When it comes to fight cards, they don’t get much bigger — or better — than what we have on tap for UFC 259. With three championship fights and a host of current and former champions and title challengers up and down the card, it’s easy to see why the MMA world is eagerly anticipating the action from inside Las Vegas’ UFC Apex on Saturday night.
In the main event, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya heads to the light heavyweight division to challenge 205-pound champion Jan Blachowicz in the Pol’s first title defense. The co-main event features two-division champ Amanda Nunes defending her women’s featherweight title against Megan Anderson. Bantamweight champion Petr Yan will also defend his 135-pound title on the card, taking on top contender Aljamain Sterling.
Nunes has yet to be truly challenged in a fight since losing to Cat Zingano by TKO in 2014. The Brazilian champion has reigned over a path of destruction since, with seven finishes in her last 10 fights (all wins). She encounters her first disadvantage in this fight, however, with Anderson standing three inches taller than Nunes. Anderson is 3-1 with three stoppages since dropping her promotional debut to Holly Holm in 2018.
Meanwhile, Yan and Sterling has all the makings of a drag-out brawl. Yan has been nothing short of brilliant since joining the promotion in 2018 with a 7-0 record and four finishes. The only slight criticism fans have levied at the current champ is his road to the title, which featured bouts with aging legends Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo. Sterling, on the other hand, has gone through the proverbial gauntlet. He’s posted a 7-2 mark since 2017 while facing every big name in the division along the way. Sterling is coming off of his best performance yet in an 88-second submission of another top contender in Cory Sandhagen.
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With so much happening on Saturday night, let’s take a closer look at the full fight card with the latest odds from William Hill Sportsbook before we get to our staff predictions and picks for the PPV portion of the festivities.
UFC 259 fight card, odds
- Israel Adesanya -230 vs. Jan Blachowicz (c) +190, light heavyweight championship
- Amanda Nunes (c) -1100 vs. Megan Anderson +700, women’s featherweight championship
- Petr Yan (c) -120 vs. Aljamain Sterling +100, bantamweight championship
- Islam Makhachev -410 vs. Drew Dober +320, lightweights
- Aleksandar Rakic -160 vs. Thiago Santos +135, light heavyweights
- Casey Kenney -135 vs. Dominick Cruz +115, bantamweights
- Song Yadong -150 vs. Kyler Phillips +125, bantamweights
- Askar Askarov -125 vs. Joseph Benavidez +105, flyweights
- Amanda Lemos -220 vs. Livinha Souza +180, women’s strawweights
- Jordan Espinosa -125 vs. Tim Elliott +105, flyweights
- Carlos Ulberg -240 vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu +200, light heavyweights
- Sean Brady -210 vs. Jake Matthews +175, welterweights
- Kai Kara-France -135 vs. Rogerio Bontorin +115, flyweights
- Uros Medic -170 vs. Aalon Cruz +145, lightweights
- Mario Bautista -230 vs. Trevin Jones +190, bantamweights
With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer, co-host of “Morning Kombat”), Matthew Coca (producer), Jack Crosby (editor), Michael Mormile (producer) and Brandon Wise (senior editor).
UFC 259 picks, predictions
|Blachowicz (c) vs. Adesanya||Adesanya||Adesanya||Adesanya||Blachowicz||Adesanya||Adesanya|
|Nunes (c) vs. Anderson||Nunes||Nunes||Nunes||Nunes||Nunes||Nunes|
|Yan (c) vs. Sterling||Yan||Sterling||Sterling||Sterling||Sterling||Yan|
|Makhachev vs. Dober||Makhachev||Makhachev||Makhachev||Makhachev||Dober||Makhachev|
|Rakic vs. Santos||Santos||Santos||Rakic||Rakic||Santos||Rakic|
|Records to date (2021)||6-3||6-3||6-3||5-4||5-4||2-7|
Campbell on why Adesanya will win: This has all the makings to be a one-sided demolition, even with the legitimate threat that the 38-year-old Blachowicz brings in the form of top-shelf power. Expect Adesanya’s speed and accuracy to be a problem for as long as this fight lasts. “The Last Stylebender” is both taller and longer despite being the fighter who is moving up in weight and as long as he avoids the clinch while grappling with his back against the cage, this has all the makings to be a spectacular statement to the light heavyweight division.
Brookhouse on why Adesanya will win: Blachowicz’s path to victory involves somehow either landing a one-shot knockout blow or using his strength advantage to completely nullify Adesanya’s striking. There’s a huge gulf in striking technique between the two men, so Blachowicz has to figure out how he is going to get around that. Put simply: I don’t think he can. Adesanya is a next-level talent on the feet. As long as he doesn’t completely go into his shell and lack aggression like in his fight with Yoel Romero — a career worst performance for Adesanya — Saturday night should see the crowning of a two-division king.
Campbell on why Nunes will win: Anderson is anything but a blown-up bantamweight, which makes this a potentially interesting matchup should the 6-foot tall featherweight contender prove able to establish her jab from distance and set up her powerful right hand. The problem, of course, is that Nunes is the G.O.A.T. for a reason and has methodically eliminated any form of flaws to her game. Nunes’ advantage on the ground should prove to be the difference maker here if Anderson proves able to strike on somewhat even terms. “The Lioness” may have to work a bit harder than the betting odds suggest, but a finish for the champion still feels inevitable.
Campbell on why Yan will win: This is as great a fight on paper as UFC could make in any weight division. In the end, despite the near pick ’em odds, something has to give in this matchup and Yan’s devastating standup game could prove to be the difference the later this fight goes. As strong as Sterling is on the ground, making Yan’s takedown defense a crucial part of his chances of victory, Aljo simply can’t trade with the champion on even terms for too long. There’s no shortage of potential for this to be a five-round thriller and one that Yan can win.
Brookhouse on why Sterling will win: Yan has the advantage on the feet if there are lengthy stretches where the men get into extended boxing spurts. But Sterling is good enough on the feet that he shouldn’t be completely overwhelmed. The difference here is Sterling’s ground game. Yan can talk all he wants about the talented grapplers he trains with. You know who else trains with talented grapplers in addition to being a high-level grappler himself? Cory Sandhagen. It took Sterling less than 90 seconds to put Sandhagen on the ground, advance position and sink in a fight-winning choke. Yan has yet to face someone like Sterling in the UFC, with his grappling approach and who was also peaking as a fighter. Yan is talented and this is a pick ’em fight for a reason, but Sterling is going to bring dimensions that Yan has yet to prove he can handle.
Wise on why Rakic will win: Despite the recent trend of older fighters staying relevant and fighting their way to the top of the sport in some cases, this is a tough sell for Thiago Santos. Rakic is a younger version of what Santos brought to the table and comes without the damage the Brazilian has endured. Santos looked off in his first fight back from double knee surgery against Glover Teixeira and it feels like a situation where the miles are starting to add up on the 37-year old. Expect both men to blitz for the quick knockout, but Rakic is too quick and elusive to get caught with one of those bombs.
Who will win Blachowicz vs. Adesanya, and which underdog is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight at UFC 259, all from the incomparable expert who’s up more than $21,000 on MMA in the past 25 months, and find out.