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UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos - Predictions and Picks

Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
7.19K   //    01 Jul 2019, 19:33 IST

Jon Jones faces Thiago Santos in this weekend's main event
Jon Jones faces Thiago Santos in this weekend's main event

Man, 2019 is going quickly. It’s time for the UFC’s famous International Fight Week again, and unsurprisingly the biggest MMA promotion in the world has put together a pretty loaded pay-per-view card. So loaded although personally, I’d argue UFC 235 and UFC 238 were better on paper this year – that the odd decision has been made to put the show on pay-per-view in the UK, the first time that’s happened since UFC 47 way back in 2004.

The show will be headlined by arguably the promotion’s biggest draw right now in Jon Jones (if you discount the supposedly-retired Conor McGregor) and it also has a second title fight underneath as Amanda Nunes faces Holly Holm. It’s also the first time since 2013 that the UFC hasn’t supplemented their big July pay-per-view with an extra Fight Night or TUF Finale the night before – so the bonus is that all eyes should theoretically be on this one.

Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos.

#1 Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos

Jon Jones is looking for another successful title defence on Saturday
Jon Jones is looking for another successful title defence on Saturday

If you ignore the various issues that have seen him stripped of the UFC Light-Heavyweight title on two occasions – a big ask, I know – this would actually be Jones’ 12th title defence, which would mean that with a win, he’d break Demetrious Johnson’s record of 11. That would be impressive however you look at it, but whether Jones can be put into the same category as ‘Mighty Mouse’ – and Georges St-Pierre – given his PED indiscretions is another thing entirely.

What is for certain, of course, is that he’s a great fighter and he’s definitely the best 205lber the sport has ever seen. Discounting his DQ loss to Matt Hamill, he’s never lost in his decade-long career. Only Alexander Gustafsson in 2013 really pushed him – and then got destroyed when the two rematched last year – and he’s never been really hurt by strikes, let alone knocked down.

He’s also proved almost invulnerable to submissions, too; only Vitor Belfort tested him there with a tight armbar, but Jones escaped and then smashed the Brazilian veteran a round or two later. So can we really expect Thiago ‘Marreta’ Santos – a man who’s only had 3 fights at 205lbs and has UFC losses to the likes of Eric Spicely and David Branch on his record – to test ‘Bones’? In all honesty, it feels doubtful.

If nothing else, I guess you’d have to give Santos a puncher’s chance. He looks good physically at 205lbs; the idea that he ever made 170lbs is now laughable but that’s where he was on TUF Brazil 2, but since then he appears to have added nothing but lean muscle to his frame. He’s always been a hard hitter but that extra size has transformed his game from being essentially a poor man’s Edson Barboza to a fearsome power puncher who’s comfortable both on the attack and on the counter.

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‘Marreta’ also has some of the nastiest finishing instincts in the entire sport. We saw that when he took out Jan Blachowicz with a series of ruthless hammer fists after dropping him with a counter left hand – the win that earned him this title shot – but it was on show the most in his nasty wins at 185lbs over Anthony Smith and Jack Hermansson; both men were basically overwhelmed by sheer aggression and violence.

Against Jones, though? I’m sorry, but I just can’t see him having that much success. For all his heavy power I’m not convinced he hits any harder than Gustafsson, or Daniel Cormier, or Rashad Evans, and none of those men were able to hurt Jones. And more worryingly, Santos has always been somewhat of a glass cannon when it comes to absorbing his opponent’s offence. Jimi Manuwa had him badly hurt in their fight before going down himself, and David Branch outright knocked him out, as did Gegard Mousasi.

That doesn’t bode well for a Jones fight, as ‘Bones’ will hold his usual reach advantage (in this instance it’s 8.5”) and can crack his opponents very hard and from distance too. When you throw in the fact that he’s the best wrestler in the division too, and Santos has shown vulnerabilities on the ground in his past fights, and I just can’t see a way for the challenger to win this fight at all.

Will Jones get the finish this time, after being forced to go the full 25 minutes with Anthony Smith last time around? I think he will, mainly because it doesn’t feel like Santos is the type of opponent to retreat into his shell the moment he gets hurt. He’s a kill-or-be-killed type of fighter, and I think he’ll be more than willing to go down swinging.

The show might be exactly 6 years to the day that Chris Weidman upset Anderson Silva for the Middleweight title, but I don’t see lightning striking twice here.

The Pick: Jones via second-round TKO

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