UFC 259 is almost upon us, with the main card slated to begin at 11 A.M. in Manila time on Sunday, March 7.
It’s a rare fight card that features three title fights, which is of headlined by a champion vs. champion bout between middleweight kingpin Israel Adesanya and light heavyweight title holder Jan Blachowicz.
Here’s our take on the three big bouts.
Men’s Bantamweight: Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling
Petr Yan has been on quite a tear since joining the UFC. He made his big-league debut on June 23, 2018, and is yet to taste defeat after a 7-0 run. He’s got a 15-1 overall record and won the title by stopping Jose Aldo in the fourth round of their bout in June of last year.
Aldo took one round from him, but Yan was otherwise impressive with his striking.
Yan will be facing off against Aljamain Sterling, who has actually been in the UFC since 2014. He’s gone 10-3 in that time period, and is currently riding a five-fight winning streak.
Sterling could prove to be a problem for Yan, as he’s an excellent submission artist who has a knack for taking an opponent’s back and choking them out – which he exhibited in his title eliminator victory against Cory Sandhagen last year. It only took him a minute and a half to get the finish.
It’s the type of stylistic matchup that drives curiosity, a classic bout between a striker and grappler for all the marbles. Sterling is no slouch when it comes to striking, having shown a constant evolution throughout his fights, but Yan is going to be a difficult puzzle to solve on the feet.
One thing to watch out for is if Yan can stay patient and not get lured into the ground, as he does have a pretty strong ground and pound game. That’s not going to be a great idea against Sterling.
It’s a very close matchup, but I’m going to pick Sterling for a submission in the fourth round.
Women’s Featherweight: Amanda Nunes vs. Megan Anderson
Fight fans will find little to complain about when it comes to the UFC dual-weight champion Amanda Nunes. The Lioness is one of the fiercest competitors to have ever graced the octagon, and she has a penchant for fucking people up.
Nunes has an overall record of 20-4, but three of her losses came before her time in the UFC. Since she made the move, away from Invicta, she’s rattled off a 13-1 record, with the one loss being a TKO defeat against Cat Zingano.
Since then, she’s rattled off 11-straight wins, and has become a fearsome legend-killer. Her victim’s gallery is a who’s who of champions and big names including Valentina Shevchenko (twice), Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, and Germaine de Randamie.
Most impressively of all, at least for me, she’s also the one that replaced Cris Cyborg as the most-feared woman in MMA. She did that by knocking Cyborg out in 51 seconds in December 2018.
Standing across from Nunes will be Megan Anderson, who has an 11-4 record since making her MMA debut in November 2013. Only five of those fights have come in the UFC, though, and she’s gone 3-2 in those contests. She ended her last fight against Norma Dumont Viana with one punch late in the first round.
As impressive as that victory may be, it’s tough to see a situation where Anderson gets the win. Nunes is powerful, has a strong chin, and is also an underrated grappler who has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Anderson is going to be overmatched, whether it’s on the feet or on the ground. My pick is a Nunes KO/TKO victory in the second round.
Men’s Light Heavyweight: Jan Blachowicz vs. Israel Adesanya
The matchup between Jan Blachowicz and Israel Adesanya is a bit of a strange one. Even though Adesanya is coming in as the challenger and the smaller fighter, he still enjoys a significant betting advantage.
Much of that can probably be attributed to Adesanya’s 20-0 record in Mixed Martial Arts, which is also bolstered by a 75-5 kickboxing and 5-1 boxing record.
That’s a combined 100-6 record in all three disciplines, which is a shitload of fights for someone who only turns 32 in July.
Blachowicz is the older man, and he’s compiled a 27-8 record through his 35 MMA bouts. He’s on a four-fight win streak and has finished three of those four fights, with his most recent being a TKO finish in the second round against Dominick Reyes, who has a case to say that he won three rounds against Jon Jones when they fought in February 2020.
While Adesanya is unbeaten in the octagon, he seems to be taking a risk by not bulking up for the fight. He’s not even going to try to hit the 205-pound weight limit, and could potentially weigh somewhere around 193 pounds on fight night.
That’s always going to be a gamble, especially when fighting someone with Blachowicz’ power. However, ‘The Last Stylebender’ relies on speed and precision in his striking, and he’s going to need to muster up as big of a speed advantage as he can.
Speed is what will keep Blachowicz from getting a hold of Adesanya, and that’s going to be a key point to watch in the fight. The light heavyweight champion does have nine submission victories under his belt and is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. If he gets a hold of Adesanya, things could get very ugly.
I think Adesanya’s been given way too much of an edge in the odds, but I still think he’s going to pull through. I’m picking Adesanya to win by decision.