On Saturday, March 6th, the UFC returns to PPV for a massive event UFC 259: Blachowicz vs Adesanya. Before we can dive into the PPV lineup that features three world title fights, we must first examine the huge preliminary card that currently has 10 bouts scheduled.
The first batch of prelim fights begins at 6PM ET on ESPN+. This portion features notable names like Kai Kara-France, Sean Brady, Kennedy Nzechukwu, Tim Eilliott and Jordan Espinosa.
The second batch of prelims has an 8PM ET start time and can be seen on ESPN. It will feature names that normally would be on a main card like Joseph Benavidez, Askar Askarov, Song Yadong, Casey Kenney and Dominic Cruz.
You know the UFC is putting on a super show when Benavidez and Cruz are fighting on the prelims.
Jones made his UFC debut last August on short notice when he took on Timur Valiev. He was a big underdog, but ended up pulling off the upset with a 2nd round finish. Unfortunately, the result was overturned to a NC after Jones failed a drug test due to marijuana.
He’s unbeaten in his last three fights, which all came in different promotions. The overturned win really showed that Jones isn’t to be taken lightly inside the octagon. Six of his 12 pro wins have come via stoppage with four by way of submission. Jones is 6-5 when going the distance.
Bautista joined the UFC two years ago on short notice and lost to Cory Sandhagen via 1st round submission. He was able to bounce back after the loss with two straight wins.
His last fight came 13 months ago where he beat Miles Johns via 2nd round TKO. Six of his eight pro wins have come via stoppage with three each for submission and TKO/KO. He’s 2-0 when going the distance.
Both men have one stoppage loss come by way of submission.
This contest is a bit difficult to predict because Jones is better than what his record indicates. Yet, it appears that Bautista has the more complete overall skillset.
I see Bautista defending the takedown well and keeping this fight upright where he should outpoint Jones on his way to a decision win. Take the Over 2.5 rounds (-325) as well.
Bautista winning via decision (+140) offers the best value for a fight that will be competitive.
Mario Bautista vs Trevin Jones –Bautista (-235)
Over 2.5 rounds (-325)
Fight goes the distance (-155)
Bautista wins via decision (+140)
Uros Medic vs Aalon Cruz
Uros Medic (-165)
Aalon Cruz (+145)
Over (-130)/Under (+100) 1.5 rounds
Cruz won three straight contests which brought him to a DWCS appearance in July 2019 where he won via 3rd round KO. That earned him a UFC contract and he made his debut 13 months ago where he lost to Spike Carlyle via 1st round TKO.
Four of his eight pro wins have come via stoppage with two apiece for submission and TKO/KO. He’s 4-0 when going the distance.
Cruz will have a six inch reach advantage over Medic. All three of his defeats have come via stoppage with two by way of submission.
Medic rode a five fight win streak in the AFC to a shot on DWCS last August where he won via 1st round TKO over Mikey Gonzalez. The victory earned him a UFC contract. All five of his wins have come via stoppage with three by way of TKO/KO.
I’m going to place a bet on the Under 1.5 rounds (+100) on my UFC betting app for this contest as Medic has never gone Over that mark. It also means that this fight will finish inside the distance (-245).
I see Medic coming out aggressive and pushing the action right away. Either he lands and puts Cruz away early or Aalon catches Uros with some nasty counter shots and hands him his first pro loss.
Medic appears to be the heavier hitter, which is why I am leaning towards him in this contest. I don’t like the moneylines for this bout. I feel the value is with Medic (-105) or Cruz (+328) winning inside the distance.
Uros Medic vs Aalon Cruz –Medic (-165)
Under 1.5 rounds (+100)
Fight ends inside the distance (-245)
Medic wins inside the distance (-105)
Livinha Souza vs Amanda Lemos
Livinha Souza (+185)
Amanda Lemos (-225)
Over (-265)/Under (+200) 2.5 rounds
Souza was the former strawweight champ with Invicta FC and punched her ticket to the UFC in the fall of 2018. She won her first two bouts inside the octagon before losing via unanimous decision to Brianna Van Buren in July 2019.
Souza last fought in August 2020 where she beat Ashley Yoder via unanimous decision. 10 of her 14 pro wins have come via stoppage with eight by way of submission. Eight of her 10 stoppages have come in the 1st round. She’s 4-2 when going the distance and has never been stopped in her career.
Lemos ran through the competition in Brazil before scoring a trip to the UFC in the summer of 2017 where she lost via 2nd round TKO.
She took the fight on two weeks’ notice after coming out of retirement due to a lack of success in Brazil’s MMA scene:
“I took the fight on 15 days’ notice and I wasn’t even training, I had already given up on this (MMA) world. I was working, I didn’t go to the gym for four months, and then they called me. It was a big opportunity and I took it. The week I started training I got injured, my coach asked me if I still wanted to do it and I said I would. I went there and gassed fast. I knew that would happen [laughs].”
Lemos then was suspended for two years due to a failed drug test for stanozolol. Since overcoming those defeats inside and outside of the cage, she has won two straight contests with her last fight coming in August as she beat Mizuki Inoue via unanimous decision.
Seven of her eight pro wins have come via stoppage with five by way of TKO/KO. She’s 1-0-1 when going the distance. Lemos does have that won stoppage lost via TKO/KO.
This contest favors Lemos because she is the more polished overall fighter who will win this contest via decision due to her striking advantage. Take this fight to go Over 2.5 rounds (-265) and the full 15 minutes (-240).
Lemos winning via decision is the best value at +110 odds as Souza has never been stopped in her career.
Livinha Souza vs Amanda Lemos –Lemos (-225)
Over 2.5 rounds (-265)
Fight goes the distance (-240)
Lemos wins via decision (+110)
Sean Brady vs Jake Matthews
Sean Brady (-210)
Jake Matthews (+175)
Over (-230)/Under (+300) 2.5 rounds
Matthews has been with the UFC for seven years and has posted a 10-4 record in his time with the promotion.
He’s won three straight fights and six of his last seven. The lone loss came via 3rd round submission against Anthony Rocco Martin. That stretch also coincides with Matthews moving up from lightweight to welterweight.
All three of his victories on this current win streak have come via decision. He last fought in September and beat Diego Sanchez via unanimous decision.
11 of his 17 pro wins have come via stoppage with seven by way of submission. He’s 6-1 when going the distance. Two of his three pro losses have come via submission.
Brady is unbeaten in his career and joined the UFC in the fall of 2019. He beat Court McGee in his debut via decision and followed that up four months later with a decision win over Ismail Naurdiev. His last fight was in August 2020 where he beat Christian Aguilera via 2nd round TKO.
Six of his 13 pro wins have come via stoppage with three each for submission and TKO/KO. He’s 7-0 when going the distance.
In 34 pro fights, these two have combined for 14 contests going to a decision. For Brady, four of his last six contests have gone to a decision. For Matthews, six of his last eight including three in a row have gone the distance. I like this bout to go Over 2.5 rounds (-230) and to go the full 15 minutes (-195).
As for the winner, I am going with Brady in this one. I believe he’s a notch above Matthews in the division and he can pretty much do anything that Jake does, but only better. I expect Brady to control the ground game for longer stretches and edge out Matthews on the feet as well.
Nzechukwu earned a UFC contract after scoring a 1st round TKO win on DWCS in August 2018. That was his second time on the show after scoring a split decision win in August 2017. He didn’t get a contract after that win and fought two more times in other promotions before returning.
Nzechukwu made his UFC debut in March 2019 but lost via 3rd round submission to Paul Craig. He would bounce back in August 2019 with a decision win over Darko Stosic. Nzechukwu didn’t fight at all in 2020.
Four of his seven pro wins have come via TKO/KO. He’s 3-0 when going the distance. His lone defeat was the submission loss to Craig.
Ulberg has just three fights in his pro career, but looked good in those contests especially on DWCS last November where he beat Bruno Oliveira via 1st round KO. Prior to joining MMA, Ulberg was a very successful kickboxer.
“I’ve seen enough of him to see his tendencies and what I perceive as his downfall. My coaches are doing all the background work, and I trust them and I will listen to them. I expect everything and anything from him. This is a fight and he is highly skilled. I’m prepared to wrestle if I have to, but the fight starts standing. I can’t go in expecting a knockout. I’ll go in to have fun, tap him and see what he bites at. I’ll be like a kid in the playground, having a bit of fun.”
This contest has the potential to get ugly pretty quickly. Because Nzechukwu doesn’t typically take down his opponents, he’s going to leave himself open for some brutal striking from Ulberg who has the clear advantage in speed, technique and power.
I don’t see this bout going past the halfway point in the fight. In fact, I see it possibly ending in the 1st round as both men are going to come out firing. Either way, take this contest to come in Under 1.5 rounds (+140) and to end well inside the distance (-185).
I am going with Ulberg to win this fight via TKO/KO. Since there’s limited prop bets at the time of this writing, the value is with Ulberg winning inside the distance at +120 odds.
Carlos Ulberg vs Kennedy Nzechukwu –Ulberg (-245)
Under 1.5 rounds (+140)
Fight ends inside the distance (-185)
Ulberg wins inside the distance (+120)
Jordan Espinosa vs Timothy Elliott
Jordan Espinosa (-125)
Timothy Elliott (+105)
Over (-200)/Under (+150) 2.5 rounds
Elliott’s first stint in the UFC was from 2012 to 2015 where he went 2-4 before being bounced from the promotion. He would go on a three fight winning streak with Titan FC before returning to the UFC for the second time in late 2016.
Since then, Elliott has gone 4-5 inside the octagon. He last fought in July 2020 and won via unanimous decision over Ryan Benoit. The victory snapped a three fight losing streak to the top fighters in the division: Figueiredo, Askarov and Royval.
Nine of his 16 pro wins have come via stoppage with six by way of submission. He’s 7-5-1 when going the distance. Five of his 11 pro losses have come via submission.
Espinosa has two appearances on DWCS before getting a contract. His first appearance came in August 2017 where he won via 1st round submission. His second trip on the show came in July 2019 where he won via 3rd round TKO.
Espinosa made his UFC debut in March 2019 and won via unanimous decision over Eric Shelton. Since then, he’s gone 1-3 in his last four fights. He last fought in September 2020 and lost via unanimous decision to David Dvorak.
Nine of his 15 pro wins have come via stoppage with seven by way of submission. He’s 6-4 when going the distance and does have four submission losses.
This is going to be a tough fight to watch because both men just fail to live up to their full potential. In the case of Elliott, he’s never really evolved into a more dangerous fighter. In the case of Espinosa, he tends to sabotage himself inside the octagon.
I don’t even want to pick between the two, but I will. With that said, go with Espinosa as he has a more complete fight game than Elliott. I see Espinosa scoring a lot of points by striking from the outside.
I believe this contest will go over 2.5 rounds (-200) and the full 15 minutes (-165). I’m taking Espinosa to win via decision +165. The value, if you can call it that, is with each fighter’s moneyline.
Jordan Espinosa vs Timothy Elliott –Espinosa (-125)
Over 2.5 rounds (-200)
Fight goes the distance (-165)
Espinosa wins via decision (+165)
Kai Kara-France vs Rogerio Bontorin
Kai Kara-France (-140)
Rogerio Bontorin (+120)
Over (-225)/Under (+185) 2.5 rounds
Bontorin comes into this weekend’s fight as the slight underdog. He last fought 13 months ago and lost via unanimous decision to Ray Borg. The loss snapped a four fight win streak which included a win on DWCS in August 2018 and two straight UFC victories.
14 of his 16 pro wins have come via stoppage with 11 by way of submission. He’s 2-1 when going the distance and does have one stoppage loss by way of submission back in October 2017.
France made his octagon debut in the end of 2018 and won his first three UFC fights before losing to Brandon Moreno a year after his debut. France bounced back with a decision win over Tyson Nam 13 months ago, but loss via 2nd round submission to Brandon Royval last September.
12 of his 21 pro wins have come via stoppage with nine by way of TKO/KO. He’s 9-4 when going the distance. Five of his nine pro losses have come via stoppage with three by submission.
At 4-2 in the UFC, France still has potential to move up the rankings and aims to do so after signing a new four fight contract with the promotion. Kai Kara-France commented on his upcoming bout against Bontonin:
“We have been offered him before. It is a matchup I wanted because he is a tough opponent and we are both ranked in the top-10. He has had some time off and is coming off a loss to Ray Borg. I want to use my experience to set up traps and I’m looking forward to fighting the best Bontorin. I also signed a new four-fight deal so it is good to have some security and I want to be exciting and hunt for the finish and bonus.”
I believe this contest will go the full 15 minutes (-195) and Over 2.5 rounds (-225). For France, he’s gone the distance in five of his last six fights, which have all come in the UFC. Bontorin has gone to a decision in two of his last three fights which have all come in the UFC as well.
As for the winner, I am going with Kai Kara-France. I like what I’ve seen from him inside the octagon and believe he will control this fight whether it’s upright or on the mat.
The value is with each fighter’s moneyline.
Kai Kara-France vs Rogerio Bontorin –Kara-France (-140)
Over 2.5 rounds (-225)
Fight goes the distance (-195)
France wins via decision (+130)
Joseph Benavidez vs Askar Askarov
Joseph Benavidez (+100)
Askar Askarov (-120)
Over (-210)/Under (+175) 2.5 rounds
You know it’s a stacked event with Joseph Benavidez and Dominick Cruz are fighting on the preliminary card.
Benavidez is one of the greatest flyweights of all-time and did a great deal to make the division a popular one in the UFC. He’s been with the promotion for a decade and has posted a 15-5 record inside the octagon.
Benavidez has lost two straight fights both coming against the division’s champion Deiveson Figueiredo. It’s a tough stretch that Benavidez knows probable ended his chances at ever fighting for the title again:
“I’m just gonna show it on this guy whether he’s No. 4 or No. 3 or whatever. I still feel like I’m the best in the world. I’m gonna go in with that every day. I’m gonna train every day with that notion and that confidence in my mind, but the belt is just something that I felt dammit, that was my last time when I got to do it.”
Prior to his two fight losing streak, Benavidez had won three in a row which included victories over Alex Perez, Dustin Ortiz and Jussier Formiga.
17 of his 28 pro wins have come via stoppage with nine by way of submission. He’s 11-4 when going the distance. Three of his four pro losses have come via stoppage with two of those defeats coming to Figueiredo.
El camino de @JoeJitsu en el octágono ha sido largo y en #UFC259 enfrentará a la nueva generación: Askar Askarov 👊
Askarov came to the UFC in the fall of 2019 and fought to a split draw against Brandon Moreno. He followed that up with two wins in a row against Elliott and Pantoja. Both victories came via decision.
10 of his 12 pro wins have come via stoppage with seven by way of submission. He’s 2-0-1 when going the distance.
This is going to be Askarov’s toughest fight to date. And, I am not so sure he can rise to the occasion to beat someone of Benavidez’s caliber.
I do see this fight going the distance as Askarov has gone the full 15 minutes in all three of his UFC fights and Benavidez has gone to a decision in 15 of his 35 pro contests.
As for the winner, I am going with Benavidez to win via split decision. As long as he can defend the takedowns, I believe Benavidez will outstrike Askarov and outscore him with the judges.
The value is with each fighter’s moneyline.
Joseph Benavidez vs Askar Askarov –Benavidez (+100)
Over 2.5 rounds (-210
Fight goes to a decision (-180)
Benavidez wins via decision (+280)
Yadong Song vs Kyler Phillips
Yadong Song (-135)
Kyler Phillips (+115)
Over (-170)/Under (+150) 2.5 rounds
Phillips made his UFC debut one year ago and successfully defeated Gabriel Silva via unanimous decision. He followed that up by beating Cameron Else in October via 2nd round TKO. He’s won three straight fights since losing the first contest of his career in October 2018.
Six of his eight pro wins have come via stoppage with five by way of TKO/KO. He’s 2-1 when going the distance and has never been stopped in his career.
Song returns to action for the first time in 10 months and he enters this contest on a nine fight unbeaten streak.
Nicknamed “Kung Fu Monkey,” which is one of my favorite names, Yadong has gone 5-0-1 in the UFC since joining the promotion in the fall of 2017. His Draw came against Cody Stamann in December 2019. He last fought in March 2020 and won via unanimous decision.
Song commented on what he’s been up to during his time off and what his goals are moving forward:
“I’ve been upgrading my grappling skills over this past 12 months, as I know this is an area that needs work. I still need one more year to keep sharpening my skills to bring myself to the top five. What also I need to do is to learn to be more patient when I fight.”
Nine of his pro wins have come via stoppage with six by way of TKO/KO. He’s 7-2-1 when going the distance and has suffered one stoppage defeat via TKO/KO.
I like this matchup and I believe Song is going to win it. He’s durable, still evolving as a fighter and has taken on tougher competition than Phillips has.
I’m taking this fight to go Over 2.5 rounds (-170) and to go the full distance (-150). Once there, I like Song to win via unanimous decision (+210) as he will land the more powerful strikes.
The betting value is with each fighter’s moneyline.
Yadong Song vs Kyler Phillips –Song (-135)
Over 2.5 rounds (-170)
Fight goes the distance (-150)
Song wins via decision (+210)
Dominick Cruz vs Casey Kenney
Dominick Cruz (+110)
Casey Kenney (-130)
Over (-255)/Under (+215) 2.5 rounds
This fight will be the featured bout for the UFC 259 preliminary card. You might be surprised to see Cruz on the prelims considering his place in the all-time best category for the division, but Dominick doesn’t care where he fights at:
“That’s probably the most seen position on the entire fight card. I’ll have the most eyes on me. Like I said, I’ve had a pretty decent layoff, so let’s get me in front of a lot of eyes is what I’m thinking. At the same time, being on the prelims, that’s an ego thing. I’m not really attached to my ego at this point. I know what I am. I know the things that I’ve accomplished. It doesn’t affect me to be seen more, and I will. I’ll be seen more.”
Cruz won 13 straight fights before losing to Cody Garbrandt in December 2016 which was his last fight until returning in May 2020 where he lost via 2nd round TKO to Henry Cejudo who retired after the win.
Eight of his 22 pro wins have come via stoppage with seven by way of TKO/KO. He’s 14-1 when going the distance.
This will be Kenney’s biggest fight of his career. He joined the UFC two years ago and has gone 5-1 in that span. His lone loss was to Merab Dvalishvili 13 months ago. Kenney would go one to win his next three fights including his last bout in October 2020 to Nathaniel Wood.
For Kenney, he sees this fight as a stepping stone to other opportunities and eventually a title shot in the future:
“Put on an impressive performance and people start talking. I don’t think it gets me a title shot, beating Cruz, but there’s a lot of former champions and if I maybe take out one former champion, then take out another former champion, eventually I am going to be in that title shot.”
I like Kenney’s confidence, but I am going with Cruz in this fight. He held his own against Cejudo at first and we all know that there’s a big gap between Cejudo and Kenney.
I don’t believe that Cruz will make the same mistakes in this fight as he did against Cejudo. I believe he is motivated to perform well and get the win.
I see this contest going Over 2.5 rounds (-255) and the full distance (-225). Kenney has gone the distance in five of his last six fights which were all in the UFC. Cruz has gone the distance in 15 of his 28 pro bouts.
Cruz will outstrike Kenney and either pull away late or hold on to win this fight because he built up an early lead. The value is with each fighter’s moneyline.
Dominick Cruz vs Casey Kenney –Cruz (+110)
Over 2.5 rounds (-255)
Fight goes the distance (-225)
Cruz wins via decision (+260)
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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