UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos

Preview and Predictions for UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos by Danny Rourke and Darell Garner 
 International Fight Week in Las Vegas, Nevada will be capped off Saturday by UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos. While some  International Fight Week cards have not lived up to the hype in the past, two title fights and a whole bunch of other top tier matchups on the card have me believing that UFC 239 will deliver as advertised. Action begins with:
  6:15PM/ET       UFC Fight Pass      Early Prelims   8:00PM/ET             ESPN                Prelims 10:00PM/ET        Pay-Per-View       Main Card
UFC 239 Main Card Predictions
Michael Chiesa (-335) vs. Diego Sanchez (+275)
To kickoff the UFC 239 Main Card, former Ultimate Fighter winners Michael Chiesa (15-4-0) and Diego “The Nightmare”Sanchez (29-11-0) collide in a Welterweight matchup. Coming off of impressive wins over Craig White and Mickey Gall, veteran Diego Sanchez remains confident heading into his bout with Michael Chiesa despite parting ways with Jackson Wink MMA. Chiesa feels at home at 170 pounds, and looked great in his Second Round Submission win over the “Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit in his Welterweight debut at UFC 232. Diego Sanchez  has never been submitted, but will certainly have his hands full with Chiesa if/when the fight hits the mat. Sanchez has continued to prove everyone wrong in the late stages of his career, and will have the extra motivation of being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame this week for his epic 2009 clash with Clay Guida. However, I think the Nightmare may come to an abrupt end as Chiesa picks up his second straight win over a big name at Welterweight. 
Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction🔮: Chiesa via Second Round Submission 
D’Bo’s Picks: Sanchez via Third Round TKO 

#6 Jan Blachowicz (+190) vs. #3 Luke Rockhold (-230)
Former Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold (16-4-0) has decided to make the move up to Light Heavyweight and challenges Jan Blachowicz (23-8-0) with his eyes on a potential future clash with current Champion Jon “Bones” Jones. A teammate of UFC Champ Daniel Cormier at the American Kickboxing Academy, Luke Rockhold has spent plenty of time studying Jon Jones and believes he has what it takes to dethrone the GOAT. But Rockhold returns to face Blachowicz on the heels of a seventeen month layoff following a nasty staph infection. Since defeating Chris Weidman at UFC 194 to become Middleweight Champion in 2015, Rockhold is 1-2 with two knockout losses to Michael Bisping and Yoel Romero. Jan Blachowicz is coming off a a Third Round TKO loss to title challenger Thiago Santos at UFC Prague in February, but had previously ripped off four impressive wins in a row over Nikita Krylov, Jimi Manuwa, Jared Cannonier and Devin Clark. Both Blachowicz and Rockhold offer balanced attacks and have devastating striking capabilities, so I think this fight is a real toss up. I can see Luke landing a crippling body shot to end the fight,  but I wouldn’t be surprised if Blachowicz gives Rockhold a rude welcome to the Light Heavyweight division either. 
Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction🔮: Blachowicz via First Round KO
D’Bo’s Picks: Rockhold via First Round Submission 

#5 Ben Askren (-220) vs. #4 Jorge Masvidal (+180)
“Funky” Ben Askren (19-0-0,1NC) looks to dispel some of his critics by taking out another top Welterweight contender as he faces Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal (33-13-0) in his second Octagon appearance. While Ben Askren managed to escape a frenetic start in his promotional debut at UFC 235, ultimately submitting  Robbie Lawler in a wild First Round, Askren immediately gets another tough challenge from Jorge Masvidal. After back to back Decision losses to Demian Maia and Stephen Thompson, Gamebred bounced back with sensational Second Round knockout of Darren Till at UFC London in March. Askren and Masvidal have been chirping at each other throughout the lead up to this fight, and I am excited to see how this contrast of character and fighting styles will play out. 
Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction🔮: Askren via Decision 
D’Bo’s Picks: Masvidal via Second Round TKO

Co-Main Event—Women’s Bantamweight Championship 
{C} Amanda Nunes (-380) vs. #2 Holly Holm (+315)
The two women to defeat Ronda Rousey go head to head, as “The Lioness” Amanda Nunes (17-4-0) returns back down to 135 pounds to defend her Bantamweight title against “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holly Holm (12-4-0). Amanda Nunes will look to continue her dominance after  defeating Cris Cyborg in devastating fashion at UFC 232 last December. Throughout her current eight fight win streak, The Lioness defeated the multiple former champions and those widely considered to be the greatest to ever compete in Women’s MMA —Rousey, Cyborg, Tate, Schevchenko (2x).  While Holly Holm was unable to successfully her Bantamweight title against Miesha Tate after Ronda Rousey at UFC 193, The Preacher’s Daughter is durable as hell, with her Submission loss to Tate standing as her lone stoppage defeat in sixteen MMA bouts. Holm has won two of her last three—picking up wins over Bethe Correia (TKO) and against Megan Anderson (Decision). While Holly Holm is capable of shocking the world again by taking out the Lioness, I believe that Nunes’ reign will continue as UFC Double Champ. 
Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction🔮: Nunes via First Round TKO
D’Bo’s Picks: Holm via Decision 

Main Event— Light Heavyweight Championship 
{C} Jon Jones (-650) vs. #2 Thiago Santos (+475)
Jon Jones (24-1-0,1NC) has resumed his rightful place  as UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and will look to turn back the next challenger to his throne, Thiago “Marretta” Santos (21-6-0).  In less than a year since making the move up to Light Heavyweight, Thiago Santos has surged to the top of the list of divisional contenders with stoppage wins over Eryk Anders, Jimi Manuwa, and Jan Blachowicz. While none of those guys are named Jon Jones, Santos has been on quite a tear—enjoying a current four fight win streak and having won seven of his last eight inside the Octagon, including a TKO win at Middleweight over Jon Jones’ last opponent, Anthony “Lionheart” Smith.  Upon his return from suspension, Jon Jones left no doubt in his rematch with Alexander Gustafson at UFC 232, stopping the Mauler via Third Round TKO. While Jones’s bout with Anthony Smith at UFC 235 in March went the distance, Jones was never under threat and was able to cruise his way to a Unanimous Decision win. I expect Jones to show more of a sense of urgency against the dangerous Santos, which should lead to some exciting and violent exchanges early in the fight. 
Danny’s Crystal Ball Prediction🔮: Jones via Second Round KO
D’Bo’s Picks: Jones via Second Round Submission 
Next weekend the UFC pays a visit to the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California as Uriah Faber comes out of retirement to face Ricky Simon at UFC on ESPN+ 13: De Randamie vs. Ladd. Share your thoughts and fight picks with us in the Comments section below and enjoy the fights!!👊🏻🔌 

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