UFC 239 is a chance for Jon Jones to remind us why he is still considered – despite all of his documented setbacks – the greatest fighter of all time. It’s also an opportunity for the story of Thiago Santos – a former Brazilian military paratrooper – to shine.
It’s a great card on paper. Let’s hope the fighters avail themselves of it.
All the fighters made weight for Saturday night. Kenai Andrews checks in with his thoughts on the card.
UFC FIGHTPASS PRELIMS (6:30PM ET/3:30PM PT)
PANNIE KIANZAD (11-4-0) VS. JULIA AVILA (5-1-0)
Andrews: Both fighters are former Invicta products who are trying to claw their way into the bantamweight rankings. Kianzad is here on short notice and has struggled against good competition but is coming off a win. Avila’s only loss was a finger injury, but hasn’t faced the competition Kianzad has. Slight edge to Avila to grind out a decision.
Andrews Prediction: Julia Avila via UD
ISMAIL NAURDIEV (18-2-0) VS. CHANCE RECOUNTRE (13-3-0)
Andrews: Naurdiev has an impressive finish rate, but decisioned in his UFC debut. Here, he has a chance to make an impressive showing against Recountre, who looked decent in a loss to Belal Muhammad and finished Kyle Stewart in January. Going with the aggression of Naurdiev.
Andrews Prediction: Ismail Naurdiev via TKO
JACK MARSHMAN (23-8-0) VS. EDMEN SHAHBAZYAN (9-0-0)
Andrews: Marshman recently bounced back into the win column, but has a rough go lately. On paper, Marshman should win, but now he has an exciting up and coming challenger in Edmen who could finish him. Is Marshman’s experience enough? I wasn’t particularly impressed with Marshman at the weigh in, so I’m going with Shahbazayan to pull it off.
Andrews Prediction: Edmen Shahbazyan via TKO
ALEJANDRO PEREZ (21-7-1) VS. YADEN SONG (13-3-0, 2NC)
Andrews: Perez is a solid fighter and should be able to overcome the up and coming Song by muddying the waters. Don’t let Song get comfortable in there, or else it will cost him.
Andrews Prediction: Alejandro Perez via UD
#5 CLAUDIA GADELHA (16-4-0) VS. #14 RANDA MARKOS (9-6-1)
Andrews: Markos continues to survive the competitive straw weight division, but has been unable to crack the top 5. Here, she gets a top 5 opponent who is just better in every area on paper. This is the opportunity for Randa to make a statement like she did with Angela Hill, but Gadelha should emerge the victor.
Andrews Prediction: Claudia Gadelha via UD
MARLON VERA (13-5-1) VS. NOEHLIN HERNANDEZ (9-2-0)
Andrews: Hernandez is replacing Sean O’Malley. Vera has a big advantage here if he prepares.
Andrews Prediction: Marlon Vera via TKO
GILBERT MELENDEZ (22-7-0) VS. ARNOLD ALLEN (14-1-0)
Andrews: Does Melendez have one fight left in him? I think he does, but while Allen may not punish him like Barboza did, Allen will remind him that it’s time to retire.
Andrews Prediction: Arnold Allen via UD
MICHAEL CHIESA (15-4-0) VS. DIEGO SANCHEZ (29-11-0)
Andrews: Sanchez continues to entertain and he will show up, but do not underestimate Chiesa. This should be fun and I have Chiesa becoming the first to overcome the Nightmare and getting the tap on the ground.
Andrews Prediction: Michael Chiesa via submission
LUKE ROCKHOLD (16-4-0) VS. JAN BLACHOWICZ (23-8-0)
Andrews: Rockhold looked pretty big at the weigh ins and should feast on Blachowicz as long as he keeps his ego in check.
Andrews Prediction: Luke Rockhold via submission
BEN ASKREN (19-0-0) VS. JORGE MASVIDAL (33-13-0)
Andrews: I love GameBred and he will keep Askren on his toes, but Askren is as clever as they come as well. Fun fight while it lasts.
Andrews Prediction: Ben Askren via submission
AMANDA NUNES (17-4-0) VS. HOLLY HOLM (12-4-0)
Andrews: Holmes usually brings her best in the big fights, but Amanda is just too much one she figures out the distance and gets inside her kickboxing.
Andrews Prediction: Amanda Nunes via TKO
JON JONES (24-1-0, 1NC) VS. THIAGO SANTOS (21-6-0)
Andrews: Santos is a beast, but at 6-2, I don’t think even he can survive trying to figure out the the distance to get inside Jon Jones to land his shots. That means Jones can play footsies until he takes some starch out, then take him down in the fourth round and secure the finish.
Andrews Prediction: Jon Jones via TKO