89°F
weather icon Clear

Preview and picks for UFC 239 in Las Vegas

Updated July 5, 2019 - 12:51 pm

A breakdown of the fights on the main card of Saturday’s UFC 239 card at T-Mobile Arena, with picks from the Review-Journal’s Adam Hill and Heidi Fang:

Jon Jones (24-1, 1 no contest) vs. Thiago Santos (21-6)

Class: For Jones’s light heavyweight title

Line: Jones -700

Storyline: Jones is the best light heavyweight in UFC history and quite possibly the best fighter in any weight class ever to compete in the organization. He has taken on the best of the best the division has had to offer and rarely has been challenged. Jones has been so dominant that it’s difficult to imagine him getting beaten over the course of a full five-round fight. When the end of his reign does come, it’s most likely going to happen by way of a big knockout strike or getting caught in a submission. Santos has the ability to pull off the former. He has 15 knockouts in his career, including three straight since moving up to 205 pounds, and his power could be the great equalizer in making up the gap of ability in this bout. Jones is the better fighter and still will be regardless of the outcome, but that doesn’t mean Santos doesn’t have a chance.

Hill’s Pick: Jones by third-round submission

Fang’s Pick: Jones by second-round knockout

Amanda Nunes (17-4) vs. Holly Holm (12-4)

Class: For Nunes’s women’s bantamweight title

Line: Nunes -425

Storyline: Nunes holds both the women’s bantamweight and featherweight titles and has defeated every woman to ever hold either title in UFC history. Except Holm. Nunes has the chance to complete that sweep on Saturday and after eight straight wins against mostly elite competition, is a big favorite to do so. Holm is a former world boxing champion who has proven to be unafraid of the big moment when she stunned the world with a knockout of Ronda Rousey in 2015 to take the title. Holm is still looking for a worthy follow-up and has the chance to find it here. She is at her best against aggressive opponents when she can counter-strike and Nunes will certainly come forward. If Holm can withstand the early flurry and settle into the contest, she could give Nunes fits. Nunes has proven vulnerable to fatigue at times in her career.

Hill’s Pick: Holm by decision

Fang’s Pick: Nunes by decision

Jorge Masvidal (33-13) vs. Ben Askren (19-0, 1 no contest)

Class: Welterweight

Line: Askren -220

Storyline: There’s no mystery to this fight, which might be the most anticipated bout on the card. Askren is a former Olympic wrestler who is more than happy to rely on that elite skill to remain undefeated in MMA and capture titles in Bellator and ONE Championship. He also is a skilled agitator that has appeared to get under Masvidal’s skin ahead of this bout. Masvidal will be at an advantage when the fight is contested standing up, but he must control his aggression or risk getting off balance and opening the door for Askren’s multitude of takedown techniques. Askren, long considered the best fighter outside the UFC, finally made his organizational debut in March and ran into all sorts of trouble against former champ Robbie Lawler before rallying for a submission victory. The winner here is expecting to get a title shot later this year.

Hill’s Pick: Askren by decision

Fang’s Pick: Askren by decision.

Luke Rockhold (16-4) vs. Jan Blachowicz (23-8)

Class: Light heavyweight

Line: Rockhold -250

Storyline: Former middleweight champ Rockhold steps back in the cage for the first time in 16 months and makes his light heavyweight debut. He said the weight cuts to 185 pounds combined with the realities of the business and a disappointing end to his title reign in 2016 started to drain him of his passion to compete. The 34-year-old says he is rejuvenated in his pursuit of a belt in a new division. He won’t get a friendly welcome to light heavyweight in Blachowicz, who had a four-fight winning streak snapped with a knockout loss to Santos in February. Rockhold is incredibly talented and athletic with the ability to win fights with his striking or ground game. This fight should tell a great deal about how his game will translate at 205.

Hill’s Pick: Rockhold by second-round submission

Fang’s Pick: Rockhold by third-round knockout

Diego Sanchez (31-11) vs. Michael Chiesa (15-4)

Class: Welterweight

Line: Chiesa -375

Storyline: Chiesa got his first win in nearly three years when he made his welterweight debut with a submission of Carlos Condit in December. He had only lost two fights in that span, but endured long stretches of inactivity because of injury and unfortunate circumstances outside the cage. Free of the brutal weight cuts to lightweight, Chiesa looks to build on the momentum. He draws one of the most intense competitors in the sport in veteran Diego Sanchez. A return to a wrestling-focused attack has helped Sanchez find some success in the twilight of his career, but Chiesa should at the very least neutralize that advantage with his strength and wrestling ability. It’s still the best path to victory for Sanchez, who is likely to be at a disadvantage on the feet, particularly at longer range. If there is one edge for Sanchez, it could be in cardio.

Hill’s Pick: Chiesa by third-round submission

Fang’s Pick: Chiesa by decision

Adam Hill/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Covering The Cage Videos
Dana White signs four fighters to the UFC - Video
Four fighters were put under contract with the UFC following their performances at Dana White's Contender Series on Tuesday night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Contender Series fighters react to being signed to the UFC
After making history as the first batch of winners to all earn contracts following their performances at Dana White's Contender Series, the fighters react to making it to the UFC.
Dana White signs all five winners at Contender Series
For the first time in the three-season history of Dana White's Contender Series, every winning fighter earned a UFC contract. Maki Pitolo, Joe Solecki, Antonio Trocoli, Hunter Azure and Jonathan Pearce impressed the UFC brass and were awarded contracts by the UFC president.
Jones says he was confident he secured a win over Santos at UFC 239 - Video
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones continued his reign by taking a split decision victory over Thiago Santos at UFC 239. He discusses the close call and entertains the idea of a trilogy bout with Daniel Cormier. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 recap: Jones and Nunes retain their titles - VIDEO
Jon Jones and Amanda Nunes both retained their titles at UFC 239. Jones took a decision over Thiago Santos in the main event and Nunes scored a first-round knockout of Holly Holm. Jorge Masvidal also made promotional history on July 6 by scoring a 5-second knockout over Ben Askren. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Amanda Nunes on her win over Holly Holm at UFC 239 - Video
Amanda Nunes talks about continuing her reign as a two-division champion in the UFC after defeating Holly Holm with a head kick in the first round of their title bout at UFC 239. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239: Masvidal makes UFC history with 5-second knockout - Video
Jorge Masvidal discusses his history-making knockout of Ben Askren at UFC 239 and makes his case for a shot at the welterweight title next. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fighters at UFC 239 react to the 7.1 earthquake - Video
Fighters at UFC 239 talk about what they experienced when the 7.1 earthquake was felt in Las Vegas on Friday night. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 Ceremonial Weigh-in Staredowns - Video
All fighters competing at UFC 239 on July 6 at the T-Mobile Arena faced off against each other one last time before their bouts take place. In the main event, Jon Jones will put his light heavyweight belt on the line against Thiago Santos. In the co-main event, Amanda Nunes will look to continue her reign as the women's bantamweight champion when she takes on Holly Holm.
UFC 239: Jon Jones says he wants to make a statement - VIDEO
Prior to UFC 239, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones says he's trying to challenge himself, set his own records to establish his legacy and explains how he's become comfortable with where he is in his career. He will put his title on the line in the main event against Thiago Santos. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 Official Weigh-in Results
All 24 fighters competing at UFC 239 on July 6 at the T-Mobile Arena made weight at the official weigh-in at the New York-New York hotel-casino on Friday. The main event features UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones putting his belt on the line against Thiago Santos. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 Preview: Jones vs. Santos
Prior to UFC 239, the Review-Journal's Adam Hill and Heidi Fang break down the main event between Jon Jones and Thiago Santos for the light heavyweight title, the co-main championship tilt between Holly Holm and reigning bantamweight queen Amanda Nunes, and preview a feature bout between Ben Askren and Jorge Masvidal. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 media day: Masvidal says he has faced tougher competition than Askren
Ahead of facing rising UFC welterweight Ben Askren, promotional veteran Jorge Masvidal says he's faced tougher opponents in the past. Askren says don't be shocked by his approach to the fight at UFC 239 on July 6 at the T-Mobile Arena. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 open workouts: Jones thanks fans for support through his dark times
At UFC 239 open workouts, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones thanked fans for their support during his "controversial moments" and says he wants to be more active through 2020. His challenger Thiago Santos says he will "shock the world" on July 6 and be the new division champion. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 239 open workouts: Holm wants to shock her naysayers
Holly Holm will look to reclaim the UFC women's bantamweight title when she faces two-division champion Amanda Nunes in the co-main event of UFC 239 at the T-Mobile Arena on July 6. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
White: I'm looking for different things on this show - VIDEO
UFC president Dana White spoke with media following the second episode of the third season of his show "Dana White's Contender Series". He explained why he signed the two fighters he did after their performances and discussed the heat he's taking for not signing Brendan Loughnane last week. (Heidi Fang / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC's Francis Ngannou says he never doubted himself after losses - Video
UFC heavyweight Francis Ngannou will face Junior dos Santos at UFC on ESPN 3 in Minneapolis, Minn., on June 29 in a bout that could determine the next title contender. After losing in a title bout to Stipe Miocic in 2018, Ngannou says he never doubted himself. He also talks about meeting former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dana White on Contender Series contracts: "I'm looking for killers." - Video
On opening night at the UFC's newest facility, the UFC Apex, the promotion signed Punahele Soriano and Yorgan De Castro to contracts after their performances on Dana White's Contender Series. UFC president Dana White explains why he signed the fighters he did. (Heidi Fang / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Weili Zhang seeks UFC belt, history

The 30-year-old could become the first Chinese fighter to win a UFC title when she faces Jessica Andrade for the women’s strawweight title on Saturday