clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

UFC 259: Blachowicz vs. Adesanya staff picks and predictions

New, 40 comments

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Saturday’s blockbuster UFC 259 card.

Israel Adesanya defended his UFC middleweight title at UFC 253, will he win the light heavyweight title at UFC 259?
Israel Adesanya defended his UFC middleweight title at UFC 253, will he win the light heavyweight title at UFC 259?
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

The Bloody Elbow team has made its predictions for UFC 259 and this is as deep a main card as it gets and certainly it’s piqued our interest judging by all of the written analysis we’ve got for you. Dayne Fox is the only one picking Jan Blachowicz to topple Israel Adesanya in the main event, no one believes Megan Anderson will upset Amanda Nunes, but both Dayne and Stephie Haynes see Aljamain Sterling becoming the first person since Alex Volkanovski in December 2019 to become a UFC champion by dethroning the reigning titleholder.

Jan Blachowicz vs. Israel Adesanya

Anton Tabuena: Blachowicz hits like a truck, and he’s far more technical than most give him credit for, so this won’t just be like the champion’s previous bouts against hard hitters like Romero or Costa. Adesanya has extensive experience fighting talented and bigger kickboxers, but he will still have to fight the perfect fight and be fully disciplined here, especially in the opening moments. It’s a very dangerous fight for Adesanya, so he will have to fully utilize those massive speed and technical advantages. If his movement and defense are on point early, and he can throw a massive amount of feints with his varied attacks to keep him guessing and one step behind for the most part, Adesanya will slowly break him down. It’s obviously easier said than done, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jan cause major problems early, but I think this will mostly be on the feet, and Adesanya can be slick enough to slowly pick him apart en route to a mid to late round finish. Israel Adesanya by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: This is hardly a slam dunk. Big Jan has a big punch, brutal body kicks, and while he’s been striking more often he can resort to his wrestling and outmuscle Izzy. From pure technique and footwork standpoint it’s clear that Adesanya is superior. He’s masterful at controlling range and not being reckless, and I think recklessness is something he really intends to minimize against a bigger fighter who can hit. My bold prediction of sorts is that this fight isn’t actually all that fun to watch. Adesanya will kick a lot and counter the hell out of Blachowicz when he comes forward. He’ll takes his chances sporadically but otherwise take a decision where Jan will always be dangerous but just not quite able to get Israel where he wants him. Israel Adesanya by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I won’t lie, there’s a baseline part of me that just feels like Blachowicz may be too big, too powerful, and have too much range for Adesanya to comfortably out-slick him in the cage. By all means, technically, Adesanya should be able to lead exchanges behind his low kicking game and create just the kind of frustration that leads Blachowicz into his big rushing combinations. Ones that leave him wide open to being countered. But, Blachowicz is a powerful counterpuncher in his own right. And if he can use his size to pick off the ‘Last Stylebender’ when he steps in on kicks, he could create the kind of hesitation in Adesanya that almost saw him lose a complete snoozer to Yoel Romero. There’s also the matter of wrestling. So far, Adesanya has defended it admirably. But nothing helps a takedown like size and strength. Still, the image of Blachowicz getting chipped away at by low kicks and blitzing into danger looms larger. So I’ll take Israel Adesanya by decision. But this is definitely a perilous fight.

Chris Rini: Jan Blachowicz’s late career renaissance has been heartening, but he’s about to run into a man who’s got a date with destiny. Israel Adesanya possesses a momentum and laser focus that may prove to be too much for even a legend like Jan. The only way I can see Blachowicz’s power truly make a difference is from full mount. Israel Adesany by decision.

Eddie Mercado: Israel Adesanya is the more mobile, creative, and more fluid striker, with Jan obviously holding the power advantage. Izzy needs to stay slick and mobile without getting too cute. Jan needs to check kicks (which he does instinctually) and counter with his powerful hooks (like Alex Pereira) while pressuring and cutting off the cage. The uglier the better for Jan. Whoever better controls the distance here wins. I like Israel Adesanya by unanimous decision.

Stephie Haynes: Dayne is bold!

Tim Burke: I’ve never actually been sold on this “Polish Power” that has become Blachowicz’s “trademark”. If Adesanya does get hit, it’s been shown that he doesn’t have an iron chin. But a good gameplan should lead to a less-than-exciting decision win. Israel Adesanya via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 50-45)

Staff picking Blachowicz: Dayne
Staff picking Adesanya: Mookie, Anton, Zane, Bissell, Eddie, Lewis, Chris, Stephie, Tim

Amanda Nunes vs. Megan Anderson

Anton Tabuena: If Nunes fights smart and capitalizes on a significant grappling advantage, this should be a relatively easy title defense. If she decides to strike for extended periods, especially against a far taller foe, it will be a much more interesting fight. Megan can cause her serious problems on the feet, but Nunes is still the logical pick regardless of where this takes place. Amanda Nunes by submission.

Mookie Alexander: Anderson is at her most dangerous in round one but really after that it should be Nunes’ fight to lose. Hell she can win it in round one herself! But Anderson has no chance dealing with Amanda’s ground game and I expect takedown(s) before full mount TKO or even a submission. Amanda Nunes by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: I expect Nunes will be a lot more cautious early in this fight than expected. Anderson is freakishly rangy and tends to start her fights throwing good, straight combinations with decent power. She rattled Holly Holm a bit that way, before Holm took things to the ground and made it a much different test of skill. That could easily be Nunes’ quick path to victory, and I expect she’ll at least give it a go in the first round, if not to finish then just to wear Anderson out. Because even as a striker, that’s been one of Anderson’s major troubles. When her opponents don’t go away quickly, she seems to tire and her form breaks down. That’s the point where I think Nunes will start to really pour it on her. Maybe sometime late in round 2? Amanda Nunes via TKO.

Eddie Mercado: I love Megan’s attitude. I really do, but Nunes has a substantial advantage in the grappling department that simply cannot be overlooked. She had little trouble getting GDR or Felicia Spencer to the floor, and although Anderson has the skills on the feet to give the champ problems, she has yet to showcase the improvements necessary to believe she will be able to keep this fight standing. I got Amanda Nunes by submission (RNC) in round 3.

Chris Rini: Amanda Nunes has showcased a level of sadism in the cage by dragging overmatched challengers across the finish line instead of mercifully finishing them, particularly versus Felicia Spencer. Knowing this, I expect Megan Anderson to be a game opponent intent on winning via finish, and for this to provoke an equally violent response. Amanda Nunes by TKO.

Staff picking Nunes: Mookie, Anton, Zane, Dayne, Bissell, Eddie, Lewis, Chris, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Anderson:

Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling

Anton Tabuena: They’re both fairly well-rounded, elite fighters, but there’s clear advantages for each that makes this title fight likely to be decided by where it mostly takes place. I’ve flipped flopped back and forth so many times here, and I’m honestly not sure which way it goes, but I guess this mainly boils down on Yan’s takedown defense, and his ability to get back to his feet. Really tough pick, but I’m going with Petr Yan by Split Decision.

Mookie Alexander: This is such a tough fight to pick despite the lopsided Yan predictions. Sterling is more than capable of outgrappling and outwrestling Yan. In prolonged exchanges on the ground it’s practically Sterling’s dream world. But it’s just difficult for me to see how Sterling will be able to mitigate Yan’s striking especially if Petr pressures him. And if Sterling can’t get those takedowns or scramble into dominant positions then I don’t think he can win a kickboxing match with Petr and he certainly will find it hard to have the more effective offense against him to win rounds. I think Sterling will have his moments but just not enough against Yan. Petr Yan by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I’m a little less convinced than many that Sterling is going to have a lot of control in this fight. He can absolutely throw the volume to match Yan, but it comes without nearly the same amount of power. And, unlike someone like Jimmie Rivera, Yan is incredibly hard to put on his back foot and give Sterling chances to lead. If Yan is going to be pressuring and walking Sterling down, can he hit takedowns off his back foot? He struggled with that against Pedro Munhoz and Yan is a remarkably good scrambler and defensive wrestler. My guess is that Sterling’s willingness to throw and lack of power is going to give Yan a lot of chances to find his rhythm of pressure counterpunching early. Sterling might have the footwork to circle out and force him to reset often, but that may just slow down the loss. Petr Yan by decision.

Eddie Mercado: Shout out to the Hickman brothers and Tiger Muay Thai! I’ve seen first hand what Petr can do on the mat. I can see him scrambling up and/or away into open space while landing the more meaningful offense on the feet. I can see Aljo getting the takedowns, but not doing much with them before Yan gets back up. I’m taking Petr Yan by unanimous decision.

Chris Rini: Aljamain Sterling has finally fulfilled his potential, turning a flashing kicking and submission wrestling game into a more well rounded fighting style. It’s a shame that Petr Yan appears to be an absolute wrecking ball of a fighter with a gas tank to match his technique and power. If Aljo cannot get this fight to the ground early and if not win, at least wear Yan down in a way that compromises his approach then all roads lead to Siberia. Petr Yan by unanimous decision.

Stephie Haynes: Credit to Dayne and I in advance of Aljo lifting the title off Yan.

Staff picking Yan: Mookie, Anton, Zane, Bissell, Eddie, Lewis, Chris, Tim
Staff picking Sterling: Dayne, Stephie

Drew Dober vs. Islam Makhachev

Mookie Alexander: I’m very tempted to pick Dober. He hits hard and Makhachev has been knocked out before. With all of that said, Makhachev has the wrestling and grappling advantages that Dober has struggled with in the past and I think as long as he doesn’t get caught with one of Dober’s bombs, he’ll prevail. Islam Makhachev by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Dober’s best chance of winning this fight is all about how Makhachev approaches him. Dober has made the kind of slow and steady improvements that mean, at this point, anyone choosing to stand and trade with him is putting themselves squarely in harm’s way. He’s got an iron jaw and appears to be delivering the kind of power that his frame always seemed like it should hold. And, for Makhachev’s part, he has seemed notably willing to strike in recent fights. He may be an exceptionally technical wrestler, but that doesn’t mean he starts his bouts trying to put his opponent on the mat. Still, when Dober does lose, it tends to be because his opponents have a good wrestling and grappling advantage. Makhachev absolutely has that, he just needs to get to it without too much messing around. Islam Makhachev by submission, round 2.

Staff picking Dober:
Staff picking Makhachev: Mookie, Anton, Zane, Dayne, Bissell, Lewis, Eddie, Stephie, Tim

Aleksandar Rakic vs. Thiago Santos

Zane Simon: Call me a sentimental dreamer, but I think Santos can take this one. While Rakic is a willing wrestler, he’s not exactly the world’s most secure one. He doesn’t tend to set up his shots well, and in his comprehensive blanket win over Anthony Smith, it was actually Smith that initiated all the wrestling exchanges. If Rakic doesn’t have an easy time getting this fight to the floor (Teixeira had to rely on an upper body grappling game that I don’t think Rakic can replicate) then he’s stuck trading kicks outside with Santos or wading into the pocket to trade big hooks. That feels like a 50/50 proposition, and I’ll come down on the side of the guy who’s been doing it more powerfully for longer. Thiago Santos by KO, round 1.

Mookie Alexander: Either Santos KOs Rakic early or Rakic just grinds this out. I’m thinking the latter happens and that Thiago will never look like vintage Marreta ever again. Aleksandar Rakic by unanimous decision.

Eddie Mercado: A lot of similarities between these two, with the biggest difference being the experience for Santos and then the additional layer of wrestling for Rakic. Cardio favors Rakic, especially if this turns into a grind. Don’t forget to check out my interview with Aleksandar before the fight! I’m taking Aleksandar Rakic by submission, round 3.

Staff picking Rakic: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Stephie, Eddie
Staff picking Santos: Zane, Bissell, Lewis, Tim

Dominick Cruz vs. Casey Kenney

Anton Tabuena: This should be on the main card. And unless age and injuries have finally caught up with Cruz, I think he should be far more skilled and should take the victory here. Dominick Cruz by decision.

Mookie Alexander: I think age and injuries will catch up with Cruz. His last win was during Obama’s administration and the division has improved tenfold since then. I’d like some karmic justice given Kenney’s ridiculous Megan Anderson comments but I think Kenney will be able to outwork him for a decision win. Casey Kenney by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Cruz may very well be on his way to a harsh late career loss here. But if so, it’s to the kind of fighter he absolutely would have breezed by in his prime. Kenney has put together a decent, busy striking game, but he’s still not a comfortable defender and can get caught off guard chasing the pocket. The backstop to his striking has always been his insane scrambling ability that he can rely on to take focus off the worry of a takedown. But, as we say against Merab Dvalishvili, a top quality, high energy wrestler, can just make him pay for those defensive gaps over and over and over again. And while Dominick Cruz is most often thought of for his constant movement and funky footwork, the core of his success has always been around his dominating wrestling game. It may be that now he’s just too old, too slow, too shop worn to compete against the modern meta, but I need more proof than a loss to the likes of Henry Cejudo. Dominick Cruz by decision.

Eddie Mercado: Dom hasn’t won a fight, or looked great since June of 2016. I’d like to pick the former champ, but I just can’t. I’m really sorry and I hope I’m horribly wrong because this is a step down from the current caliber of opposition on Cruz’s resume. Casey Kenney by injury TKO or something else sad.

Staff picking Cruz: Anton, Zane, Bissell, Lewis, Tim
Staff picking Kenney: Mookie, Dayne, Stephie, Eddie

Song Yadong vs. Kyler Phillips

Anton Tabuena: I’d make an obvious dong joke, but you’ve probably heard that Song before. Song Yadong by TKO.

Mookie Alexander: Phillips is not going to beat Yadong. He’s not going to jack Yadong. He’s not going to stiffen Yadong. He’s not going to choke Yadong. Song Yadong by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Phillips simply doesn’t seem to have many consistent range tools to his game. He can throw some exciting spin kicks and the like, but his game is largely absent of a jab or consistent distance management. Which puts him in the position of leaping squarely in front of Song Yadong to try and mix it up and make something exciting happen. Against a powerful, well schooled, elite level athlete, that seems like a huge risk. Song Yadong via TKO, round 1.

Staff picking Yadong: Mookie, Anton, Zane, Dayne, Bissell, Stephie, Eddie, Tim
Staff picking Phillips:

Joseph Benavidez vs. Askar Askarov

Anton Tabuena: He took an insane amount of damage the last couple of fights, so things could be a lot different now, but until I see that, I’m still picking Benavidez to win against anyone but the champ. Joseph Benavidez by decision.

Mookie Alexander: It’s possible Benavidez is washed but Askarov is not the type of fighter whom Joseph historically struggles with. Askarov is not a dominant wrestler and not a good enough striker to Benavidez. Joseph Benavidez by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Has anyone ever just held Benavidez down and out-wrestled and out-grappled him for 3 rounds? Do we really think that Askarov’s striking is good enough to control this fight if he doesn’t have the fear of his lockdown top control to bank on? I have too many doubts about both of those things. Benavidez may have gotten crushed by Figueiredo, but Askarov really doesn’t fight anything like him. Joseph Benavidez by decision.

Eddie Mercado: I got to spend some time with Joe B. before his first Fig fight and he is such a great guy. Him and Megan both. Really great people. Oh, this matchup? Yeah, give me Joseph Benavidez via salty dog guillotine in round 1.

Tim Burke: Joe B. is shot. Sorry. Askar Askarov via TKO, round 2

Staff picking Benavidez: Mookie, Anton, Zane, Dayne, Bissell, Lewis, Stephie, Eddie
Staff picking Askarov: Tim

Rogerio Bontorin vs. Kai Kara-France

Zane Simon: This should be a razor thin battle. Kara-France throws all the volume standing, but just doesn’t seem to have the raw physicality to either stay defensively sound while doing it, or keep control of where the fight is going. On the flip side, Bontorin seems entirely misplaced at flyweight as a hulking, one-shot-at-a-time power striker and wrestler with a nice back take game. I expect, at some point, he’ll have some real success against Kara-France. Maybe even put together an entirely dominant round. But, if he can’t keep Kara-France against the cage or on the floor all fight, I think the New Zealander’s volume will get him the win. Kai Kara-France by decision.

Staff picking Bontorin: Mookie, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Kara-France: Anton, Zane, Dayne, Bissell, Eddie

Amanda Lemos vs. Livia Renata Souza

Zane Simon: Souza’s a great grappler, so she always has a solid shot to pick up the win if she can make the fight messy. But her striking is just too uneven and defensively porous for me to pick her, especially without a dominating wrestling game to back it up. Lemos is a big, powerful athlete who can put out consistent combinations with good power. That should be enough to get her this win. Amanda Lemos via decision.

Staff picking Lemos: Anton, Zane, Dayne, Stephie, Eddie
Staff picking Souza: Mookie, Bissell, Tim

Tim Elliott vs. Jordan Espinosa

Zane Simon: If Espinosa can fight Elliott like he did De La Rosa, then there’s a clear path to victory based on volume striking. But Espinosa has almost always had to rely on being the better wrestler in the cage as well, when trying to deal with opponents’ pressure. And against Elliott I just don’t think that’s an out he’ll have, even when Elliott is getting exhausted. Could be a fight where judges score it entirely differently depending on whether they value control or damage, but I’ll lean for control to get it. Tim Elliott by decision.

Staff picking Elliott: Zane, Bissell, Eddie, Tim
Staff picking Espinosa: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Stephie

Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Carlos Ulberg

Zane Simon: Ulberg has had what? 3 pro fights to date? Given Nzechukwu has never been KO’d, I’ll pick him to use his insane length to make this fight awkward and get Ulberg to dump his gas tank. Kennedy Nzechukwu via decision.

Staff picking Nzechukwu: Zane
Staff picking Ulberg: Mookie, Anton, Dayne, Bissell, Stephie, Eddie, Tim

Sean Brady vs. Jake Matthews

Zane Simon: Matthews recent stylistic evolution seems to be an even slower paced pot-shotting striking game, or a heavy reliance on grinding top control. Brady seems like an incredibly tough fighter to control on the mat, and otherwise works well behind a persistent jab to set up a nice volume striking attack. Just seems like a problem for Matthews all over if he can’t physically dominate one area of the fight. Sean Brady by decision.

Staff picking Brady: Mookie, Zane, Dayne, Stephie, Eddie
Staff picking Matthews: Anton, Bissell, Tim

Uros Medic vs. Aalon Cruz

Zane Simon: It was really worrying how easily Cruz let a much shorter, less rangy fighter get in and land shots on him, given that his game is all about speed and distance. Medic may not have Cruz’s insane reach, but he is taller and love to work behind an aggressive, long kicking game. As long as he stays dedicated to aggression I think Medic should have this one. Uros Medic via KO, round 1.

Staff picking Medic: Mookie, Zane, Dayne, Bissell, Stephie, Eddie
Staff picking Cruz: Anton, Tim

Mario Bautista vs. Trevin Jones

Zane Simon: Jones should be dangerous throughout with his creative power counters, but Bautista is such an aggressive volume throwing fighter to all levels, who really works well behind momentum when he gets to lead. Jones will likely let Bautista throw first, which should make it very difficult to catch up later in the fight. Mario Bautista by decision.

Staff picking Bautista: Mookie, Anton, Zane, Dayne, Bissell, Stephie, Eddie
Staff picking Jones: Tim

Poll

Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Jan Blachowicz
    (485 votes)
  • 53%
    Israel Adesanya
    (558 votes)
1043 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 82%
    Amanda Nunes
    (691 votes)
  • 17%
    Megan Anderson
    (150 votes)
841 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    Petr Yan
    (490 votes)
  • 42%
    Aljamain Sterling
    (355 votes)
845 votes total Vote Now