Top Heavyweight contenders Francis Ngannou and Junior Dos Santos will face off in the main event of UFC on ESPN 3 on June 29, 2019, at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The bout was originally set for UFC 239 on July 6 in Las Vegas but after Tyron Woodley pulled out of his bout with Robbie Lawler with an injury, the UFC moved the heavyweight clash one week back to headline the Minnesota card. With heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and former champion, Stipe Miocic set to lock horns in August, the winner of this bout will definitely be in the shortlist of the next title challenger.
Francis Ngannou vs Junior Dos Santos
Francis Ngannou is the #1 ranked heavyweight contender today. The man known as the Predator owns the highest punching power ever recorded by the UFC at 129,161 units. The 32-year old French-Cameroonian fighter once challenged for the heavyweight title but was outclassed in five rounds by then champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 220.
The Predator stands 6-4 with a reach of 83 inches while fighting as an orthodox fighter.
Ngannou has an impressive and scary record of 13-3 with all of his wins coming via stoppage- 9 by knockout and four by submission. Nine of his stoppages have come inside the first round. Since suffering back to back losses to Miocic and Derrick Lewis, Ngannou has bounced back with back to back first-minute knockout wins over Curtis Blaydes (45 seconds) and Cain Velasquez (26 seconds).
Odds from Mybookie.ag as of 6/12/19.
Junior Dos Santos is currently the #3 ranked heavyweight in the UFC. Cigano is a former UFC heavyweight champion who holds wins over five former UFC heavyweight champions: Cain Velasquez, Stipe Miocic, Fabricio Werdum, Frank Mir, and Shane Carwin. Dos Santos is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt holder under Yuri Carlton. Inside the octagon though, he is more known for his slick boxing skills and punching power.
The 35-year old Brazilian has a record of 21-5 with 15 knockouts and one win by way of submission. Cigano stands 6-4 with a reach of 77 inches. Dos Santos has won four out of his last five bouts since the start of 2018. His only loss during that period was a first-round knockout loss to Miocic in their rematch at UFC 211. Cigano’s last two wins over Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis have come via second-round knockout.
This is an interesting fight to pick. Both of these fighters need only one punch to score a knockout. But while we’ve seen Dos Santos get starched thrice and submitted once, Ngannou’s two losses were by the decision and yes, he lost the fight but he survived five rounds with Stipe Miocic. Ngannou’s size makes him an easy target but at the same time, it also makes him hard to finish. On the other hand, Dos Santos has been knocked out by Velasquez, Alistair Overeem, and Miocic. I don’t see this fight going to the ground. Both men believe in their knockout power and would prefer to knock the other’s head off instead of grinding it out in a five-round grappling contest. The first punch of Dos Santos that lands clean is crucial because if it can hurt Ngannou, this will be a fight and Dos Santos will have a legit shot. If not, however, it’s going to be another easy stoppage for the much-improved Ngannou. Given those and Ngannou’s huge six-inch reach advantage, I think it’s going to be the latter. Prediction: Francis Ngannou
Jussier Formiga vs Joseph Benavidez
Jussier Formiga is the UFC’s #1 ranked flyweight. The 34-year old from Natal, Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil is a former Shooto South American 123-pound champion and is a black belt in both Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Formiga used to train with Nova Uniao but is now with the American Top Team since 2018.
The 34-year old stands 5-5 with a reach of 67 inches. Formiga has a record of 23-5 with 10 submission victories. Formiga has lost just twice in his last 10 bouts and is currently on a four-bout winning streak. His losses during that period were to Henry Cejudo and Ray Borg. In his last bout, Formiga won a decision over Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu North East Brazil champion Deiveson Figueiredo just last March.
Odds from Mybookie.ag as of 6/12/19.
Joseph Benavidez is the #2 ranked flyweight in the UFC. the 34-year old from San Antonio, Texas joined Urijah Faber at Team Alpha Male in 2007 and has served as Faber’s chief training partner. He challenged for the title in the WEC as a bantamweight and in the UFC as a flyweight but he lost in both matches. He has a rank of Brown prajied in Muay Thai under Duane Ludwig.
Benavidez has a record of 27-5 with 7 knockouts and 9 wins via submission. He’s lost just once in his last nine bouts and that was to Sergio Pettis via split decision at UFC 225 last November. Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson are the only fighters to have beaten current two-weight division champion Henry Cejudo.
This one’s a big fight between #1 and #2 with the winner possibly getting the next crack at the flyweight belt if that’s what Cejudo is going to defend next. This is also a rematch because these two have fought once before at UFC Fight Night 28 and Benavidez won that bout by first-round TKO. That’s one of the main reasons why Benavidez is the UFC betting favorite in this bout.
Both these fighters have good ground and submission skills but when it comes to the stand-up, Benavidez has a big advantage. Benavidez lands twice as much significant strikes on the average than Formiga and the latter gets hit more times than he connects on his strikes. Benavidez also packs a heavy punch and Formiga knows that first hand. I think Formiga tries to keep this fight down but Benavidez is too tough and he’s going to win in a stand-up battle. Prediction: Joseph Benavidez.
Anthony Rocco Martin vs Demian Maia
Anthony Rocco Martin is a veteran welterweight who also fought for the Cage Fighting Extreme promotion and Dakota FC before landing a spot in the UFC’s welterweight roster in 2014. The 29-year old Martin is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and trains with the American Top Team.
Martin stands 6-0 with a reach of 73 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. He started out his UFC career with a modest 4-4 record but has lost just once in his last seven bouts. Martin is currently on a four-fight winning streak which includes wins over Sergio Moraes and Ryan LaFlare. In his last bout, Martin defeated Moraes by unanimous decision.
Odds from Mybookie.ag as of 6/12/19.
Demian Maia is a former welterweight title challenger who is considered by many as the best submission artist in the UFC today. Known as the human backpack, Maia is a 4th-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Fabio Gurgel. Maia is also a former ADCC submission wrestling world champion.
The 41-year old Maia has a record of 26-9 with three wins by knockout and 13 by submission. He stands 6-1 and has a reach of 72 inches. The Sao Paulo, Brazil native has lost three out of his last four bouts. All of those three losses were on points and all were to former and current interim and regular welterweight champions. The consolation with Maia is that in his last bout, he choked out former Bellator welterweight champion Lyman Good.
Martin is a decent fighter who has good submission skills and okay striking. On the other hand, Demian Maia is a one-dimensional fighter who always looks for the opportunity to drag his opponent to the mat. While both fighters are BJJ black belts, I’m sure Maia’s submission game is eons better. When I looked at their stats, the first one I looked for was takedown defense. When I found out that Martin’s takedown defense is just 50%, I closed the tab right away. When Maia can take you down easily, he’ll take you out just as quickly. Prediction: Demian Maia