Jon Jones defends the UFC light heavyweight title against Thiago Santos at the main event of UFC 239 on July 6, 2019, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“Fighting" Jon Jones vs Thiago Santos

Jon Jones is the reigning UFC light heavyweight champion and is in his third reign as such. He is ranked #2 in the UFC’s pound for pound rankings and is the youngest fighter to win a UFC title, doing so at the age of 23. Jones has been in and out of the Octagon in recent years due to his troubles with the law and drug-related issues, But he’s back and he’s out to reclaim his spot as the premier fighter in the UFC.

Jones stands 6-4 with a reach of 84 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. Bones has a record of 24-1-0-1 with 10 knockouts and 6 wins by submission. Jones has not lost in his last 16 bouts in a period spanning a decade. His lone loss was a disqualification as a result of throwing a downward elbow on Matt Hamill in 2009.

Considered by many as the best fighter in MMA history, Jones is a fighting machine who does everything at an elite level. His size alone makes it difficult to solve him. He has legit punching power in both hands, he throws hard leg kicks, his wrestling is very good and his athleticism is off the charts. There’s simply no clear weakness in his game, really.

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Thiago Santos is the #3 ranked light heavyweight in the UFC. A former contestant in The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 2 tournament, Santos started out in the middleweight division. He made the move to 205 pounds last year and has since won three straight bouts via knockout.

The Brazilian has a record of 21-6 with 15 knockouts and 1 win by submission. The 35-year old from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil stands 6-2 and has a reach of 76 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. 13 out of his 16 fights in the UFC octagon have ended in a stoppage but these include his three stoppage losses.

Santos is what his numbers say he is – a knockout artist who is relentless when it comes to throwing strikes. He is an aggressive fighter who just keeps on throwing strikes until his opponent crumbles. Santos can also mix leg kicks in his offense and he is very athletic as well. The worry about him is that he can be wild at times and leave himself wide open to be countered.

“Fighting" Who Wins?

Thiago Santos has worked his way to becoming one of the top 205-pounders in such a short period of time. He’s also built his resume around his punching power but outside it, he has limited himself to being a one-trick pony. Although he is a BJJ black belt, Santos has preferred to fight on his feet. That hasn’t been a problem for him because he’s overpowered almost everyone he’s ever faced. But he’s never faced an opponent like Jon Jones.

Jones, a huge betting favorite here, is a complete fighter with no obvious weakness. He’s faced some of the heaviest punchers in the division in Alexander Gustafsson, Ovince Saint Preux, Glover Teixeira, Vitor Belfort, Rampage Jackson, and Shogun Rua. He’s gone on to defeat all those names. Given his huge reach advantage over Santos, you can expect Jones to paw away and counter the Brazilian when he attacks.

Jones is also a very durable fighter who’s never been knocked down before. If he feels Santos’ punches are hurting him, he can always take his opponent down. But if Santos gets hurt, he won’t be able to take Jones easily to the canvass, not with Bones’ 95% takedown defense.

As I said earlier, Santos has a BJJ black belt so he is no slouch on the ground. But Jones is just so powerful when he gets on top that it’s almost impossible to get out of harm’s way. If Santos gets pinned, Jones can punch him out or go for the submission. He’s just such a versatile fighter.

Those said I think Santos still has a puncher’s chance here but given Jon’s IQ, I don’t think Santos is going to catch him clean. On the other hand, I expect Jones to dominate this fight on the feet, constantly moving away from Santos’ power right hand. He’s going to land that big elbow sooner or later and I won’t be surprised if that’s what ends this fight. Regardless, I don’t see how Santos wins. I’m picking Jon Jones to beat Thiago Santos. Prediction: Jon Jones

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“Fighting" Amanda Nunes vs Holly Holm

Nunes will be making the fourth defense of the UFC women’s bantamweight title which she won from Miesha Tate at UFC 200. The Lioness is also the current UFC women’s featherweight champion and the first and only two-division female champion in UFC history after her stunning knockout of Cris Cyborg at UFC 232.

The 30-year old Brazilian has a record of 17 – 4 with 12 knockouts and 3 submissions. She stands 5-8 tall and has a reach of 69 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. Four out of her five championship fight wins have come via stoppage with only Valentina Shevchenko going the distance against her.

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Holm is the former UFC bantamweight champion who ended Ronda Rousey’s dominant reign in the women’s division by knocking out Rowdy at UFC 193. Holm, a former multiple- time boxing world champion, lost the belt in her first title defense. She also challenged for the UFC featherweight belt twice but lost on both occasions.

The Preacher’s Daughter stands 5-8 tall and has a reach of 69 inches while fighting as a southpaw. Holm has a record of 12-4 with 8 knockouts. Holm has moved back and forth the bantamweight and featherweight divisions in the last two and a half years. She is just 2-4 in her last six bouts but three of those losses were in title fights.

“Fighting" Who Wins?

No question, these are the two best female strikers in the bantamweight division. Not only that, these are two of the hardest hitting female bantamweights in the game today. And for whatever it’s worth, these two are the only fighters to beat Ronda Rousey who forced Rowdy to retirement.

When we talk about Amanda Nunes, we’re talking about the fighter who outstruck and knocked out Cris Cyborg. Nunes isn’t just a powerful striker, she is fast, aggressive and accurate. She is also vicious with her ground and pound and in recent years, she’s gotten more comfortable fighting on the ground.  On the other hand, Holm is one of the most dynamic strikers we’ve ever seen in the women’s game and that’s because of her boxing background. As they say in boxing, she floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. Holm also maximizes her leg kicks and even used it to knock out Rousey. She’s not as comfortable on the ground though as we saw her get choked out by Miesha Tate.

I think this is pretty much even on the feet with both fighters being dynamic and powerful. I think Nunes hits harder but she can be knocked out too. We saw Alexa Davis and Cat Zingano stop her with punches. Holm may not have the same power but I think she can hang with strike volume and accuracy. I like Holm more because she uses her kicks as part of her attack. That could be the difference here. I think Nunes will try to take Holm down because that’s where she has a clear advantage. I like Holm’s chances here but I can’t turn my back on Nunes who is coming off a stoppage of Cyborg. Prediction: Amanda Nunes

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“Fighting" Ben Askren vs Jorge Masvidal

Askren won his promotional debut with a mixture of talent and luck. Funky Ben survived Robbie Lawler’s first round fury and then was the beneficiary of what appeared like an early stoppage by Herb Dean. All things considered though, the former Bellator and ONE welterweight champion showed plenty of stuff. He showed durability, recovery, and composure. And then, of course, he took Lawler down and forced a submission.

Askren is undefeated at 19-0 with six knockouts, six submissions, and one no-contest. The former two-time NCAA Division 1 wrestling champion and 2009 World Championship gold medalist stands 5-11 tall and has a reach of 73 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance.

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Odds from as of 5/24/19

Masvidal is the 4th ranked welterweight in the UFC and he’s a veteran who’s fought for so many organizations. Gamebred was 3-4 in his last seven fights when he stepped into the Octagon and knocked out the highly touted Darren Till in the latter’s backyard in London last March. At 34, he’s never fought for a title but a win over Askren should put him in that conversation.

Gamebred stands 5-11 tall with a reach of 74 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. He has a record of 33-13 with 14 knockouts and 2 wins via submission. Three out of his last four losses were by split decision and of his 13 wins, Masvidal has only been knocked out once.

“Fighting" Who Wins?

This one is a fight between a wrestler and a striker. We saw Askren had no answer for Lawler on the feet. We saw Masvidal use his veteran smarts to outstrike and then knock out Darren Till in his last fight. If Masvidal keeps this on the feet, it’s a very easy win for him. However, keeping a fight on the feet against Ben Askren is always easier said than done.

Forget his loss to Junior Burroughs in wrestling recently, no UFC fighter can match Ben Askren’s wrestling, well except Daniel Cormier perhaps. But when you talk about Ben Askren, it’s like fighting Khabib Nurmagomedov. You know what he’s going to do but you cannot stop him. What we know now is how durable Askren is. He survived Robbie Lawler. How can he not survive Masvidal? I think Askren takes him down and grind out a win. Prediction: Ben Askren

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