Two of the most prolific champions in mixed martial arts will put their titles on the line on Saturday, as both Jon Jones and Amanda Nunes will face serious challengers at UFC 239 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The main event features Jones taking on Thiago Santos for the UFC light heavyweight title, while the co-main event pits Nunes against Holly Holm for the UFC women’s bantamweight championship.
Jones: Personal Failings Don’t Detract from Fighting Game
Jones (24-1) has had a career marred by controversy, but few would dispute that it has also been one of the most dominant runs that any mixed martial artist has ever put together. Since losing by DQ to Matt Hamill in 2009, Jones has won 15 straight UFC fights, most of those as the light heavyweight champion. That title reign was interrupted in 2017 when he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs prior to his 2017 bout against Daniel Cormier, which turned that third-round knockout win into a no contest.
Jones’ struggles away from the Octagon are well known, and opponents often point to them in pre-fight interviews – something Jones says only shows just how dominant he has been in the UFC.
“A lot of my opponents try to insult my personal life because there is not much to say about my martial arts game,” Jones told UFC.com. “I worked really hard to try not to show any glaring holes in my game, but I definitely have some glaring holes in my personal life.”
Santos (21-6) is riding a four-fight winning streak that has made him the No. 2 contender in the light heavyweight division. After a decent run at middleweight, Santos moved up to the 205-pound division, and has won his last three fights by stoppage.
UFC 239 Main Card Odds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)
- Jon Jones (-750) vs. Thiago Santos (+500)
- Amanda Nunes (-460) vs. Holly Holm (+330)
- Ben Askren (-225) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+180)
- Luke Rockhold (-230) vs. Jan Blachowicz (+184)
- Michael Chiesa (-270) vs. Diego Sanchez (+270)
That’s par for the course for Santos, who has built an impressive resume around his impressive striking abilities. And while he’s still seen as a huge underdog against Jones, he believes he has what it takes to shock the world.
“I will use my footwork, my power, and I will put pressure on him,” Santos told reporters at open workouts on Wednesday. “Next Saturday, we’ll all see the new light heavyweight champion of the world.
Santos does have the power to drop anyone, including Jones, but it’s hard to see where he’ll find the opportunity against a champion who not only has better all-around skills but also has the patience to avoid getting into wild exchanges. FanDuel Sportsbook lists Jones as a -750 favorite over Santos (+500).
Nunes Has One Last Legend to Slay
In the co-main event, Nunes (17-4) will look to cement her legacy as one of the greatest women’s fighters in UFC history. After wins against illustrious names like Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, and Christiane “Cyborg” Justino, Holm (12-4) is about the only legend left for her to overcome.
“I am the best MMA fighter of all time in general,” Nunes told Combate. “I’m going to keep on defending the featherweight title. I’m going to keep on making history.”
Holm will present a significant challenge to Nunes, if only because her elite striking power and strong chin actually give her advantages that the champion will have to work around if she wants to win the fight – which could mean pressing the action to look for a finish or trying to outpoint one of the best standup strikers in women’s MMA. Still, the consensus is likely that Nunes will find a way to win, with FanDuel making her a -460 favorite.