachowicz clinches up with him again against the cage but Adesanya once again pulls away. Both fighters exchange jabs and then Blachowicz lands a nice stiff right straight. Adesanya goes for a body kick that gets caught but nothing comes from it and the round ends. 30-27 Izzy, but could be 29-28.

Fourth round and Adesanya is opening up a bit more now. Some nice jabs and leg kicks land as Blachowicz is still looking for the big hooks and straights. More of the same as the round progresses before Blachowicz shoots for a takedown and gets it. From there on, he controls from half guard and side control and drops big ground and pound strikes and just wears on Adesanya. Jan’s round without a doubt. 39-37 Izzy for me but could be 38-38.

Final round and Blachowicz is breathing very heavily, so Adesanya comes forward with a bit more pace. Lots of jabs and he tries to follow it up with a straight right hand but Blachowicz avoids. Not much urgency from either fighter just yet and Blachowicz blasts a takedown half way through the round. Blachowicz starts hammering away with ground and pound and moves into half guard. He continues to control the round and then moves into mount as it comes to an end to reign down punches. 3-2 either way.. good fight.

UFC 259: Blachowicz vs Adesanya – Main Card Predictions

The biggest and best card of 2021 is finally upon as as a title fight triple header takes place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

Petr Yan will defend his bantamweight title against Aljamain Sterling in potentially the best 135lbs title fight ever, before Amanda Nunes returns to the octagon to fight Megan Anderson in a featherweight title fight. The card will be headlined by Israel Adesanya trying to become just the fifth dual-weight simultaneous champion in the companies history as he moves up to light heavyweight to take on Jan Blachowicz.

Elsewhere on the card, Islam Makhachev returns to the octagon to take on Drew Dober while bantamweight great Dominick Cruz headlines the prelims against Casey Kenney in a do-or-die fight for his career on a blockbuster 15 fight card.

Last week at UFC Vegas 20 we had a poor night for predictions going 4/9 on the night, although it was worsened by a majority draw and a dodgy decision too. It moved us to 240/380 (63.16%) with 108 perfect picks (45%) since starting our predictions.

We’ll look to move ahead with a big week this week on a stacked card, breaking the card down into three this week. We’ve already predicted the early prelims here and the rest of the prelims here, so lets move onto the main card now.


Thiago Santos (21-8) vs Aleksandar Rakic (13-2) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

An absolute war is sure to happen here in the light heavyweight division between the scarily powerful Thiago Santos and the hottest prospect in the division in Aleksandar Rakic. Santos was on a tear in the 205lbs division before losing a close decision to Jon Jones in the title fight where he blew out both knees, before being finished by Glover Teixeira last time out at UFC Vegas 13. Rakic bounced back from a decision defeat to Volkan Oezdemir with a dominant decision win over Anthony Smith in the main event of UFC Vegas 8.

Santos is a tremendous kickboxer with enough power to put anyone out cold with one punch, while Rakic is a really technical striker who showed his excellent wrestling game against Smith last time out. Rakic has knockout power of his own with nine stoppage wins and has the youth and size factor on his side too. The likelihood is Rakic uses his boxing game and mixes in takedowns for a decision win.
PICK – Aleksandar Rakic via Decision

Islam Makhachev (18-1) vs Drew Dober (23-9) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

A lightweight fight between two guys expected to be contenders in the future as Makhachev takes on Drew Dober. Makhachev hasn’t fought in almost 18 months, but is on a six-fight win streak coming into this one. Dober on the other hand has won six of his last seven, with his only defeat coming to Beneil Dariush in the middle of that run.

Makhachev is an active striker who uses his length brilliantly and also has a hugely impressive ground game, which you’d expect considering he trains with the champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Dober is a decent boxer with a pretty impressive ground game too, as shown by his six submission wins in his career. The likelihood of this fight is that while Makhachev should get the win, we won’t see him at his free-flowing striking best. I think they’ll exchange on the feet and Makhachev will take it down to the ground and just control his way to a win.
PICK – Islam Makhachev via Decision

Petr Yan (15-1) vs Aljamain Sterling (19-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

For my liking, the best fight on the card. The bantamweight division is arguably the most stacked in the entire company and these two are the very best of that bunch. Yan is on a a ten-fight win streak and currently sits at 7-0 in the UFC, winning the title in his last fight by KO’ing Jose Aldo on Fight Island at UFC 251. Sterling is a UFC veteran but is only 31 years old and is currently riding a five-fight win streak beating all the top guys in the world en route, including Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250 with a sub-90 second submission.

Yan is a stunning boxer who’s punching and footwork in the pocket saw him outstrike the legendary Aldo and has seen him rack up seven KO wins in his career. He’s also got excellent takedown defence as he showed when he avenged the only defeat of his career against Magomed Magomedov outside the UFC. Sterling is potentially the best grappler in the division with super jiu-jitsu but he’s also a decent striker too. It’s a really intriguing fight between the two and it could quite easily go either way.

We’ve not had to see Yan on the ground in the UFC and if anyone is going to get him there it’s Sterling. Sterling has a four inch reach advantage too and likes to use his kicks to keep distance. While it’s more than possible that Yan closes that distance and just outboxes him from the pocket but something tells me that Sterling will be able to get a takedown in the rounds and control from the top position for a new champion.
PICK – Aljamain Sterling via Submission, Round 4

Amanda Nunes (20-4) vs Megan Anderson (11-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

The women’s G.O.A.T is back to defend her 145lbs belt once again as she takes on a legitimate featherweight in Megan Anderson. Nunes is on an 11-fight win streak having won two belts and beaten everyone there is to beat en route to this fight, including Felicia Spencer most recently at UFC 250. Anderson is a world class fighter on a two-fight win streak after beating Zarah Fairn dos Santos and Norma Dumont.

Nunes is the hardest hitting woman ever while also being a truly great grappler and an extremely good kicker. While Anderson is a hard hitter too with a great right cross and a good clinch game, she doesn’t match up to Nunes’ level anywhere. It’s really hard to see how Anderson can get a win here, with the truest description of the outcome here being that if Nunes is motivated then she wins by stoppage.
PICK – Amanda Nunes via Knockout, Round 3

Jan Blachowicz (27-8) vs Israel Adesanya (20-0) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

The main event sees champion vs champion with the light heavyweight king Jan Blachowicz making the first defence of his title against middleweight king Israel Adesanya. Blachowicz is on a four-fight win streak, knocking out Luke Rockhold, Corey Anderson and Dominick Reyes in that run. Adesanya is undefeated and has run through everyone in the division, KO’ing his rival Paulo Costa at UFC 253 last time out to retain his title.

This should prove to be Adesanya’s toughest test yet. He’s expected to weigh in at around 193lbs, way below the limit, while Blachowicz will be cutting weight to get there so there is a considerable size difference between them. Blachowicz is a powerful puncher with good submission skills and decent grappling, but at 38 years old he isn’t the quickest or sharpest anymore. Adesanya has a height and reach advantage over the Polish fighter and he will look to use that and his speed to avoid anything and point score/counter strike. Blachowicz will undoubtedly look to put this fight on the ground to use his size advantage but I think Adesanya will be too quick and be able to get a stoppage. I’m envisioning a head kick followed by a TKO by strikes, but it should be a super main event.
PICK – Israel Adesanya via Knockout, Round 2

UFC 259: Blachowicz vs Adesanya – Prelims predictions

The biggest and best card of 2021 is finally upon as as a title fight triple header takes place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

Petr Yan will defend his bantamweight title against Aljamain Sterling in potentially the best 135lbs title fight ever, before Amanda Nunes returns to the octagon to fight Megan Anderson in a featherweight title fight. The card will be headlined by Israel Adesanya trying to become just the fifth dual-weight simultaneous champion in the companies history as he moves up to light heavyweight to take on Jan Blachowicz.

Elsewhere on the card, Islam Makhachev returns to the octagon to take on Drew Dober while bantamweight great Dominick Cruz headlines the prelims against Casey Kenney in a do-or-die fight for his career on a blockbuster 15 fight card.

Last week at UFC Vegas 20 we had a poor night for predictions going 4/9 on the night, although it was worsened by a majority draw and a dodgy decision too. It moved us to 240/380 (63.16%) with 108 perfect picks (45%) since starting our predictions.

We’ll look to move ahead with a big week this week on a stacked card, breaking the card down into three this week. We’ve already looked at the early prelims here, so move onto the rest of the prelims now.


Rogerio Bontorin (16-2) vs Kai Kara-France (21-9) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A really enticing flyweight bout here between two guys looking to climb the rankings in the UFC. Bontorin lost his only fight in 2020 via decision to Ray Borg, while Kara-France has lost two of his last three to Brandon Moreno and most recently Brandon Royval at UFC 253 with a win over Tyson Nam sandwiched between them.

Bontorin is a fighter who loves to fight wherever the bout goes. He’s a tireless striker and relentless with pressure but probably prefers the fight on the ground where he can fish for submissions as his 11 wins via tap-out show. Kara-France himself is a great striker with good striking defence but also excellent wrestling defence. It’s a traditional grappler vs striker bout, but with both guys willing to enter the other’s world if needs be. Both can hold their own in the other’s strengths and it makes it a competitive bout. Kara-France’s volume is good and defensively he is better, but Bontorin could potentially get the takedown early and throw this all out of the water but I think he gets it done.
PICK – Kai Kara-France via Decision

Joseph Benavidez (28-7) vs Askar Askarov (12-0-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A really super fight in the 125lbs division as Joseph Benavidez returns to the octagon for the first time since being choked unconscious by Deiveson Figueiredo in a title fight on Fight Island, while Askar Askarov looks to remain unbeaten after beating Alexandre Pantoja on the same card.

Benavidez is a sensational fighter and arguably one of the best to never win UFC gold and is coming off consecutive losses for the first time in his illustrious career. Askarov on the other hand is 2-0-1 in the UFC, drawing his debut against Brandon Moreno before defeating Tim Elliot and Pantoja. Benavidez is a tremendous striker with great speed and combinations, with a great ground game and also great defence while Askarov is a great power striker with super technique.

The real question in this fight is whether getting separated from consciousness by Figueiredo twice in five months has a lasting effect on him. I think he’s too experienced to let it and Benavidez’s hand speed should cause him problems but it’s a super close fight.
PICK – Joseph Benavidez via Decision

Song Yadong (16-4-1) vs Kyler Phillips (8-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

A banger at bantamweight as the ever-impressive Yadong returns to the octagon to take on ‘Matrix’ on a three-fight win streak. Yadong beat Marlon Vera back in May last year, while Phillips got two wins in 2020 against Gabriel Silva and Cameron Else.

Yadong is a brilliant boxer and at 23 looks as obvious a prospect as you’ll ever see, but he showed in his last two fights that he still has plenty to work on in his game. Phillips is a power striker himself, who’s not quite as technical but is arguably just as solid when it comes to a knockout finish. His gas tank has given him issues in the past and Phillips will look to use his wrestling skills if they become prevalent once again, but I believe Yadong will address those issues in this fight and be able to strike his way to a win.
PICK – Song Yadong via Decision

Dominick Cruz (22-3) vs Casey Kenney (16-2-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

The featured prelim bout is a bantamweight banger too as the legendary Dominick Cruz returns to the octagon to take on the impressive prospect in Casey Kenney. Cruz’s last fight was a defeat to Henry Cejudo at UFC 249, with the referee’s decision to stop it still criticised to this day. On the other hand, Kenney went 3-1 in 2020 following up a defeat to Merab Dvalishvili with wins over Louis Smolka, Heili Alateng and then Nathaniel Wood at UFC 254.

Cruz is one of the best ever, with incredible footwork and excellent striking to go with his world class wrestling base. Kenney is a super grappler with a good striking toolbox too, but his gas tank issues have been a big deal in recent bouts. He was visibly tiring in his win over Wood, but that’s a completely different level of fighter compared to what we know Cruz to be. Kenney will march forward and put pressure on Cruz, but ‘The Dominator’ is phenomenal at evading big strikes for the most part and I think he will be able to use that experience to get a win – but it’s entirely dependable on which Cruz turns up.
PICK – Dominick Cruz via Decision

UFC 259: Blachowicz vs Adesanya – Early prelims predictions

The biggest and best card of 2021 is finally upon as as a title fight triple header takes place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

Petr Yan will defend his bantamweight title against Aljamain Sterling in potentially the best 135lbs title fight ever, before Amanda Nunes returns to the octagon to fight Megan Anderson in a featherweight title fight. The card will be headlined by Israel Adesanya trying to become just the fifth dual-weight simultaneous champion in the companies history as he moves up to light heavyweight to take on Jan Blachowicz.

Elsewhere on the card, Islam Makhachev returns to the octagon to take on Drew Dober while bantamweight great Dominick Cruz headlines the prelims against Casey Kenney in a do-or-die fight for his career on a blockbuster 15 fight card.

Last week at UFC Vegas 20 we had a poor night for predictions going 4/9 on the night, although it was worsened by a majority draw and a dodgy decision too. It moved us to 240/380 (63.16%) with 108 perfect picks (45%) since starting our predictions.

We’ll look to move ahead with a big week this week on a stacked card, breaking the card down into three this week.


Mario Bautista (8-1) vs Trevin Jones (12-6 1NC) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

The opening fight of the card is a fun bantamweight fight between two up and comers in the UFC. Bautista is coming off two wins in a row after losing his debut on short-notice to Cory Sandhagen, where he beat Jin Soo Son and Miles Johns, while Jones’s UFC debut win over Timur Valiev at UFC Vegas 7 was overturned to a no-contest following a positive test for marijuana.

Bautista is a great striker, with fantastic knees and straight punches while Jones is a power puncher with a strong wrestling base behind him too. Bautista has really good takedown defence too but is so well rounded when it comes to MMA that he should be considered a threat wherever the fight goes. Jones is more one-dimensional and will likely find himself with his back to the cage and his best path to victory is with that role reversed. Bautista is good enough to avoid takedowns and if he doesn’t, he’s great at getting back to his feet quickly. On the feet, Bautista has a clear advantage and I think he’ll be able to pick Jones off for the victory while standing.
PICK – Mario Bautista via Decision

Uros Medic (6-0) vs Aalon Cruz (8-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

A UFC debut for Serbian lightweight Uros Medic as he takes on fellow Contender Series alumni Aalon Cruz. Medic is 6-0 with all finishes in his career, including a knockout against Mikey Gonzalez back in August. Cruz made his UFC debut in February last year where he was knocked out in 85 seconds by Spike Carlyle.

Medic has never gone past the first minute of a second round because of the pure power and aggression he shows in fights. While Cruz is the more weathered fighter who has fought much better competition, he tends to back up in straight lines when defending and when he got cracked by Carlyle his response was less than impressive. He has a huge reach advantage over Medic but he doesn’t really fight in a way that uses it well and if Medic steps forward with the same aggression and clips him early then this could be a short night in ‘The Doctor’s’ favour.
PICK – Uros Medic via Knockout, Round 1

Livinha Souza (14-2) vs Amanda Lemos (8-1-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

A strawweight fight between two women who won their only fight in 2020 and will look keep that momentum going in 2021. Souza won her first two fights in the UFC before losing to Brianna Van Buren, but she bounced back with a unanimous decision win over Ashley Yoder at UFC 242. Lemos made it consecutive wins in the same month with her decision win over Mizuki Inoue making her 2-0 since her suspension for a failed drugs test.

Souza’s skillset should see her much higher up in the reckoning of the strawweight world. She has tremendous striking, brilliant jiu-jitsu skills and even some judo throws under her belt with ten stoppage wins in her career paying to that. Lemos is an active striker, with great grappling skills of her own but her volume should see her take this fight. If Souza can’t outwrestle her opponent she seems to panic a bit despite her great skills and she just doesn’t let her hands go. If that’s the case here, Lemos will punish her with strikes and should take the victory.
PICK – Amanda Lemos via Decision

Sean Brady (13-0) vs Jake Matthews (17-4) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

A cracker of a fight at welterweight between the undefeated Sean Brady and ‘The Celtic Kid’ Jake Matthews. Brady made his UFC debut back in 2019 and has gone 3-0, beating Christian Aguilera last time out in August 2020 at UFC Vegas 8. Matthews is a UFC vet despite being only 26 years old and is on a three-fight win streak after beating Diego Sanchez on Fight Island last year at UFC 253.

Brady and Matthews are very similar in style and this should be a competitive match up. Both are good wrestlers with good striking too, but Matthews is more of a finisher on the mat while Brady tends to mix it up a little more. Despite that, Matthews has only had one submission win in the last five years and while he’ll look for the takedowns more Brady is arguably the slightly better wrestler of the two and he has the edge on the feet too. That quality should shine through and Brady should do enough to get a decision win.
PICK – Sean Brady via Decision

Kennedy Nzechukwu (7-1) vs Carlos Ulberg (5-0) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

Two relative newcomers to the light heavyweight division meet up on the card where the title is on the line to showcase their skills as prospects. ‘The African Savage’ is 1-1 in the UFC and took all of 2020 off following his last win, while Ulberg is an undefeated prospect making his UFC debut in this game.

Nzechukwu is 6ft 5′ tall and incredibly lengthy when it comes to his striking, while Ulberg is a former professional kickboxer who has transitioned over to MMA and brought those striking skills to the fore with him. Nzechukwu doesn’t like to commit too much and a real lack of volume means he’s in for a torrid time against Ulberg who is quicker, better technically and arguably just as powerful. Ulberg will feint, leg kick and then terrorise Nzechukwu for a spectacular finish.
PICK – Carlos Ulberg via Knockout, Round 2

Tim Elliott (17-11-1) vs Jordan Espinosa (15-8) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A super fun flyweight fight between two guys who could be fighting for their careers in the company. Both Elliott and Espinosa have lost three out of their last four, with Elliot winning against Ryan Benoit last time out on Fight Island after defeats to Deiveson Figueiredo, Askar Askarov and Brandon Royval. Espinosa lost his last fight to David Dvorak at UFC Vegas 11, after beating Mark De La Rosa and losing to Alex Perez and Matt Schnell.

Elliott is a wrestler by trade and always looks to get the takedown and smother his opponents on the ground, while Espinosa is a mobile striker who likes to shoot himself in the foot strategically in fights. Elliott will look to box himself into takedown range and despite Espinosa’s reach and footwork advantage he should be able to push the pace for a relatively comfortable win.
PICK – Tim Elliott via Decision

What’s left for Amanda Nunes if she wins again at UFC 259?

The women’s G.O.A.T is back once again to defend one of her two UFC titles at UFC 259 as Amanda Nunes steps into the octagon to take on Megan Anderson.

The Brazilian last fought back at UFC 250 in June 2020, where she demolished Felicia Spencer to a unanimous decision win. It was her first defence of her 145lbs title since winning the belt from Cris Cyborg way back in 2018, with a lack of contenders available for her crown.

She remained active, defending her bantamweight title twice by KO’ing Holly Holm and then dominating against Germaine De Randamie after that too.

There isn’t a featherweight rankings in the company, since the division was essentially made just for Cyborg. When she got beaten by Nunes, she had just one more fight in the company before leaving for Bellator when her contract expired. The division now sits idle, with the odd challenger surfacing to take on Nunes after an impressive win or two.

In the bantamweight division, Nunes has categorically cleared it out. She’s defeated every single former women’s champion in UFC history in her two weight-classes plus defeating flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko twice before also.

UFC 250: Nunes vs Spencer : News Photo

While the division has started to move on and there are some contenders appearing towards the top end of the rankings, when matched up in comparison to Nunes none of them seem quite worthy enough. Every fight seems a one-way car crash for the challenger and it gets harder and harder to see how the champion can remain motivated.

She recently became a mother, with her partner Nina Ansaroff giving birth in September and Nunes has previously toyed with the thought of retirement to look after her new daughter after achieving everything there is to succeed.

Nunes is the only fighter in history to defend both of her titles as a double champion in the UFC and she continues to train hard and keep pushing to make history. But realistically, a win over Anderson puts her at a true crossroads in her career.

Anderson is a legitimate featherweight who has to cut weight to make the 145lbs limit, so poses a much realer threat than Spencer did to the title. But the expectation is still that Nunes gets a comfortable victory, with fans, analysts and with the bookmakers – ‘The Lioness’ is a huge 1/10 favourite in some places.

If she gets the win that many expect her to, what could possibly be next?

There’s the potential that she hangs around and goes back down to bantamweight to take on the likes of Aspen Ladd, Irene Aldana, Yana Kunitskaya and Juliana Pena to prove once and for all that she is the best of her generation and better than the next too.

But is dropping weight again for the first time since 2019 appealing to a woman who has nothing to prove to anyone. She’s already the benchmark for women’s MMA and will go down as the consensus greatest of all time, with a hall-of-fame CV largely beaten by stoppages.

When everything gets taken into consideration, the most likely option is that Nunes lays her gloves down after this fight.

A win means she goes out on top of the game with nobody questioning anything. The new daughter is a big factor in her life and decisions going forward, so by retiring at the top she can look after her child while her partner Ansaroff continues to try and realise her own dream of becoming the strawweight champion.

UFC 259 is due to be the biggest card of the year by a country mile, but it could also mark the end of one of the greatest careers in mixed martial arts history.

Israel Adesanya could become the best dual-weight champion in UFC history

The biggest and best card of the year, undoubtedly, takes place this weekend at UFC 259 and will be headlined by a super-fight between the middleweight champion Israel Adesanya challenging for the light heavyweight title against Jan Blachowicz.

Both fighters last competed back at UFC 253, where Blachowicz knocked out Dominick Reyes to win the vacant light heavyweight title after Jon Jones planned to move up to heavyweight. In the very next fight on the card, Adesanya cemented his run as the best middleweight champion since Anderson Silva with a stunning knockout win over rival Paulo Costa inside two rounds.

After cleaning out the division, ‘The Last Stylebender’ made the decision to move up a division instead of fighting Robert Whittaker again – the man he beat to become the undisputed champion.

He was supposed to fight Jon Jones in this super-fight. That was always his plan. That’s why he picked a fight with ‘Bones’ before he even became the middleweight champion.

But with Jones opting to move to heavyweight after cleaning out the 205lbs weight class, a fight seems further away than ever before from happening. But that didn’t stop Adesanya from making the move anyway, where he will take on Blachowicz’s ‘Polish power’ to become only the fifth dual-weight simultaneous champion in the history of the company.

Amazingly, the talk is that Adesanya isn’t planning to put on any weight for his fight up a division – despite the 20lbs difference between the weight classes.

It’s expected that the 31-year-old will instead just not cut any weight for the fight, which should still see him weigh in way below the limit considering he’s previously weighed in for title fights as low as 183lbs. After an appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, he revealed he usually walks around at around 203lbs so don’t be surprised to see a similar sort of weigh in weight.

Many people seem to be looking at this fight as a crowning for Adesanya, with Blachowicz being overlooked and almost looked at as a paper champion.

He never beat the previous champion to win the belt and the wide assumption is that Adesanya is going to come in and take the belt that he worked for over 13 years to earn as a professional fighter.

Blachowicz is going to be the biggest man he has fought in the UFC and by quite some distance. He has a huge power advantage, he’s more durable than most and he’s also an effective grappler if he needs to be, despite preferring a stand up war. He’s also vastly experienced in MMA in comparison to Adesanya.

That’s not to say Adesanya doesn’t have the ability to win. He has a speed and technical advantage while also having arguably the best striking techniques in the entire sport – regardless of weight class.

He’s also got one of the best brains for mixed martial arts too and while he’s never seen to be ‘picking his battles’ per say, he definitely knows which fights will be easier for him than others. He knew he’d be able to walk through Costa, he knew he’d have a war on his hands against Gastelum and he knows he can beat Blachowicz.

If he does get the win, Adesanya could be the man to become a really dominant two-weight world champion in a similar way to Amanda Nunes for the women. He could bounce between the weights, has shown a willingness to be active constantly throughout his career and has never turned down opponents before.

As Conor McGregor’s star begins to fade and Jones’ accolades come into question more and more with each poor performance, Adesanya is on the verge of becoming the biggest star in the sport.

Dominick Cruz fighting to keep the torch of his career burning

If you go back through the history of the UFC bantamweight division, there is one name synonymous with the title picture.

The inaugural champion, the champion with the most successful defences in the division’s history and one of the greatest of all-time, Dominick Cruz will undoubtedly go down as a legend of the sport.

His phenomenal footwork and speed to go with his striking and grappling have not only made him the benchmark for years, but they’ve also seen his career progress into him becoming one of the better analysts and commentators around right now.

It’s so easy to forget that Cruz is only 35 years old right now. The physical prime of his career and he should be peaking right now if you look at the rest of the division. Instead, we’re contemplating whether a defeat could spell the end of his career inside the cage as an active fighter.

It’s indisputable that his time at the top of the game has been severely plighted by injuries. Torn ACL’s, torn groins, broken hands, plantar fascia tendinitis, a broken arm and a shoulder injury later, Cruz finds himself on the back of back-to-back defeats for the first time in his career.

Those fights were more than three years apart, but now less than a year after his last fight Cruz will step into the cage in a non-title fight for the first time since 2014.

He won’t even be on the main card, as he takes on Casey Kenney in the featured prelim bout at UFC 259. It could potentially mark the passing of the guard, with Cruz unlikely to continue as an active competitor should he be defeated by the up and coming 29-year-old.

That’s not because Kenney isn’t good though, he’s excellent. But it would be a signal to Cruz that the game has moved on from him and his qualities and he’s no longer going to be able to compete at the top end of the division like he wants to.

With so many issues with his body, it’s unlikely that if he can’t compete with the best that he’d want to continue. But he does want to continue.

Cruz has stated many times that he feels he has plenty left to give the sport after missing so many years through injuries. He still has fight miles on his clock and he believes he is still good enough to be the world champion. His last fight was a shot at the title, where a controversial stoppage saw him KO’d for the first time in his career by Henry Cejudo.

UFC 249 Cejudo v Cruz : News Photo

He was fell in the fight up to that point and showed he still has the skill to throw down with the best. But his body gave out on him again. Now Kenney will come in with hunger and youth on his side, with a very physical style and approach and will look to break the legendary former champion.

On paper, anyone who’s watched Cruz in the past would be expecting him to waltz through this fight because when he’s at his best he is one of the best to ever do it. The problem is now that we have no idea if that level is attainable anymore or if it ever will be again.

Kenney poses a very real threat to the career of ‘The Dominator’, with his phenomenal wrestling and work rate. He’s more than capable of getting a win over this version of Cruz, but that’s just it. This version.

If Cruz loses this weekend, not only is it the start of something special for Kenney but it will likely be the end of a golden career for one of the best ever.

Is Petr Yan vs Aljamain Sterling the best 135lbs title fight ever?

After months and months of build up, UFC 259 is upon us and we will finally see the bantamweight title fight between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling take place.

It’s a rivalry that has been on the horizon for almost a year now, with the Russian being crowned champion following a show-stopping performance over the legendary Jose Aldo at UFC 251 for the vacant title – with both men jumping the queue in terms of the rankings ahead of Sterling.

The fight was made prior to Sterling’s last fight against Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250, in which he climbed his opponents back and submitted him in under 90 seconds. After Sterling’s humbling win, he declared that the shot should be his and he wants next. He got it.

Now almost eight months later, after being rescheduled once already, the fight will finally take place at UFC 259 as part of a triple-header of title fights in the UFC Apex centre.

Sterling is arguably the best grappler in the division. He uses his length well to land kicks and once he gets the fight down to the ground he is capable of getting the finish against nearly anyone the division boasts. Yan on the other hand is arguably the best boxer in the division and showed his skills when he knocked out Jose Aldo in what was largely a kickboxing affair.

That makes it seem like potentially the best of two worlds clashing, but this fight is far more than that. Yan has excellent takedown defence as he showed against Magomed Magomedov in their rematch back in 2017, where he avenged the only loss of his career to date.

Since coming to the UFC he’s rarely been forced to use that defence as much, but he did beat the elite wrestling of Urijah Faber by using his footwork to evade and then kicking him in the head for a knockout win.

Sterling is far from just a grappler too. He stood and went toe-to-toe with Pedro Munhoz for a lopsided decision win at UFC 238 and did really well against Jimmie Rivera prior to that on the feet too, where he actually went 0/7 on takedowns in that one.

If he goes zero for seven takedowns again in this one, he could be in real trouble. Yan is the best puncher in the division and has one of the best gas tanks around. He looked fresh as a daisy when he entered the final round against Jose Aldo and Sterling has been known to fade before.

It’s champion against number one contender but it’s also without a doubt the two best in the division going head-to-head. It’s the first time since UFC 227 that the division has seen that but it’s arguably the fight between the two fighters at their highest peak that we will have ever seen in the company.

TJ Dillashaw’s fights with Cody Garbrandt while highly anticipated were all about Garbrandt’s power. His game has always had holes as shown since he won the title from Dominick Cruz, who’s struggles were evident since returning from his several injury problems while he was champion.

This may be the closest we’ve seen to the perfect bantamweight fight since Cruz vs Faber way back when, and it’s not crazy to suggest that the two in the current picture are arguably better and more complete.

The winner of this fight will almost certainly not see the last of their opponent. As far as I’m concerned these two are quite clear of the rest of the division as it stands and while it’s unlikely that there’ll be an immediate rematch for the loser, they should be able to climb their way back up the ladder.

In the most stacked division in the UFC, in arguably the best generation of fighters we have seen, we are in store for the best bantamweight title fight of all time at UFC 259. Mark my words, they’re going to steal the show.

Islam Makhachev back to continue his journey to gold at UFC 259

It’s been nearly 18 months since Islam Makhachev was last in the octagon and he’ll be eager to remind everyone why many tip him to become a champion in the lightweight division, including the man who still holds the belt.

Following in the footsteps of his training partner, friend and fellow countryman Khabib Nurmagomedov is exactly what Islam has set out to do in his career. Their coach obviously sees the potential too.

In a recent interview with RTA Sport, Javier Mendez said although Khabib is the best there’s ever been when it comes to the ground game, Islam’s standup skills are stronger and could lead him to becoming a better fighter all round.

“Islam technically in the stand-up, he’s better. On the ground, they’re both two-time Sambo world champions, so it’s just a matter of luck. If they get the right fights, and they don’t get hit with some great shots that could put them out, if everything goes according to plan, Islam is going to be a little bit of a better version of Khabib in the technical sense.”

That is very high praise considering he has worked with Khabib regularly since 2012.

It won’t be long until we see how much of that will be true as his opponents begin to get tougher. Makhachev is on a six fight win streak since suffering his only loss of his career back in 2015 and now he faces the American Drew Dober at UFC 259, looking to make it seven.

The Dagestani fighter was supposed to face former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 254, before the Brazilian tested positive for COVID-19 and the bout was cancelled. It was then quickly rescheduled to headline UFC Vegas 14 until an injury to Islam forced him to withdraw and Paul Felder was brought in to save the card.

The UFC clearly have big plans for Makhachev hence trying to match him up with a former champion and still somewhat of a contender. A win there would have likely seen him move into the top ten of the rankings.

He also had an earlier fight due for May of last year against Alexander Hernandez that was cancelled due to the pandemic, so it’s been a frustrating time for Makhachev and he’ll be eager to get back into the octagon and continue his run.

Drew Dober may not be the higher ranked opponent Islam would have wanted but he’s found himself in a similar situation that Khabib was once in, in that no one really wants to fight him.

Finding someone willing to get in the octagon with Makhachev has been hard. The risks posed with fighting Islam outweigh the rewards at the moment due to his vast skill set, so he’s been on a long road into the rankings where he currently sits at number 14.

Even Michael Chandler dismissed the chances of fighting him at UFC 254 when Islam called him out to fill in for Dos Anjos, despite already being there on Fight Island and ready to be on weight as back up for the main event.

Don’t be fooled by the fact Dober isn’t in the rankings right now though. He was ranked 15th after his last fight and only moved out after Chandler’s debut win at UFC 257 which saw him positioned in 4th and subsequently everyone below moving down a place.

The American has won six of his last seven fights and the last three coming via knockout which all earned him performance bonuses. This won’t be an easy fight for Makhachev and certainly is another step up against a dangerous and powerful opponent.

No One Wants to Take a Fight With Him"- Khabib Nurmagomedov Comes Out in  Support of Islam Makhachev - EssentiallySports

Dober isn’t phased by the hype though and suggests it’s only due to his training partner that it is there. Speaking to MMA Junkie he said, “I think a lot of his hype comes from when you have one of the greatest of all time talk so highly of you.”

A loss wouldn’t be tragic for Islam, but a win will move him towards the top ten and will certainly set up an interesting summer for him. The lightweight division is moving quickly and is stacked with talent so there are huge fights awaiting him should he pass this latest test.

The stage is set for Islam to put himself into the mainstream and make him unavoidable this Saturday at UFC 259. Featuring on the main card before the first of three title fights on the night, which many will be tuned into due to the historic main event, gives him the platform to make casual fans aware of his presence.

Whenever the lightweight division is spoken about names such as Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler, Justin Gaethje and Charles Oliveira are suggested as potential next champions, but Makhachev is someone they should all be looking over their shoulders for.