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411’s MMA Roundtable Preview – UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos

July 6, 2019 | Posted by Dan Plunkett
UFC 239

It’s a big weekend for the UFC with two title fights in Las Vegas! In the main event, Jon Jones defends his light heavyweight title against Thiago Santos! In the co-main event, double champ Amanda Nunes defends her bantamweight title against former champion Holly Holm! At welterweight, Ben Askren fights for a possible title shot when he faces Jorge Masvidal. Plus, Luke Rockhold fights Jan Blachowicz, Diego Sanchez vs. Michael Chiesa, and more!


  • He’ll lock you in the guillotine, Robert Winfree!

  • Your host, Dan Plunkett!

    First three prelims on ESPN+, rest on ESPN.
    Bantamweight Bout: Julia Avila vs. Pannie Kianzad

    Robert Winfree: Julia Avila, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Kianzad, Decision

    Welterweight Bout: Ismail Naurdiev vs. Chance Rencountre

    Robert Winfree: Ismail Narudiev, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Narudiev, Decision

    Middleweight Bout: Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Jack Marshman

    Robert Winfree: Edmen Shahbazyan, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Shahbazyan, TKO, Round 2

    Bantamweight Bout: Alejandro Perez vs. Yadong Song

    Robert Winfree: Alejandro Perez, TKO, Round 2
    Dan Plunkett: Perez, Decision

    Strawweight Bout: Claudia Gadelha vs. Randa Markos

    Robert Winfree: Draw
    Dan Plunkett: Gadelha, Decision

    Bantamweight Bout: Marlon Viera vs. Nohelin Hernandez

    Robert Winfree: Marlon Vera, TKO, Round 3
    Dan Plunkett: Vera, Decision

    Featherweight Bout: Gilbert Melendez vs. Arnold Allen

    Robert Winfree: Arnold Allen, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Allen, TKO, Round 3

    Welterweight Bout: Diego Sanchez vs. Michael Chiesa

    Robert Winfree: I don’t know why we as a fandom continue to indulge in Diego Sanchez fights. The man has absorbed a tremendous amount of damage and I’m not entirely sure it’s wise for him to continue fighting professionally. And before anyone mentions he’s winning a few fights, winning doesn’t reverse brain damage. That said he’s unlikely to absorb a lot of concussive blows here as that’s not really Chiesa’s style. I’ve got Chiesa here as I can’t pick Sanchez against anyone who’s even moderately good and Chiesa has proven himself to be a legitimate UFC caliber fighter.

    Winner: Michael Chiesa, Submission, Round 2

    Dan Plunkett: Diego Sanchez is 37 years old, has taken tremendous punishment, and left Jackson/Winkeljohn to train with a movement coach, who will be his sole cornerman on Saturday. Therefore, I am picking Michael Chiesa.

    Winner: Chiesa, TKO, Round 1

    Light Heavyweight Bout: Luke Rockhold vs. Jan Blachowicz

    Robert Winfree: Jan Blachowicz is a bit under appreciated from my perspective, but he’s also had some rough stretches at points in his UFC run. Blachowicz just lost to Thiago Santos and is being used more as a barometer for Rockhold’s potential at 205 here than anything else. Both men are kicker/grapplers primarily though Blachowicz has better hands. Rockhold is likely both the harder kick and better overall grappler, so I don’t mind picking him here.

    Winner: Luke Rockhold, Submission, Round 2

    Dan Plunkett: It will be interesting for the light heavyweight division if Luke Rockhold can get rolling here. He’s very athletic with a murderous top game and good standup, although he can be hit. Perhaps his chin will hold up better without severely dehydrating himself before the fight. Blachowicz is a good fighter, but Rockhold is a talent level and athletic level above him. There are points Rockhold has to prove at light heavyweight, but I lean toward him in the fight.

    Winner: Rockhold, Decision

    Welterweight Bout: Jorge Masvidal vs. Ben Askren

    Robert Winfree: This fight has a lot of intrigue for me, you have a guy with all of the tools in Masvidal to be a truly top level fighter but who’s struggled to consistently put everything together in the cage and who’s also had a couple of close/bad decisions go against him. Then there’s Askren, a specialist but an exceptional one. If Masvidal takes a few pointers from what Robbie Lawler did successfully against Askren he can find success, mainly hard knees to the body when Askren tries to clinch up to try and discourage Askren from closing distance and then Masvidal’s consistent straight punches. I’ve gone back and forth a few times on this, mainly because it’s not like Masvidal can’t wrestle but Askren is just relentless with his pressure once he gets onto you. I’m leaning Askren almost based as much on Masvidal’s history of stumbling at the metaphorical finish line than anything else.

    Winner: Ben Askren, Decision

    Dan Plunkett: This slightly edges the co-main event as the fight I’m most looking forward to. We all know Askren’s game; we all know what he’s going to attempt to do. I think he’s going to have a hell of a time with Jorge Masvidal and it will be an ugly fight, but I lean toward Askren sticking to him and getting the nod.

    Winner: Askren, Decision

    UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship Bout: Amanda Nunes vs. Holly Holm

    Robert Winfree: Holly Holm has a couple of, somewhat narrow, avenues to victory here. Nunes is the much bigger hitter but struggled a bit with the very angularly mobile Shevchenko because of that mobility. Nunes is good at cutting the cage in motion but once she commits to an exchange her feet plant, a habit that Shevchenko used against her consistently in their second fight, but Holm doesn’t have the same diversity of striking that Shevchenko does nor the fake and feinting game that Shevchenko used to draw out Nunes’ counters. If Holm can drive a high pace and make Nunes work consistently she might have more success later in the fight, but Nunes has worked hard enough on her cardio that if you’re going to exploit that you can’t keep a low pace and just hope that time alone will do the job (again see the second Shevchenko fight as Nunes is pretty solid all five rounds but the pace of that fight contributes to that reality). Holm is durable enough to take a bit of a beating from Nunes, but Nunes might be the hardest punching woman MMA has ever seen. I need a really compelling reason to pick against Nunes at this point, and while Holm has some tools to potentially make this interesting I can’t pick against Nunes.

    Winner: Amanda Nunes, TKO, Round 3

    Dan Plunkett: I think Holm can make this an interesting fight and take this to the distance, but like Robert, Nunes has reached a point for me where it’s going to take an ultra-talented superstar (or perhaps a third Valentina Shevchenko fight) for me to pick against her. She can finish the fight in multiple ways, and she hasn’t been prone to gassing lately (although that might be because the flurries she used to gas herself out with now finish the fight).

    Winner: Nunes, Decision

    UFC Light Heavyweight Championship Bout: Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos

    Robert Winfree: Thiago Santos is a bruiser of a fighter, big power, good kicks as well as punches, and a bit of ability to fight from both stances. Unfortunately for Santos he’s also a bit too wild, has shown some cardio issues though he hasn’t gassed out badly just yet, and is a bit predictable in terms of what he’s going for relative to what stance he’s in. I expect Jones to spend a round circling, stabbing at Santos’ legs with low line kicks to the knee then clinching up if Santos can close distance and using that shoulder wrench in the clinch he loves so much. Santos struggled a bit in the clinch against Jimi Manuwa and Jones’ clinch game is exponentially more sophisticated and effective than Manuwas. While Santos has the raw power to possibly trouble Jones, though Jones has also shown off a chin that’s not really been troubled by anyone thus far, I can’t pick against Jon Jones against anyone at light heavyweight.

    Winner: Jon Jones, TKO, Round 4

    Dan Plunkett: Sure, Thiago Santos could catch Jon Jones, but we’ve said the same thing about Anthony Smith, Alexander Gustafsson, Ovince Saint Preux, Glover Teixeira, Vitor Belfort, Rampage Jackson, and more. The reality is Jones is excellent at keeping distance and when he’s been hit, he’s shown a world class chin. I think he’ll pick Santos apart and perhaps get the finish on the ground.

    Winner: Jones, TKO, Round 3

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