UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC 239 card, set to take place in Las Vegas.

Updated: July 3, 2019 • 2:55 PM ET

Jon Jones.jpg

Jon Jones is looking to add to his historic legacy this weekend.

Two dynamic title fights will headline UFC 239 this Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. In the main event, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will defend the belt against No. 2 ranked Thiago Santos. Immediately prior, women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes will battle former champion Holly Holm for the belt in the co-main event.

Jones will defend the light heavyweight belt for the second time since winning the title a second time at UFC 232 in December. He most recently defeated Anthony Smith via unanimous decision at UFC 235 in March, completely dominating the fight and once again solidifying his position as perhaps the best fighter in the world.

In a storied career that has had its up and downs, mainly due to out of the Octagon trouble, Jones has defeated some of the best fighters who have ever competed in mixed martial arts — a list that includes six fighters who once held an undisputed belt. Jones became the youngest champion in UFC history when he defeated future Hall of Famer Mauricio Rua at UFC 128 in 2011. He then went on a title run in which he defeated Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen, Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira and Daniel Cormier.

The 31-year-old Jones (24-1, 1 NC) has one controversial loss in his career in which he was disqualified for illegal elbow strikes during another dominating performance. Jones is riding a 16-fight unbeaten streak since that loss in 2009, which includes a no contest decision against Cormier in 2017. For perspective, Anderson Silva owns the longest winning streak in UFC history at 16.

While also collecting the most wins in the history of the UFC’s light heavyweight division (18), Jones has arguably put together the most impressive resume in MMA history. However, he isn’t done yet and awaits another worthy challenger at 205 pounds.

Santos has hit a new stride in the light heavyweight division since moving up from middleweight last year. He has finished all three of his light heavyweight fights, displaying devastating punching power against Eryk Anders, Jimi Manuwa and most recently Jan Blachowicz with a third-round TKO. The 35-year-old Brazilian also has victories over highly-ranked fighters such as Smith and Jack Hermansson.

Santos believes he has learned from his wins and losses, and that he’ll be patient against Jones.

“He is full of surprises, just like me,” Santos recently told Globo Esporte. “So I don’t think there’s one specific thing I need to worry about. I need to be concerned in a more general manner, he is very well-rounded, a one-of-a-kind kind of guy.

“I’m going to feel it out, find the right moment to attack, avoid his attacks and find the right time to pounce. Like a sniper. I’m an explosive guy, I don’t like to waste any shots.”

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Santos continued, “I know what my potential is, I know what I can do. Regardless of the doubts. If I didn’t know me, I would bet on him, too, he’s the favorite, for sure. He’s a great fighter because of his history. He’s a very smart fighter. I have always respected my opponents, this won’t be different. I respect Jones very much, he’s an amazing fighter, but people don’t know about my potential. I thrive in adversities. People congratulate me for taking this fight with Jon Jones. Why wouldn’t I? I can make history and change my life with this fight.”


Co-main event

In the co-main event, women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes will make her third title defense against former champion Holly Holm.

Nunes’ most recent victory came at UFC 232 in December against Cris Cyborg, one of the biggest upsets of 2018. In defeating Cyborg, Nunes won the women’s featherweight title to become just the third double-champion in UFC history.

Including Cyborg, the 31-year-old Nunes has victories over Raquel Pennington, Valentina Shevchenko (twice), Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Sara McMann and Germaine de Randamie. The Brazilian, though, knows she faces a new challenge with Holm.

“Holly has very good movement,” Nunes told MMA H.E.A.T.’s Karyn Bryant. “She moves a lot, she goes in and out. I know she’s going to look to outpoint me, try to hold me against the cage… because all my opponents think that.

“I feel like she’s going to run, run, run and play the point, point, point until she finds the right moment. She has very good kicks. I have to be ready for everything in this fight. Holly’s very tough and dangerous. I’m like really, really ready for everything she’s going to bring on the night.”

The No. 2 ranked Holm most recently defeated Megan Anderson at UFC 225 last June, just her second win in her last six fights. Since defeating Ronda Rousey for the women’s bantamweight title at UFC 193 in 2015, Holm has gone 2-4 and unsuccessfully challenged for the featherweight belt twice, losing to de Randamie and Cyborg.

The 37-year-old Holm believes she’s the one victory that Nunes needs to add to her resume to be considered the greatest.

“This is a whole different fight,” Holm said during a recent media scrum. “Is she great? Yeah. Am I up against a tough fighter? Yeah. It wouldn’t be a big expectant title fight if it wasn’t something that’s big.

“She wouldn’t be where she’s at if she hadn’t done great things. So yes, it’s a very big fight, but I’m ready for it. I’ve been training my butt off and that’s what I’m doing. I’m working for a win.”


The rest of the main card on ESPN+

Welterweight bout - No. 4 Jorge Masvidal vs. No. 5 Ben Askren

Light heavyweight bout - No. 6 Jan Blachowicz vs. No. 3 Luke Rockhold

Welterweight bout - Diego Sanchez vs. Michael Chiesa


ESPN Prelims

Featherweight bout - Gilbert Melendez vs. Arnold Allen

Bantamweight bout - Marlon Vera vs. Nohelin Hernandez

Women's strawweight bout - No. 5 Claudia Gadelha vs. No. 14 Randa Markos

Bantamweight bout - No. 14 Alejandro Pérez vs. Song Yadong


UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims

Middleweight bout - Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Jack Marshman

Welterweight bout - Ismail Naurdiev vs. Chance Rencountre

Women's bantamweight bout - Julia Avila vs. Pannie Kianzad