Many of UFC’s biggest stars will appear on Saturday night when the promotion hosts UFC 259. Sitting atop a large 15-fight card, UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya will look to make history, challenging UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz.
Along with the champion versus champion main event, UFC 259 includes bouts with UFC Featherweight Champion Amanda Nunes and UFC Bantamweight Champion Petr Yan.
Here is a preview of all the action that will be going down at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Early Prelims (5:15PM EST / 2:15PM PST) (UFC Fight Pass)
Bout 1: Trevin Jones (12-6) vs. Mario Bautista (8-1) (Bantamweight)
Mario Bautista will make his return to action in the first fight of the card, competing against Trevin Jones in a bantamweight bout.
Bautista has been part of the UFC roster since early 2019. After his promotional debut resulted in a loss to Cory Sandhagen, he has since picked up two wins. His last fight, which was now over a year ago, saw him stop Miles Johns with strikes.
Jones will be looking for his first UFC win. While the Guam-based fighter initially won his promotional debut against Timur Valiev over the summer, earning a stoppage victory in a big upset, the fight was later overturned to a no contest due to a drug test that found marijuana in his system.
Bout 2: Uros Medic (6-0) vs. Aalon Cruz (8-3) (Lightweight)
Uros Medic will be the first of many undefeated fighters to make the walk during UFC 259. He will be making his UFC debut against Aalon Cruz on the prelims.
Medic impressed critics back in August, defeating Mikey Gonzalez on “Dana White’s Contender Series.” The win continued his career-long streak of finishing opponents and won him a UFC contract.
Cruz will be returning after losing his UFC debut last year via stoppage to Spike Carlyle.
Bout 3: Livinha Souza (14-2) vs. Amanda Lemos (8-1-1) (Strawweight)
Strawweights Livinha Souza and Amanda Lemos have been paired for UFC’s early prelims.
Lemos enters the fight after defeating her past two opponents. After stopping Miranda Granger in late 2019 via rear naked choke, Lemos had her last win via unanimous decision against Mizuki Inoue in August.
Souza returned to the win column in her last fight, defeating Ashley Yoder in August.
Bout 4: Sean Brady (13-0) vs. Jake Matthews (17-4) (Welterweight)
Welterweight win streaks will be wagered early in the evening when Sean Brady fights Jake Matthews.
Brady has been undefeated since entering the UFC in 2019. The 28-year-old earned his first stoppage win while under the promotion in August, finishing Christian Aguilera with a guillotine choke.
Matthews has been on the right track over the past year now, picking up three consecutive wins on scorecards. He had a win over a veteran in Diego Sanchez in his September showing.
Bout 5: Carlos Ulberg (3-0) vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu (7-1) (Light Heavyweight)
Carlos Ulberg will be one of the many fighters representing City Kickboxing on Saturday. The light heavyweight will be making his UFC debut against Kennedy Nzechukwu.
Ulberg’s short yet sweet MMA career has consisted of three wins. His last win was in November, where he stopped Bruno Oliveira on “Dana White’s Contender Series” to earn a UFC contract.
Nzechukwu, another graduate of the “Contender Series,” will be returning after over a year outside of the ring. He picked up his first UFC win in 2019, defeating Darko Stosic on scorecards.
Bout 6: Tim Elliott (16-11-1) vs. Jordan Espinosa (15-8) (Flyweight)
Experienced flyweights Tim Elliott and Jordan Espinosa have been matched for Saturday’s prelims. Elliott will look to put together a win streak in the fight. His last bout, a decision win over Ryan Benoit, saw him snap a three-fight skid that he had developed over the two previous years.
Espinosa lost his last fight, dropping a decision to David Dvorak. The 31-year-old has struggled since entering the UFC, currently holding a negative record in the promotion with two wins and three losses.
Preliminary Card (8:00PM EST / 5:00PM PST) (ESPN / TSN 5)
Bout 7: Kai Kara-France (21-9) vs. Rogerio Bontorin (16-2) (Flyweight)
Looking to bounce back from his first UFC loss, Rogerio Bontorin will fight Kai Kara-France on the prelims. Bontorin dropped a decision to Ray Borg in February of 2020, ending a four-fight win streak that included two previous UFC victories.
He now faces Kara-France, who is looking to return after being submitted by Brandon Royval in September in a match that was awarded “Fight of the Night.”
Bout 8: Joseph Benavidez (28-7) vs. Askar Askarov (13-0-1) (Flyweight)
Askar Askarov will have the toughest challenge of his career so far on Saturday, fighting former title challenger Joseph Benavidez.
Benavidez is returning after a rough 2020 that saw him lose back-to-back title fights to Deiveson Figueiredo. Benavidez was stopped in both performances, being finished with punches in one and choked out in the other.
Benavidez’s experience gives him a big advantage on Saturday. He heads into the fight with 20 previous UFC matches under his belt along with experience in the late days of WEC.
Askarov has remained undefeated since joining the UFC roster in 2019, although it hasn’t been an amazing run thus far. After fighting to a draw against Brandon Moreno in his UFC debut, Askarov went on to defeat Tim Elliott and Alexandre Pantoja.
A win on Saturday night for Askarov would be big for his resume.
Bout 9: Kyler Phillips (8-1) vs. Song Yadong (16-4-1) (Bantamweight)
Bantamweights Kyler Phillips and Song Yadong have been paired for UFC’s prelims.
Returning for his seventh UFC bout, Song has yet to lose. However, he had his win streak disrupted in 2019 when he fought to a draw against Cody Stamann. He has returned to the win column since then, as he defeated Marlon Vera on scorecards back in May of 2020.
Phillips gets the fight against Song after a strong rookie year in the promotion. Phillips fought twice in 2020, defeating Gabriel Silva back in February and earning a stoppage victory against Cameron Else in October.
Bout 10: Dominick Cruz (22-3) vs. Casey Kenney (16-2-1) (Bantamweight)
UFC’s extensive preliminary card will conclude in the bantamweight division. In the 10th bout of the night, former UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz will face Casey Kenney.
Injuries have made Cruz, now 35-years-old, relatively inactive since he lost his 135-pound belt to Cody Garbrandt in 2016. His last fight was at UFC 249 in May, where he was stopped by Henry Cejudo in a title fight. He has the chance to break a two-fight skid on Saturday.
Kenney gets a fight against a former champion after a busy and successful 2020. After facing a loss to Merab Dvalishvili early in the year, Kenney then picked up three wins, including a run in October where he fought twice within a three-week period.
Main Card (10:00PM EST / 7:00PM PST) (PPV)
Bout 11: Thiago Santos (21-8) vs. Aleksandar Rakic (13-2) (Light Heavyweight)
UFC’s pay-per-view portion of UFC 259 begins with a match between two ranked light heavyweights in Thiago Santos and Aleksandar Rakic.
Santos is currently on a two-fight losing streak, albeit both losses came against high-profile competition. Back in 2019, Santos fought to a close split decision against then-champion Jon Jones. Santos struggled in the close fight, especially as injuries started to affect his fighting style.
Santos returned in November, where veteran Glover Teixeria made a comeback to stop him in the third round of a main event fight with a rear naked choke.
He now fights Rakic, who is currently trying to fight his way into being included in the title conversation. Rakic has picked up five wins since joining the UFC roster in 2017. He returned to the win column in his last bout, defeating Anthony Smith in a unanimous decision performance.
Bout 12: Islam Makhachev (18-1) vs. Drew Dober (23-9) (Lightweight)
High-profile lightweights Islam Makhachev and Drew Dober will compete in the final spot on the card before title fights.
Makhachev will be making his return after a year outside of competition. He was booked for three separate fights in 2020 that fell out of lineups for various reasons. He returns with his ongoing six-fight win streak that dates back to 2016.
Dober has been on somewhat of a streak himself, earning three stoppage wins over the past few years. His last win saw him stop Alexander Hernandez in the second round of a bout with strikes.
Bout 13: Petr Yan (15-1) vs. Aljamain Sterling (19-3) (UFC Bantamweight Championship)
Petr Yan will look to defend his UFC Bantamweight Championship for the first time when fighting Aljamain Sterling.
Yan earned the vacant 135-pound belt in July, stopping Jose Aldo in the 24th minute of their striking battle. Yan was given the title shot after six wins in the UFC, including victories over names like Urijah Faber and Jimmie Rivera.
Sterling gets his title bout after stringing together five wins in the division. He practically secured the fight in June, submitting Cory Sandhagen, the other fighter at the time who arguably could have been offered a title shot, with a rear naked choke in the second minute of action.
Bout 14: Amanda Nunes (20-4) vs. Megan Anderson (10-4) (UFC Featherweight Championship)
Two-division champion Amanda Nunes will put her 145-pound belt on the line when fighting Megan Anderson in the co-main event.
Nunes defended the featherweight title for the first time in June, defeating Felicia Spencer in a lopsided unanimous decision. The two previous bouts from the current pound-for-pound best woman in the UFC saw her retain her bantamweight belt, which she has held since 2016.
Nunes is now being paired against Anderson, who is one of the few other fighters in the division and certainly of that group the next in line for a title fight.
Anderson has picked up first-round stoppage wins in her last two fights. After submitting Zarah Fairn in 2019, Anderson returned in February of 2020 to finish previously undefeated fighter Norma Dumont within a round with strikes.
Bout 15: Jan Blachowicz (27-8) vs. Israel Adesanya (20-0) (UFC Light Heavyweight Championship)
Israel Adesanya will challenge for his second UFC belt in the main event, fighting UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz.
Adesanya has the chance to become only the fifth fighter in UFC history to hold two championship belts at the same time. He could enter a class that includes Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier, Henry Cejudo and Amanda Nunes (who still holds both of her belts).
Adesanya’s well-documented UFC run has been flawless. Adesanya defended his 185-pound belt twice in 2020, fighting to a decision against Yoel Romero and putting on a stellar performance against Paulo Costa that concluded within two rounds.
Blachowicz has the chance to pick up a massive win. Not only could he spoil the potential history-making win for Adesanya, but he could become the first to ever defeat the fighter.
The fight also gives Blachowicz the chance to defend his 205-pound belt for the first time. He earned it back in September, defeating Dominick Reyes in the second round of their fight with punches. He claimed a vacant belt, which was up for grabs after former champ Jon Jones departed the division earlier in the year.
Blachowicz enters Saturday on a four-fight win streak. However, if he leaves with his arm raised, the fifth win in the streak would be undoubtedly more valuable than any other.