After some decidedly lacklustre recent events, UFC 259 gets the company back on track with a blockbuster card that boasts no less than three championship fights. Combat sports fans are in for a treat as the stars come out to play, including possibly the greatest martial artist alive – Israel Adesanya. His fight will be an immediately intriguing affair because Adesanya rises in weight divisions to challenge for the light heavyweight belt. This is a bold move but Adesanya is not lacking in ambition and hopes to secures coveted double champ status.
The first of the championship bouts pits Russian pocket dynamo Petre Yan against Aljamian Sterling for the bantamweight belt. Yan is the real deal, tough as nails, and a fighter who just walks his opponents down while throwing bomb after bomb. His performance against Uriah Faber was downright scary. Yan left the former contender a bloody and staggering mess, much to the distress of Faber’s young family who was in attendance cage-side. Next on the Yan hitlist was former champ Jose Aldo, and he fared little better under the relentless Russian pressure. The prospect of a fighter who walks through your attacks without flinching and then hits you with ungodly power is a fearsome prospect. Many of Yan’s victories, including over Aldo, can be attributed to his opponents hoisting the white flag. Yan has a single loss on his resume, a split decision back in 2016. Since then he has been a force of unrelenting and undefeated terror.
Yan’s opponent at UFC 259 is Aljamian Sterling, a very flashy, high-quality athlete deserving of his title shot. Sterling is agile as a cat and boasts a dangerous submission game, so he will be looking to drag Yan to the mat. Sterling recorded a quick submission victory over another surging bantamweight contender in Cory Sandhagen and has since agitated loudly for his opportunity to win UFC gold. Sterling feels underappreciated by UFC management and will be out to prove a point on fight night. It’s hard to see anyone halting the devastating march of Petre Yan though, and he should have his hand raised if the fight is contested on the feet. The kid is a killer, tune in if you want to see him go to work. The betting market has this fight at coin flip odds, which is very interesting.
The second of the title bouts pits dominant two division champion Amanda Nunes against Australia’s own Megan Anderson. This will probably prove a one-sided affair because Nunes is just so damn good. She is the greatest female mixed martial in history by a considerable margin, and we can expect an early knockout against Anderson. Like all GOATs, Nunes struggles to find meaningful opposition. She has basically cleaned out both of her divisions. Anderson is very tall and rangy, but Nunes hits with such power that it is hard to imagine this will be a lengthy encounter. The only threat to Nunes is herself, and whether she is still motivated to train hard for her fights. She has hinted at retirement and might leave the gloves in the cage at UFC 259. Anderson has the physical attributes to provide a close contest, but Nunes is simply on a higher level than any contender the UFC can presently serve up.
So to the UFC 259 main event. In his search for sporting immortality, Israel Adesanya jumps divisions in the hope of securing additional UFC silverware. The standard rule for MMA betting is to bet against the weight jumper, and Adesanya is a skinny guy and has not bulked at all for this fight. He may weigh in around 190 pounds. His opponent, Polish giant Jan Blachowicz, will have a significant size advantage when the men enter the cage, perhaps as much as 30 pounds. The Pole likes to plant his feet and throw heavy fists until something connects and one clean blow is normally enough to drop a seasoned 205 pounder to the canvas. This power was witnessed in Blachowicz’s devastating knockouts of Luke Rockhold and Dominic Reyes. Blachowicz was the underdog in both those fights, and while he is not the most gracefully athletic type, he can wear a punch and possesses scary power in both hands. Adesanya will be in for a shock should he get caught and his legendary evasive skills will be called upon throughout the bout.
Adesanya is a rare talent. His fight IQ is almost unparalleled. He appears to be playing a video game at times. His kicks are lethal and can strike all parts of the body without warning. He’s tall and lithe and leaves many opponents grasping at thin air. He made Paulo Costa look like an ineffectual third-rate bum. Adesanya will dart and weave and throw kicks from the outside and Blachowicz will try to close the distance and land a heavy swiping paw.
The Last Style Bender is unlikely to achieve a knockout unless the Pole runs out of gas, but a victory via judges’ decision in a new weight class will be a huge achievement nonetheless. The difference in size will make for an enthralling spectacle, as the men attempt to capitalise on their differing physical advantages. Props must be given to Adesanya for attempting to ascend the scale when he could have comfortably remained at middleweight and defended his crown. The huge odds being offered for Blachowicz to win via knockout might tempt us to have a nibble, but the skill differential should see Adesanya triumph at UFC 259.
So strap yourself in for a massive card of fights. Recent promotions have been cruelled by injuries and cancelations, so hopefully UFC 259 goes ahead as advertised and we witness some of the best mixed martial artists on the globe strut their stuff on the sport’s biggest stage.
Jackson Byrne – Combat Sports Editor