The UFC is set to open the month of March with an event headlined by three world title fights. UFC 259: Adesanya vs Blachowicz takes place at the UFC’s Apex Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Also in the main card is the UFC women’s featherweight title bout between Amanda Nunes and Megan Anderson and the UFC bantamweight title fight between champion Petr Yan and challenger Aljamain Sterling.
But before the main card, an explosive prelims undercard opens the show. Headlining the undercard is former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz who is looking to extend his UFC career.
Dominick Cruz is the former UFC bantamweight champion and final WEC bantamweight champion. The 35-year old known as the Dominator is known for his unorthodox movement and dynamic striking. Nine of Cruz’s last 10 bouts have been for the title and although he has lost his last two bouts, he owns a record of 22-3 with seven knockouts and one submission win. Cruz stands 5-8 tall with a reach of 68 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance.
Casey Kenney is a former Tachi Palace Fight flyweight champion and Legacy Fighting Alliance flyweight and bantamweight champion. The 29-year old from Portland, Indiana joined the UFC in 2019 and has posted a 5-1 Octagon record. Kenney is 16-2 with two knockouts and five wins via submission and has won his last three bouts. He is a southpaw who stands 5-7 tall with a reach of 68 inches.
Kenney has a dangerous grappling game but Cruz has excellent takedown defense. Meanwhile, Kenney’s striking isn’t explosive enough to match with Cruz’s patented upbeat offense. As always, Kenney will push forward but Cruz’s movement will prove to be troublesome for Kenney. If Cruz in shape, he’s got this, even if he’s no longer in his prime.
Prediction: Dominick Cruz
Song Yadong is the 14th ranked bantamweight in the UFC. This 23-year old from Harbin, China is joined the UFC in 2017 and is undefeated in six UFC bouts with one draw during that span. Song is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-8 tall with a reach of 67 inches. He has a record of 16-4 with six knockouts and three submission wins.
Kyler Phillips fought for CXF and LFA before joining the UFC last year. He defeated Gabriel Silva on points in his UFC debut and knocked out Cameron Else last October. This 25-year old from Phoenix, Arizona has a record of 8-1 with five knockouts and one win via submission. He stands 5-8 tall with a reach of 72 inches and is an orthodox fighter.
Song still has a long way to go before he becomes a contender in the UFC. But his crisp boxing and powerful punches should be enough to get him past Phillips in this fight. Both these fighters have knockout power but Phillips can get too anxious and leave himself wide open to getting countered. Song has cardio issues and that’s the reason why Phillips is dangerous here. But more likely than not, Song is able to keep up his pace for three rounds and beat Phillips on points.
Prediction: Song Yadong
Joseph Benavidez is the no. 2 ranked flyweight in the UFC. The 36-year old from San Antonio, Texas fought for DREAM, WEC, and the UFC. Benavidez challenged twice for the flyweight title in his last two bouts, losing both times to Deiveson Figueredo. He owns a record of 28-7 with eight knockouts and nine wins via submission. Benavidez is a southpaw who stands 5-4 tall with a reach of 65 inches.
Askar Askarov is the no. 3 ranked flyweight in the UFC. The 28-year old from Dagestan is a former ACB flyweight champion who also joined the UFC in 2019. After a split draw with Brandon Moreno in his UFC debut, Askarov has beaten Tim Elliott and Alexandre Pantoja in back-to-back fights. He has a record of 12-0 with three knockouts and seven wins via submission. Askarov is 5-6 tall with a reach of 67 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance.
Benavidez has beaten too many scrambling specialists in the past and it’s not that Askarov is really one of the best in that department. But the question is if Benavidez still has it after back-to-back losses to Deiveson Figueiredo. If he does, he’ll have every advantage in this fight. Askarov’s striking is nowhere near Figueiredo’s so I’m not sure he troubles Benavidez there. I think Joe B gets enough top control to win this fight on points.
Prediction: Joseph Benavidez
Rogerio Bontorin is the 8th ranked flyweight in the UFC. The 28-year old from Parana, Brazil appeared in the Contender Series Brazil edition in 2018, earning a UFC contract. Bontorin won his first two UFC bouts before losing to Ray Borg in his most recent bout. He is 15-2 with two knockouts and 11 wins via submission. Bontorin is 5-5 tall with a reach of 67 inches and fights out of the orthodox stance.
Kai Kara-France is the 8th ranked flyweight in the UFC. The 27-year old Auckland, New Zealand native joined the UFC in 2018 and is 4-2 inside the UFC Octagon. Kara France heads to this bout having lost his last bout against Brandon Royval. He has a record of 21-9 with 9 knockouts and three wins via submission. Kara-France stands 5-4 tall with reach of 69 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance.
Kara-France looks to win this fight if he can keep it on the feet but Bontorin has proved that he can beat a lethal striker. Bontorin is tough and relentless if he puts his mind in the right place. His relentlessness is going to neutralize Kara-France’s offense. Bontorin has what it takes to win this. I’ll pick the underdog here.
Prediction: Rogerio Bontorin
Tim Elliott is the no. 12 ranked flyweight in the UFC and the winner of The Ultimate Fighter: Tournament of Champions. After losing three of his first four UFC bouts, Elliott was released and he went on to fight for Titan FC where he won the flyweight title. Since returning to the UFC, Elliott is just 3-4 but is coming off a win over Ryan Benoit. Elliott is 16-11 with three knockouts and six submission wins. He stands 5-7 tall with a reach of 66 inches and is a southpaw.
Jordan Espinosa fought for various promotions like the LFA, CES MMA, New League Fights among others. He joined the UFC via the Contender Series and earned his UFC contract there. Espinosa won his Octagon debut but is just 1-3 ever since. He has an overall record of 15-8 with two knockouts and seven submission wins. He stands 5-6 tall with a reach of 69 inches and is an orthodox fighter.
Even after a decade fighting in the sport, Elliott remains the same old smothering wrestler who’s a lumbering punching bag on his feet. With Espinosa’s takedown defense and his ability to stay out of the pocket, he’s going to limit Elliott’s offense and keep this fight on the feet where he wants it. Espinosa moves around the cage pretty well and he throws at a high volume. For as long as he doesn’t let Elliott get his hands on him and fights at a distance, this is Espinosa’s fight to lose. Give me Espinosa in a striking battle.
Prediction: Jordan Espinosa
Sean Brady is a former Cage Fury Fighting Championship welterweight champion. This 28-year old from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is joined the UFC in 2019 and is unbeaten in three Octagon appearances. He has a record of 13-0 with three knockouts and three wins via submission. Brady is an orthodox fighter who stands 5-10 tall with a reach of 72 inches.
Jake Matthews appeared for TUF: Nation and fought for Australia’s Shamrock Events before joining the UFC. After going 4-3 in his first seven UFC bouts, Matthews has won six of his last seven outings. In his last fight, he defeated Diego Sanchez at UFC 253. Matthews is 5-11 tall with a reach of 73 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. He has a record of 17-4 with four knockouts and seven wins via submission.
Brady is the busier striker and better wrestler between the two which means that Matthews needs to knock him out or submit him. But Matthews hasn’t recorded a knockout since 2015 and a submission win since 2016. Brady looks like he’s a guy who can be a contender in the UFC while Matthews seems to disappoint against quality opposition. Brady uses volume and occasional top control to pull off the victory.
Prediction: Sean Brady
Livia Renata Souza is a former Invicta FC strawweight champion and the no. 15 ranked strawweight in the UFC. The 29-year old from Sao Paulo, Brazil joined the UFC in 2018 and has fought only four times, going 3-1 inside the Octagon. Souza is 14-2 with two knockouts and eight wins via submission. She stands 5-3 tall with a reach of 63 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance.
Amanda Lemos is a former Jungle Fight women’s bantamweight champion in Brazil. The 33-year old from Belem in Brazil joined the UFC in 2017 but has appeared in only three UFC bouts, with two wins. Lemos has won back-to-back fights and has a record of 8-1 with five knockouts and two wins via submission. She is a southpaw who stands 5-4 tall with a reach of 65 inches.
Souza is 3-1 inside the UFC Octagon but she has yet to display her full grappling pedigree and has issues with letting her hands go. That’s going to be a problem against Lemos who is bigger, more powerful, better skilled, and more active on the feet. Both women have found success in the UFC but to me, Souza has been underwhelming. I like Lemos to beat Souza on the feet, outlanding her in a striking battle.
Prediction: Amanda Lemos
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