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UFC 239 fight card primer: Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos

Get the details on UFC 239’s main event, when Jon Jones defends his belt against Thiago Santos.

The main event of UFC 239 is a Light Heavyweight title fight as champion Jon Jones (24-1(1) MMA; 18-1(1) UFC) defends his belt against Thiago Santos (21-6 MMA; 13-5 UFC). The UFC rankings have Santos as the division’s #2 contender, with champ Jones at #2 pound-for-pound, behind only his rival Daniel Cormier. UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos airs live from Las Vegas this Saturday night, July 6. The main card airs on PPV through ESPN+ with a fight time of 10:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. PT, with the prelims starting at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN and 6:15 p.m. ET on Fight Pass.

The July 4 weekend card has, for a number of years now, been one of the major UFC events of the year. This time, they’ve put on two title fights, and are headlining with one of the greatest of all time. But the promotion for this fight has been 100% about Jones defending his belt, not at all about Santos. Which pretty much tells you what you need to know about this one.

How do these two stack up?

Jones: 31 years old | 6’4” | 84.5” reach
Santos: 35 years old | 6’2” | 76” reach

What have these two done recently?

Jones: W - Anthony Smith (UD) | W - Alexander Gustafsson (TKO) | NC - Daniel Cormier
Santos: W - Jan Blachowicz (TKO) | W - Jimi Manuwa (KO) | W - Eryk Anders (TKO)

How did these two get here?

I’ve been writing these little previews for Jon Jones fights for a long time now, and his story is very well documented. Young phenom rises to become arguably the greatest ever, then crashes and burns in multiple ways. But notable here is that this is his 3rd fight in 6 months, and in that time, he’s had no issues either legally or from drug testing. The last time you found him fighting with this regularity was all the way back in 2011 when he made his first title defenses against Rampage, Lyoto, and Rashad Evans. He’s now in a weird spot where he doesn’t seem to be fighting at his best anymore, but even not at his best is still miles above the competition. We’ll see how long this unlikely run lasts.

Thiago Santos has come on strong in the past few years, so he feels like the younger fighter against the veteran Jones here. But he’s actually the older man with a virtually equal number of fights. He’s been a UFC fighter since 2013, but started off somewhat unremarkably, going a perfectly average 5-4 at Middleweight. But since a 2016 loss, he’s gone 8-1, including a win over former Jones opponent Anthony Smith. He moved up to Light Heavyweight two fights ago, and has knocked out two impressive fighters since then. Santos is a violence machine, with just two of his UFC wins going the distance. His biggest win to date came in his last fight against Jan Blachowicz, so he’s definitely taking a step up here.

Why should you care?

Because Jon Jones is a truly unique fighter still capable of putting on amazing performances. And Santos has the kind of dynamite in his strikes that makes every fight he’s in tense.