UFC 259: STACKED
By: Clint MacLean (@DieHardMMAPod)
I cannot believe how lucky we are right now—what a time to be alive. MMA has been on an absolute tear through the start of 2021. While other sports are struggling, ours is flourishing, and Saturday is hands down the most exciting and stacked card of the year. Not only do we have 3 title fights on the PPV card, but the undercard is stacked full of important matchups with fighters looking to break into the title picture or even keep their jobs with the UFC. I cannot wait!
The night starts with a battle of prospects when Trevin Jones faces Mario Bautista, and I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off a fight night. Trevin Jones was the man who derailed Temur Valiev in his UFC debut via devastating knockout. Bautista is a violent pressure fighter who only moves forward and never stops throwing punches. I don’t expect this fight to go the distance, and I love it. Either Bautista will break Trevin Jones, or Jones will find an opening in the aggressive young fighter and lay him out flat.
🚨 UPSET ALERT 🚨
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 22, 2020
In another battle of prospects, Fortis MMA’s Kennedy Nzechukwu will face City Kickboxing’s Carlos Ulberg in another absolute banger. City Kickboxing is the hottest gym in the sport today, and they regularly load a fight card with CKB fighters who tend not to lose. Nzechukwu has been somewhat unimpressive after a hot start, and it seems almost as though the UFC is testing who is the REAL prospect. This is a Light Heavyweight fight where the UFC desperately needs talent, and Ulberg checks all the boxes. This man is aggressive, explosive, talented, and hot! Ulberg was supposed to be The Bachelor for the NZ version of the reality series so that the UFC might have found a hidden gem. Ulberg will look for a highlight reel KO, and Kennedy is the kind of fighter who will bring the fight and make that possible.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) November 5, 2020
The next CKB fighter on the card is Kai Kara-France, a fighter man people have been on the wrong side of. KKF is a technical striker who has some pop in his hands but tends to end up in a brawl. Kai Kara-France may be one of the weaker legs of the CKB family, and while he is a very talented fighter, he is by no means going to be challenging for the UFC title any time soon. France is receiving a very stiff test on Saturday when BJJ black belt and physical powerhouse Rogerio Bontorin challenges him for his position as a real contender. Honestly, I believe Kai Kara-France is a bit overrated, and I think that Bontorin is underrated. I have taken a shot with the underdog here myself, and in the small cage that favors grapplers, I am expecting a good battle.
Some fun early action between Rogério Bontorin and Magomed Bibulatov.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) February 2, 2019
The one-time Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz is returning to the cage after his disappointing fight against Henry Cejudo. Cruz has been struggling with injuries his entire career and is not getting any younger. One of the UFC’s newest and hottest fighters in Casey Kenney is taking a BIG step up in class and looking to add a former champion to his resume. Casey Kenney is a slicks striker with an endless gas tank, and he will be looking to outmove the master of footwork Cruz. This is a real changing-of-the-guard kind of match where these fighters mirror one another, and even though Cruz still has some gas in the tank, the fact is that fighting is a young man’s game. I fully expect the younger fighter to get the win, but this fight will likely be very close.
— MMA Junkie (@MMAjunkie) March 23, 2019
The first of the 3 title battles on Saturday is Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling which, in my opinion, is the absolute hardest fight to pick on this card. What is crazy is that the underdog and challenger Aljamain Sterling is about to flip the line and become the favorite in the betting market. The sharp money and action are all on Aljo, and while I can’t argue with a pick ‘em price tag, it is hard to say that the current reigning champion Petr Yan should be an underdog. If this fight stays standing, Yan is a whirlwind and will be looking for a finish from the first bell. If Aljo can get his grappling going, he has shown he is world-class, and he can win by wrestling or by submission. I can’t count either of these guys out, and this is my fight to watch on the entire card. I took a shot on the Over 3.5 rounds. While I do slightly lean to Aljo myself due to his reach and wrestling, I can’t pull the trigger on a side here.
"You can't hit what you can't see."
— UFC (@ufc) March 4, 2021
The Co-Main Event features the biggest favorite on the card, the all-time women’s GOAT, the queen herself: Amanda Nunes. Nunes has ruled over 135 and 145 with an iron fist and has been able to turn back all challengers. The UFC’s 145 division is a bit of a joke, quite frankly. Since Cyborg left the UFC and Nunes took the strap from her, the challengers at 145 have been some of the bigger 135ers who have moved up just for the sake of filling roster spots. The literal biggest challenge to Amanda Nunes is challenger Megan Anderson. Saturday, Megan Anderson will take a record-breaking step up in competition simply because she is the ONLY prospect in the division and the only real 145er. The crazy thing is I somehow get the sense that she is living here. If Nunes doesn’t get an early knockout (which she very much can), she will be trapped in a small cage against a huge, very aggressive fighter, and that size and strength might become an issue. I cannot wait to see if the GOAT can continue her run of dominance, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit I wanted to see an upset here.
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) March 4, 2021
The main event of UFC 259 is one that I am beyond excited about. I have been backing both Israel Adesanya and Jan Blachowicz for the last several years. Jan is an underrated fighter who has been disrespected for much of his career. I have made a lot of money backing Jan as an underdog, and here he is, finally having achieved the belt, and one more time, he is a big underdog. Israel is the hyped prospect. A special fighter the UFC is treating much like the next Conor McGregor. Even though Israel is the 185er, he moves up to 205 and is currently instilled as a -225 favorite. I think this fight I going to be a war, but it will come down to who has the speed advantage, and that is going to be Izzy. Jan is a fast fighter at 205, but facing the younger fighter who has a speed advantage is a bad recipe. On top of that, Israel has been on record that he is the challenger here and is not entering this fight as a champion. I like that mindset. I will be looking to back the challenger here, and I believe we see the first undefeated champ champ in UFC history on Saturday.
CHAMP vs CHAMP.
— UFC (@ufc) March 4, 2021