International Fight Week is finally back and UFC® 239 promises to be one of the best cards of the calendar year.
Jon Jones main events the annual ‘Supercard’ with a Light Heavyweight title fight against Brazilian dynamo Thiago Santos.
In the co-main event, Amanda Nunes defends the Women's Bantamweight title against former division champion Holly Holm.
This card isn't just highlighted by championship fights, though. In one of the most anticipated Welterweight fights of the year, undefeated star Ben Askren takes on Jorge 'Gamebred' Masvidal in a battle between two of the division's top contenders.
Here's how we think things will play out at UFC 239.
UFC 239 PREDICTIONS
Jon Jones (C) vs. Thiago Santos
At just 31 years of age, Jon Jones is already cemented as the greatest Light Heavyweight competitor ever to step into The Octagon® and also has a claim for the pound-for-pound crown as well.
While super-fights with the likes of Daniel Cormier and Brock Lesnar have swirled around the rumor mill for the past two years, Jones has recently switched his focus to defending his 205-pound belt against the new up-and-comers in an ever-changing division.
Next on deck for a shot at Jones is Thiago 'Marreta' Santos, the Brazilian who heads to Las Vegas with a four-fight winning streak. Santos has been a wrecking ball recently, taking out Eryk Anders, Jimi Manuwa and Jan Blachowicz all by finish within the last 10 months.
While many (including ourselves) are excited to see new blood atop the Light Heavyweight division, Jones enters this bout as the heavy favorite. This is because of the sizable reach advantage Jones holds over Santos. Jones has an 8.5-inch reach advantage over his counterpart, meaning that this fight could stay standing even with the threat of Santos' Hail Mary bombs.
Jones showed off an impressive feat of distance management in his last two fights, never allowing Alexander Gustafsson or Anthony Smith to get within dangerous range with any of their strikes. Meanwhile, Jones picked away at his opponents and warped the fights into the direction that he wanted.
Unless Santos can find a way to get within the pocket and or battle his opponent in the clinch, expect Jones to command this fight and grind out a decision victory.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Jones via Unanimous Decision
Amanda Nunes (C) vs. Holly Holm
There are no two bigger names in Women's MMA currently than Amanda Nunes and Holly Holm.
This will be Nunes' first fight since shocking the world at UFC 229 with a 51-second knockout of Cris 'Cyborg' to become the first women's double-champion in UFC history.
Holm enters this bout having not fought in over a year. In her last appearance, she earned a unanimous decision victory over Megan Anderson at UFC 225. While Holm's record hasn't been sharp in recent years (she's 2-4 in her last six fights), her impressive kickboxing technique and general star power has earned her another championship opportunity.
With two of the best women's strikers in MMA going to battle, expect this fight to remain standing for however long it lasts. Holm's striking power hasn't been on display in her last few fights, but she'll need to go back to her old self if she wants to hang with Nunes.
Nunes’ power has been on full display in recent performances and as Holm gets older her chin is becoming more vulnerable.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Nunes via Knockout
Check out our full preview of this fight HERE.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Ben Askren
Two of the Welterweight division's biggest personalities finally clash at UFC 239.
In his promotional debut at UFC 235, Askren survived a vicious onslaught from former 170-pound champ Robbie Lawler and scratched and scrambled his way to a submission victory within the first round. The decision was extremely controversial, but Askren put his ability to rebound on display while also showing off his incredible chin to a global audience.
Masvidal currently holds the rights to the Knockout of the Year after silencing Darren Till with an overhand left in the Liverpudlian's backyard. Since the highlight-reel knockout, Masvidal's stock has skyrocketed back up and earned him a fight with the most talked about non-title holder in the UFC.
After the Lawler debacle, expect Askren to shoot for the takedown within seconds of the opening bell. The wrestler won't want to test his chin again, especially against someone with the striking fortitude of Masvidal. Askren likes to grind down his opponents against the cage, so the first round could result in a lot of cage work to wear Masvidal down and get him vulnerable on the canvas.
If the two do get to the ground, Askren will likely smother his opponent as he works for the submission victory.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Askren via Submission
Check out our full preview of this fight HERE.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Luke Rockhold
After losing his Middleweight title to Michael Bisping in 2016, it's been a question of when and not if Luke Rockhold would make the jump up to Light Heavyweight.
After years of mulling, he's finally made the move.
Instead of choosing a tune-up fight to test the waters at a new weight division, Rockhold is jumping right into the deep end against Light Heavyweight mainstay Jan Blachowicz.
This fight has high "Fight of the Night" potential with two of the most exciting kickboxers in MMA going head-to-head.
One thing to watch for in this bout is the status of Rockhold's chin. After brutal knockout defeats to Bisping and Yoel Romero, there's no telling how long his chin will hold up, especially at a higher weight class. For this reason — expect Rockhold to try and at least bring this fight to the ground early on. Rockhold has been heralded for his dominant top game on the canvas (it won him the Middleweight Championship against Chris Weidman), but we don't know how effective it will be at 205.
This fight is all about the unknown, which makes it hard to predict but fun to watch. At the end of the day, Rockhold is the sharper fighter and enters The Octagon with a point to prove in uncharted waters.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Rockhold via Unanimous Decision
Diego Sanchez vs. Michael Chiesa
Two seasons of The Ultimate Fighter meet face-to-face in this Welterweight matchup.
Diego Sanchez (Season 1 of TUF) is on a slow career resurgence, winning his last two fights and aiming for his first three-fight winning streak since 2009.
A similar career resurgence is happening with Michael Chiesa (Season 15 of TUF), as the longtime Lightweight is entering his second fight at 170 pounds. In his Welterweight debut, Chiesa dominated former champion Carlos Condit, submitting him with an impressive one-armed kimura less than a minute into the second round.
Expect this fight to go to the mat early, with each man trying to gain ground position and set the pace. While Sanchez is on a nice run, the competition he's faced recently isn't at the same level of Chiesa and 'Nightmare' might not have enough fuel in the tank to truly compete.
Unless Sanchez can pull off a flash knockdown or get in damage from a top position, expect Chiesa to control the fight and lock in a submission to keep the momentum rolling.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Chiesa via Submission
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