UFC 239: Jones vs Santos Betting Preview: Odds and Predictions

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On Saturday, July 6th, the UFC will be live from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC 239: Jones vs Santos. This outstanding PPV event is headlined by a light heavyweight title fight with the UFC’s pound for pound best fighter Jon Jones putting his belt on the line against Thiago Santos.

The co-main event features the women’s bantamweight and featherweight champ Amanda Nunes defending just her bantamweight title against former champ Holly Holm. Also on the main card is an exciting welterweight battle between Jorge Masvidal and Ben Askren, a light heavyweight bout between Luke Rockhold and Jan Blachowicz, and a hard hitting welterweight clash between Diego Sanchez and Michael Chiesa.

In total, this impressive UFC PPV event features 12 fights. The prelims will begin at 6:15 PM ET with the main card starting at 10 PM ET. UFC betting sites have released their odds for the full slate of fights. Let’s step inside the betting octagon and examine these current UFC 239 lines, identify possible betting value or upsets, and KO our picks.

UFC 239 Early Prelims

The opening portion of preliminary fights is scheduled to have three bouts and begin at 6:15 PM ET on ESPN+. The following betting odds are courtesy of 5Dimes:

Julia Avila (5-1) vs Pannie Kianzad (11-4)

  • Julia Avila (-230)
  • Pannie Kianzad (+190)

This fight was originally scheduled to be between Julia Avila and Melissa Gato, but the latter was removed from this contest for unknown reasons. Kianzad stepped up to replace Gato on two weeks’ notice. This will be the official debut for both women although they each competed on TUF.

Kianzad closed out her Invicta FC career 2-4 before going 1-2 in regional promotions. She did fight at TUF 28 last November, but lost via submission to Macy Chiasson. Eight of Pannie’s 11 pro wins have come via decision. Dubbed “Banzai,” Kianzad showed some improvement on TUF, but she seems out matched in this contest.

Avila bounced back from her first professional loss 14 months ago to get a TKO win last November. She had a decent run on TUF as well. Three of her five wins have come via stoppages. Avila has power in his fists and a scary clinch.

Oddsmakers view Avila as a large betting favorite, and it’s largely due to her striking skills. I expect Avila to come out and drop some bombs before she drops her opponent. I’m going with the smart money here and taking Avila to win via TKO.

UFC Bet: Julia Avila (-230)

Ismail Naurdiev (18-2) vs Chance Rencountre (13-3)

  • Ismail Naurdiev (-450)
  • Chance Rencountre (+360)

Naurdiev has won 13 of his last 14 fights with his lone loss coming in September 2017 via Unanimous Decision. 11 of his 18 pro victories have come via TKO/KO. Another five have come via submission, which gives Ismail a total of 16 stoppage victories. He debuted with the UFC in February and won via UD over Prazeres.

Chance Rencountre is a big underdog despite having won five of his last six fights. His lone loss over that span was to the rugged Belal Muhammad and that come in via UD. Nine of Rencountre’s 13 pro victories have come via stoppage with six of those via KO/TKO. Rencountre will have the slight reach and height advantages.

The smart money is on Naurdiev to win this fight. He proved that he could handle a wrestler and his striking power will be too much for Rencountre to handle. Naurdiev doesn’t offer any value and Rencountre isn’t worthy of a flier. I don’t believe Rencountre has the chin to withstand the flurries that will come his way.

UFC Bet: Ismail Naurdiev (-450)

Edmen Shahbazyan (9-0) vs Jack Marshman (23-8)

  • Edmen Shahbazyan (-500)
  • Jack Marshman (+400)

Shahbazyan is the biggest betting favorite on the preliminary card. However, I think that the online betting sites might have overvalued Edmen some. Marshman is a very tough and gritty fighter who has the striking skills to hang with Shahbazyan. In fact, Marshman is the better technical striker of the two. And if this fight stays upright for 15 minutes, then Marshman could win via decision.

Marshman, nicknamed “The Hammer,” is 3-2 inside the octagon and won his last fight in March via split decision. He has dropped three of his last five fights largely due to more dangerous strikers and wrestlers. Fortunately for Marshman, Shahbazyan is not a more dangerous striker although he does have eight first-round TKO wins.

Where Shahbazyan will win this fight is with his wrestling. I expect Edmen to realize that standing up and exchanging punches with Marshman is not a good idea. Shahbazyan will have more success taking down Marshman who has deficiencies in this area. From there, Edmen should be able to control the fight with top position and maybe even a little ground and pound.

I give Marshman a puncher’s chance as this fight has the makings of a full 15-minute bout of which Shahbazyan should win via UD. I do think Marshman is worthy of a small flier.

UFC Bet: Edmen Shahbazyan (-500)

UFC 239 Second Prelims

The section portion of preliminary fights is scheduled to have four bouts and will begin at 8 PM ET on ESPN. UFC betting odds are courtesy of 5Dimes:

Alejandro Perez (21-7-1) vs Song Yadong (13-3)

  • Alejandro Perez (+180)
  • Song Yadong (-220)

Perez last fought in March and lost via UD to Cody Stamann. The loss snapped a seven-fight unbeaten streak that saw him move up the ranks and become a contender within the division. 14 of Perez’s 21 wins have come via stoppage. However, three of his last four victories have gone to the judges.

Song was supposed to fight Perez in March, but he had to pull out due to injury. Now, these two men will get the chance to fight and Yadong comes in as a large betting favorite. Song has won six straight fights including his first three UFC bouts. He trains out of Team Alpha Male and is a rising prospect in the featherweight division.

Perez is a confusing fighter to figure out. At times he flashes a lot of potential, but other times he just seems to never fulfill his potential. Perez is 29 years old, which is eight years older than Song who will be 21 years old when they fight on Saturday.

If this were Song’s first UFC fight, then I would’ve taken Perez. But this is his fourth fight, and I believe he’s ready to climb up that featherweight ladder. I’m taking Song Yadong to win this fight via decision as six of his 13 pro victories have come via the scorecards.

UFC Bet: Song Yadong (-220)

Claudia Gadelha (16-4) vs Randa Markos (9-6-1)

  • Claudia Gadelha (-210)
  • Randa Markos (+175)

Both women debuted with the UFC in 2014 and both of them need to win this fight on Saturday.

Gadelha might be the more desperate of the two fighters as she lost her last bout, which was in December. She’s dropped two of her last three fights and continues to struggle against the top fighters within the division. Currently, Gadelha is 5-4 all-time in the octagon and has nine wins via stoppage. Of those nine, seven have come via submission.

Markos has gone 5-5-1 with the UFC, but is on a two-fight unbeaten streak since losing to Nina Ansaroff 12 months ago. Coincidentally, Ansaroff also defeated Gadelha last December. For Markos, she last fought in March and won via first round submission over Angela Hill. That was the fourth submission win of her career.

Despite Gadelha’s recent struggles, she’s still the better fighter in this matchup. I believe she’s superior in striking and on the mat, which gives her multiple paths to victory. I don’t see Markos winning in a boxing match, but I can see her getting lucky with finding a limb to latch onto if the fight goes to the mat. Markos can be considered worthy of a small flier, but the safe bet is on Gadelha.

With that said, I see this one going to the scorecards as these two women have 21 decisions combined. For Gadelha, she’s 7-4 when going to the judges while Markos is 5-5.

UFC Bet: Claudia Gadelha (-210)

Marlon Vera (13-5-1) vs Nohelin Hernandez (9-2)

  • Marlon Vera (-325)
  • Nohelin Hernandez (+250)

Marlon Vera was originally scheduled to fight Sean O’Malley, but the latter suffered a second doping violation with the USADA. Nohelin Hernandez has stepped up on less than a week’s notice to take on Vera.

Nohelin Hernandez is a large underdog, but he does have some fight skills. Some fans believe he could be one of the best bantamweights to not be in the UFC. Hernandez is on a three-fight win streak which spans three different promotions. All three wins have come via decisions. In fact, his last five fights have gone the distance. Six of Hernandez’s nine pro wins have come via the scorecards.

With Vera, his opponents are more likely to be stopped than see the judges. 11 of Vera’s 13 wins have come via stoppage with seven of those victories coming via submission. Nicknamed “Chito,” Vera is a well-rounded fighter who has the striking capabilities to end a fight and the ground game to tap out an opponent.

Vera’s biggest problems have come from opponents who were at least as good as him, if not better. John Lineker is an example of this. However, not even the power punching Lineker could put Vera in trouble. I don’t see Hernandez being able to put Vera in any trouble. In fact, if Vera doesn’t stop this fight in the first round via TKO, then I believe he will submit Hernandez by the second round.

I like this matchup for Vera, and I see him extending his winning streak to four fights.

UFC Bet: Marlon Vera (-325)

Gilbert Melendez (22-7) vs Arnold Allen (14-1)

  • Gilbert Melendez (+310)
  • Arnold Allen (-370)

Arnold Allen is a huge betting favorite over the returning Melendez and a big reason is due to his seven-fight win streak. At just 25 years old, Allen is a featherweight prospect looking for his first signature win. Allen is 5-0 inside the octagon and has nine victories via stoppage. He last fought in March and won via UD over Rinaldi. Three of his last four victories have been via decision.

Gilbert Melendez used to be the top lightweight in all of MMA. He was the Strikeforce lightweight champ and had 10 title fights. He never lost his belt, but did move over to the UFC and lost his debut fight against Benson Henderson via Split Decision. It was a controversial loss that ended up sending Gilbert to a 1-5 record in the UFC.

Melendez last fought in September 2017 and is returning to the octagon for the first time since then. He suffered four straight defeats with the last one leading to Melendez walking away from the sport. However, after some time away, Gilbert eventually found his love for MMA again. He now looks to resurrect his career and make one last run at the gold.

Typically, I am leery about a 37-year-old fighter having much success inside the octagon against younger talent. But I don’t see Allen being as great as his record and the oddsmakers make him out to be. To me, I don’t believe Allen has beaten anyone the level of Melendez or even close to it.

Melendez has a height and reach advantage, is more experienced, and has the punching power to end the fight. Furthermore, this will be Allen’s debut in the United States. I believe that there are too many intangibles going against Allen. I’m taking the upset here with the returning champion finding his way back into the win column. Allen can still blossom into a top contender, but Melendez’s refocused attitude and love for the sport will shine in this fight.

UFC Bet: Gilbert Melendez (+310)

UFC 239 Main Card

The main card of the event features five fights and is set to begin at 10 PM ET on PPV. All UFC 239 betting odds are according to 5Dimes:

Michael Chiesa (15-4) vs Diego Sanchez (29-11)

  • Michael Chiesa (-330)
  • Diego Sanchez (+270)

Both fighters come into this contest looking to recapture their peak form and gain an important victory this weekend.

Michael Chiesa won in his last fight, which came against Carlos Condit last December. The victory snapped a two-fight losing streak. Chiesa debuted in the UFC seven years ago and has gone 8-4 inside the octagon since then. During that span, he has some solid wins against fighters like Al Iaquinta, Beneil Dariush, and Jim Miller.

Chiesa isn’t going to win his fights via striking. In fact, he’s going to make sure this bout ends up on the mat where he will work to find a submission hold to win the fight. 11 of his 15 pro wins have come via submission. For his fight this weekend, Chiesa recognizes that it will be a clash of styles. He also sees that Sanchez looks dangerous again and that he certainly can’t overlook Diego:

“Man, this guy is looking like his vintage self. Styles make fights. That’s a good clash of styles, and seeing him go back to his old ways, just the way he fights—it’s also his mentality. I just don’t know how you overlook a guy like that. That’s very foolish. Especially with his skill set, especially with his mentality. It makes for a dangerous man, makes for a fun fight, makes for a great challenge.”

Sanchez has won two straight fights after going 4-7 over a five-year span. When he lost to Matt Brown in November 2017, everyone thought that Sanchez was done. However, he took off 10 months and came back strong against Craig White. Sanchez last fought in March and won via second-round TKO over Mickey Gall.

Sanchez’s confidence is back and he’s ready to take down the entire welterweight division. As for his opponent this weekend, Sanchez tells Yahoo! Sports he is coming to “kill” and win this fight in devastating fashion:

“I don’t care about this guy [Chiesa]. I’m glad he don’t got kids, but I’m going to make his mama real sad on July 6. I’m coming to kill.”

Chiesa is overvalued for this fight. He’s a large betting favorite, but is an inferior striker to Sanchez. If he doesn’t get the fight to the mat, then he will lose. I’m putting Chiesa on upset alert. I believe Sanchez has a shot at winning and is worthy of a flier. I’m begrudgingly going with Chiesa and the safe bet.

UFC Bet: Michael Chiesa (-330)

Luke Rockhold (16-4) vs Jan Blachowicz (23-8)

  • Luke Rockhold (-175)
  • Jan Blachowicz (+155)

Luke Rockhold isn’t your average UFC fighter. In addition to being a former MMA champ, Rockhold is the face of Ralph Lauren’s Polo Blue men’s fragrance. So, not only is he showcasing his skills each MMA event, but he’s also showcasing his looks and brand image. Unfortunately for Rockhold, his last fight didn’t go well as he lost via KO to Yoel Romero. However, that fight took place in February 2018. Luke returns to the octagon for the first time in 17 months. He will also make his debut in the light heavyweight division this weekend against Jan Blachowicz.

For Rockhold, this training camp has gone smoother since he’s not cutting weight like in the past. Instead, Rockhold is able to eat big meals and weightlift without having to worry about not getting down to the middleweight limit.

Jan Blachowicz was on a four-fight win streak before he suffered defeat to Thiago Santos in February. Santos is in the main event of the night against Jon Jones for the title. Both Jan Blachowicz and Luke Rockhold feel that the winner of this fight should be next in line for a title shot.

As for his opponent, Blachowicz is preparing for the best version of Rockhold. However, it’s hard to gauge Rockhold’s conditioning when he hasn’t fought since early 2018, and this is going to be his first bout at a higher weight class.

I do give Jan Blachowicz a shot at winning this fight. He’s definitely flier material. With that said, I’m going to side with the smart money and take Rockhold. I believe the time off and the move up in weight should benefit him. I’m not sure if he will get the stoppage win, but I do see Rockhold edging out Blachowicz.

UFC Bet: Luke Rockhold (-175)

Jorge Masvidal (33-13) vs Ben Askren (19-0)

  • Jorge Masvidal (+195)
  • Ben Askren (-235)

This fight has become personal between two men that despise each other and aren’t afraid to publicly say so. For UFC fans, this fight has become a “must-see” contest between two top welterweight contenders as they have waged a personal war against each other that can only be settled inside the octagon or a parking lot.

Ben Askren steps into the octagon for the second time in his career since being traded last year to the UFC. Askren’s debut fight against Robbie Lawler in March had a highly controversial finish after Askren was rocked by Lawler in the first round. Bottom line, Askren got a little assistance from bad officiating. Now, he goes up against another dangerous striker this weekend and believes that he will get the win.

At first, Askren thought Masvidal would lose to Darren Till in March. But when Masvidal won, Askren told MMA Fighting that his fight against Jorge would be even easier than the projected bout against Till:

“Going in to the fight with Masvidal, I thought Till was going to win. I think it’s pretty easy. He’s simple right? He’s got good hands but his wrestling’s not great. His jiu-jitsu’s not great. His strength is not great. His cardio’s not great. So when you break it down like that, it becomes pretty simple.”

Masvidal has gone 4-2 in his last six fights. During that three-year span, he defeated notable fighters like Donald Cerrone and Darren Till while losing to Demian Maia and Stephen Thompson. He’s positioned himself near the top of the welterweight division, but needs to defeat Askren to move one step closer to a title fight. For Masvidal, he’s either going to knockout an opponent or go toe-to-toe for three rounds. In his career, Masvidal has 14 wins via KO/TKO and 17 wins via decision. Unfortunately, he also has 10 losses via decision. It’s been over a decade since Masvidal was stopped in a fight.

Where Askren was a bit more thoughtful and annoying with his comments toward Masvidal, Jorge was more vulgar and graphic in what he’s going to do to Askren in this fight. CBS Sports reported the following quote from Jorge:

“If I don’t like you—like Ben Askren, for example—I’m going to make him piss blood for a month because I’m going to f— his kidneys up. I want to destroy his legs so he can’t walk, and anytime he walks, I want him to say, ‘That f—ing Masvidal, bro.’ I want to break his ribs. Those privileges are done for him. Game over for this little punk. I don’t like this dude one bit. I just want to f— him up.”

This fight also represents a clash in styles. Askren is a grappler and a wrestler who wants this fight on the mat as quick as possible. Look how he desperately tried to get Robbie Lawler down. After he did, Askren controlled the fight and got the controversial win. He could follow the same blueprint in this fight and possibly end up with the same success.

I thought Askren was lucky to escape the fight with Lawler, and I think he faces a similar danger in this fight. I believe Masvidal is worthy of a flier even though I’m leaning toward Askren in this fight. I want to pick Jorge to win, but Askren is so dominant on the mat and I believe he can control the fight from the top position. I’m taking Askren to win via Decision, unless he can find a chokehold for the submission.

UFC Bet: Ben Askren (-235)

Amanda Nunes (17-4) vs Holly Holm (12-4)

  • Amanda Nunes (-340)
  • Holly Holm (+280)

Holly Holm is a former champ looking to regain gold this weekend. She’s turned around her career with two wins in her last three fights and is a legitimate contender for Nunes on Saturday. Holm last fought 13 months ago and defeated Megan Anderson via UD. That was a bounce back win as she lost to Cyborg in December 2017 via UD. Longtime UFC fans will remember that it was Holly Holm who ended Ronda Rousey’s mystique in 2015 when she knocked out Rousey in the second round. Holm has eight victories via KO/TKO with the last one coming 25 months ago against Beth Correia.

If it was Holm who ended Rousey’s mystique, then it was Nunes who ended Ronda’s career. Nunes defeated Rousey via TKO in under a minute at UFC 207. It not only sent shockwaves throughout the UFC, but it also announced that the “Lioness” was here to devour the competition. Following the Rousey fight, Amanda Nunes defeated Valentina Shevchenko for the second time, then she took out contender Raquel Pennington. But it was Nunes’ 51-second knockout of the previously invincible Christiane “Cyborg” Justino last December that cemented Amanda as the best female MMA fighter in the world today.

Nunes has scored 12 KO/TKO wins in her career and has forced three more opponents to tap out. She’s a champion in both the bantamweight and featherweight divisions. Nunes isn’t just fighting to remain a “champ champ,” she’s fighting for legacy. Nunes wants to be the greatest of all-time and she’s already making a claim for that title.

When she beats Holm on Saturday, she will have defeated every woman who has ever touched the bantamweight title. The only thing left is for her to collect the UFC flyweight title that currently sits around the waist of Valentina Shevchenko who she has already defeated twice in her career.

I believe Nunes will win this fight and most likely via TKO. Holm will oblige her with striking, but Nunes’ power and ferociousness will overwhelm Holm. I give Holly a puncher’s chance because this will be a slug fest, but I believe Nunes is the better slugger and striker. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Nunes gets ahold of Holm and forces a submission.

Like with Jon Jones, we are watching a legend in the making with Amanda Nunes. Not only am I picking her to win this fight, but I’m also picking her to beat Shevchenko one more time and winning all of the titles. When that happens, she will not only be the greatest female fighter of all-time, but she will end up being the greatest MMA fighter of all-time.

UFC Bet: Amanda Nunes (-340)

Jon Jones (24-1) vs Thiago Santos (21-6)

  • Jon Jones (-600)
  • Thiago Santos (+450)

Jon Jones’ only loss was a disqualification for illegal elbows back in December 2009. Otherwise, he’s never been defeated as a professional and it’s hard to imagine that’s going to happen this weekend. Jones will once again have the height and reach advantage in his upcoming fight against Santos. However, he not only can strike with the best of them, but Jones can also take this fight to the mat and force his opponents to tap out. 16 of his 24 wins have come via stoppage.

Thiago Santos has won four straight fights and eight of his last nine. Over that span, he’s only gone the distance on one occasion. For this main event battle, it’s going to be all about whether or not Santos can land the one shot that will change the landscape of this contest. If Santos can rock Jones, then he has a chance at victory. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Santos is one of the most dangerous strikers in the sport with 15 KO/TKO wins. However, he’s not as skilled on the mat as Jones is and that could be the difference in this fight.

Like with Nunes, Jones is now fighting for his legacy. He’s not just fighting for titles or victories anymore. Jon Jones has matured through the bad decisions he’s made outside of the octagon and realizes that he could become the greatest MMA fighter of all-time. For that to happen, he will need to defeat Santos and I see that happening.

Until Jon Jones loses, I am going to ride this express train until it goes off the track. He’s such a talented fighter when inspired. In the past, he’s looked lackadaisical at times in the octagon, but that’s all changed since coming back from his latest suspension. I believe Jones is going to stop Santos in the middle rounds of this fight via submission. I don’t see it going the distance. But by no means will this be an easy fight for Jones. Look for Jones to get this fight to the mat where he will be in complete control and navigate his way to a tap out.

After his win, I really hope Jon Jones calls out Daniel Cormier for a trilogy fight. There’s nothing left for Jones to accomplish other than a move to heavyweight and beating DC for the belt, provided that DC keeps the belt after he fights Miocic in August.

UFC Bet: Jon Jones (-600)

Betting Value for UFC 239

The following fighters offer solid betting value based on their current UFC 239 odds, matchups and career success:

  • Gilbert Melendez (+310) is returning to the octagon after a two-year layoff. He’s a large underdog going up against the 25-year-old Allen who’s making his American debut and who hasn’t fought anyone the caliber of Melendez. If Gilbert is in top form, he should win this fight.
  • Diego Sanchez (+270) is a large underdog, but he looks to have regained his form and confidence. Sanchez is once again knocking out his opponents and looking like the old “Nightmare” that used to put fear in the heart of mere mortals. I’m begrudgingly taking Chiesa to win, but I believe Diego can pull off the upset.
  • Jorge Masvidal (+195) is a sizable underdog to Ben Askren this weekend, but he’s too dangerous to write off. In fact, I believe he’s worthy of a flier even if I’m hesitantly taking Askren to win.

Final Thoughts on UFC 239

UFC 239 is going to be an exciting event this holiday weekend. The main card is stacked with competitive fights. In addition to two title fights, we have two athletes fighting for legacy and all-time greatness. If that weren’t enough to sell you on this event, UFC 239 also has a nasty feud between Askren and Masvidal that could get ugly before, during, and after the bout.

I’m looking forward to UFC 239 as it should provide plenty of entertainment value. Unfortunately, I don’t see as much betting value for this card. There are too many fights with large betting favorites and not enough evidence to go with the underdog. I do see some potential for upsets and big returns on wagers, but those are going to be very risky.

UFC 239 Betting Recap

  • Julia Avila (-230)
  • Ismail Naurdiev (-450)
  • Edmen Shahbazyan (-500)
  • Song Yadong (-220)
  • Claudia Gadelha (-210)
  • Marlon Vera (-325)
  • Gilbert Melendez (+310)
  • Michael Chiesa (-330)
  • Luke Rockhold (-175)
  • Ben Askren (-235)
  • Amanda Nunes (-340)
  • Jon Jones (-600)
Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...

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