MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC 239, a five-round light heavyweight title bout between champion Jon Jones and challenger Thiago Santos. The event takes place this Saturday, July 6 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jon Jones (-600)
Jones (24-1, 1 NC) is the UFC light heavyweight champion and arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all time. The 31-year-old American is 18-1, 1 NC overall in the Octagon with notable wins over the likes of Alexander Gustafsson, Daniel Cormier, Rashad Evans, Shogun Rua, Glover Teixeira, Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson. His lone loss came 10 years ago to Matt Hamill by controversial DQ, otherwise Jones has destroyed everyone who has stepped into his path. He’s an incredible talent who is elite in nearly every aspect of MMA. Jones is a master of keeping his range on the feet and picking apart his opponents with his striking, but he’s also one of the best ever to mix in his wrestling. His ground game is dominant and he can finish his opponents in devastating fashion on the mat. He also has terrific cardio and gets stronger as the fight goes on. Jones is a complete mixed martial artist and has no holes in his game. The only man who can beat Jones is Jones himself, but Santos will look to shock the world this weekend in the main event of UFC 239.
Thiago Santos (+450)
Santos (21-6) is one of the top light heavyweight contenders in the UFC. The 35-year-old Brazilian is 13-5 overall in the Octagon and has far exceeded expectations since his days on TUF Brazil 2. Santos holds notable victories over the likes of Jimi Manuwa, Eryk Anders, Anthony Smith, Jack Hermansson and Jan Blachowicz, with notable losses against Gegard Mousasi, Davis Branch, and Uriah Hall. Santos has gigantic knockout power in all of his limbs and he has 11 wins by TKO in the UFC alone. Since moving up to light heavyweight, Santos has gone 3-0 and looks to be more durable and have better conditioning. He was a good fighter at middleweight but the weight cut took a lot out of him, and like his ex-opponent Smith he’s immediately become a top contender at 205lbs. As good as Santos has looked at his new weight class, though, he could be biting off more than he can chew here against the GOAT Jones. But his special KO power makes this an intriguing matchup and a must-watch for any MMA fan.
Fight Breakdown: As the betting line suggests, this is Jones’ fight to lose. Santos is a powerful puncher and will look to take Jones’ head off, but we’ve rarely seen Jones get tagged let alone rocked or hurt in his fights. If Santos can’t get an early finish, he will likely gas out and be a sitting duck for Jones to pick apart. Aside from pure KO power, Santos doesn’t have any other advantages in this fight. Jones is the longer, rangier fighter, he’s more technical on the feet, he has the superior wrestling game, his cardio is better, and he’s proven time and time again he knows how to win. This fight is interesting because Santos has the power to finish anyone, but it’s hard to see him touching Jones. I see Jones fighting smart here, first tiring Santos out and then using his wrestling to get Santos to the mat and finish him with nasty ground and pound or maybe a submission in the middle rounds. Should Jones emerge victorious as expected, it will be interesting to see if he decides to move up to heavyweight for his next fight as this could be the fight where he essentially cleans out the light heavyweight division.
Prediction: Jon Jones wins via TKO