By News Team
5th March 2021
Around once a year UFC president Dana White manages to put together a card that trumps every other event of the year (on paper). Last year it was UFC 251 that played host to a title triple-header, with Kamaru Usman, Alexander Volkanovski and Petr Yan emerging with their respective belts. This year it’s UFC 259 from the Apex Centre in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Yan returns to defend his bantamweight belt in the first of Saturday night’s title fights, as Aljamain Sterling’s winning run is rewarded, before the great Amanda Nunes makes the second defence of her women’s featherweight belt against the impressive Megan Anderson. This is then followed by a fascinating main event that sees dominant middleweight champion Israel Adesanya move up to light heavyweight to challenge newly-crowned Jan Blachowicz, defending for the first time since beating Dominick Reyes for the vacant belt.
Jan Blachowicz v Israel Adesanya – light heavyweight title fight
Ever since arriving in the UFC back in 2018, Israel Adesanya has made no secret of his ambition to chase greatness. Whilst decimating the middleweight division, one of the UFC’s deepest weight-classes, he’s beaten a list of names few others can hold a candle to, including Anderson Silva, Yoel Romero, Kelvin Gastelum, Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa. His next step is to try to become just the fifth UFC fighter to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously.
Standing in his way, and making his first title defence, is Poland’s Jan Blachowicz, whose hard work following four defeats in his first six UFC bouts would put him on a run to the title that ended with a brutal knockout of Dominick Reyes following long-time champion Jon Jones’ decision to vacate the belt and move up to heavyweight.
Whilst any champion versus champion matchups are naturally exciting for fans, this one has an added layer of intrigue. Adesanya is moving from the 185lb to the 205lb division, the biggest gap in terms of weight in any of the UFC’s divisions and what impact this will have on the fight remains unclear. Adesanya has comfortably fought at different weights during his kickboxing career, but this will be the first time he has fought outside of 185lbs since joining the UFC.
Blachowicz is also quite a big light heavyweight and could well walk into the octagon at more than 220lbs. His famous ‘Polish Power’ has been too much for the likes of Corey Anderson and Luke Rockhold as well as the aforementioned Reyes in the last two years. He will quite rightly fancy his chances of being the more powerful man both in the striking and in the clinch, but as the old adage goes, precision beats power and timing beats speed.
The unbeaten Adesanya has a variation of striking on a level of his own. He’s as comfortable pushing the pace as he is sitting back and waiting for counter-striking opportunities and his long reach helps him create angles other fighters simply can’t. Whilst Blachowicz will be the more powerful in the striking exchanges, Adesanya should have edge in terms of technique. He’s fought and beaten middleweights of similar size and power to Blachowicz so won’t be afraid of fighting a bigger man. Blachowicz’s best option may be to look for the clinch and perhaps take Adesanya to ground if he can.
Getting ‘Stylebender’ off his feet may be the best chance Blachowicz has of really making his power advantage pay off. The Pole is 7/4 to retain his belt, and land Adesanya with the first loss of his MMA career. Pure size advantage would indicate Blachowicz’s best chance lies in a KO/TKO at 11/4, with a less likely decision win 7/1.
Adesanya is still capable of winning by KO/TKO at 13/10 despite the size difference. His timing and ability to counter strike is second to none, but arguably his most likely method of victory is a decision at 5/2. Whichever way this one goes, it’s a suitably huge matchup for a card like this.
Amanda Nunes v Megan Anderson – featherweight title fight
The undisputed greatest female fighter on the planet makes her second consecutive featherweight title defence against Australian Megan Anderson, who comes off two first round finishes in her last two outings.
Two-weight world champion Amanda Nunes returns to the octagon for the first time since her initial featherweight title defence against Felicia Spencer back in June, where she won every round on the way to a comfortable decision victory. The imperious Brazilian has now won 11 consecutive fights and holds a perfect record in seven championship fights across two divisions.
Whilst 31-year-old Anderson’s title challenge has come later than she might have hoped for after climbing the ranks during the Invictus FC days, her work with Glory MMA has paid off with a recent upturn in form. She’s going to be a challenge for Nunes, but she has to disrupt the champion early on. If she allows Nunes to relax into the fight and find her range in the opening rounds, it could be a long night.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given her dominance in recent years, Nunes is a 1/12 favourite to pick up the win on Saturday night, with Anderson currently available at 13/2. Nunes proved with her emphatic TKO victory over Cris Cyborg when she won the belt that she has the power at 135lbs and is Evens to win by KO/TKO. Megan Anderson could land one of the biggest shock wins in MMA history if she can win via TKO/KO at 10/1 and is 18/1 to take a decision.
Petr Yan v Aljamain Sterling – bantamweight title fight
Russia’s Petr Yan has swiftly worked his way through the bantamweight division, racking up a perfect 7-0 UFC record including a fifth-round stoppage win over Jose Aldo to win the title back in July. Yan has been the highlight of a division with many rising stars and has impressed with his well-rounded striking game.
Another of those bantamweights with a rising stock is Yan’s challenger Aljamain Sterling. He followed up a four-fight win streak with an impressive first round submission of Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250 to set up his opportunity at the belt. His unorthodox wrestling style saw him nicknamed the ‘Funkmaster’ and his dominant jiu-jitsu game makes him a dangerous test for any opponent.
Whilst Sterling himself is an accomplished striker, you’d expect Yan to have the better of the action on the feet. What will be interesting is how the action plays out in the clinch and whether Sterling can get Yan to that matt. If he can, he’s capable of ending the fight at any time.