Three Title Fights Will Define UFC 259's Impressive Card

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UFC 259 delivers an extremely impressive card, highlighted by three different title fights that offer massive implications.

In addition to star power, the card is stocked with emerging talent like Islam Makhachev. Ultimately, this show will be defined by championship gold. The main event features middleweight champion Israel Adesanya moving up in weight class to challenge light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz, and two other title bouts include Amanda Nunes—a main-event talent on a dominant run—defending her featherweight championship against Megan Anderson, as well as bantamweight champion Petr Yan in his first title defense, taking on an incredibly talented opponent in Aljamain Sterling.

These matchups all have the potential to be outstanding, and the ramifications of the outcomes will loom large, specifically the main event. If Adesanya emerges victorious, will he defend both titles? Or then move up again in weight class to challenge Jon Jones, who could be Heavyweight Champion by that point? And despite his status as underdog, if Blachowicz wins, which is a legitimate possibility, then he immediately becomes the undisputed face of the light heavyweight division.

Here are the most pressing questions entering UFC 259:

Can Blachowicz be the first fighter to stop Adesanya?

The main event is a light heavyweight championship bout that, on paper, should steal the show. This is an incredibly interesting fight, pitting reigning champ Jan Blachowicz against middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.

In order for Blachowicz (27-8) to retain his title, he will need to bully Adesanya (20-0) and show off his power. Before entering the UFC, Adesanya had struggles in kickboxing against bigger, stronger opponents that were able to control the fight. If that blueprint can be executed, then this is a prime set-up for Blachowicz to pull off a shocking upset, reminiscent of when he knocked out Luke Rockhold in the summer of 2019.

There will be a difference in size, as Adesanya weighed in at 201.5 pounds, the third lightest in the history of UFC light heavyweight championship bouts. And Blachowicz is currently the best boxer in men’s MMA, which is another advantage, so it will be telling to watch how Adesanya handles the power and pressure. But 20 fights into his MMA career shows that Adesanya is undefeated for a reason, and he simply dominated his last opponent, Paulo Costa, in September. If we see the same Adesanya that showed up against Robert Whittaker or Yoel Romero, then the safe bet is that he is walking away from this bout as a double champ.

This could go either way, but someone is getting knocked out. To a lot of people’s surprise, it may be Adesanya.

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Will Nunes extend her reign of dominance?

Megan Anderson is a talented fighter and possesses knockout power. But that is not reason enough to believe she will dethrone women’s featherweight champion Amanda Nunes.

One of the quirkier stats entering 259 is that Anderson (11-4) defeated Cat Zingano in December 2018, who is the last fighter to beat Nunes (20-4), way back in September 2014. Anderson had considerable hype when she entered UFC, and she is still dangerous fighting on her front foot. But from what we have seen in her UFC tenure, there is no reason to doubt the champ.

When Nunes is on, she is on unstoppable. Her combination of power and skill is too much to overcome, and Anderson will join a lengthy and distinguished list of opponents to fall to one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all-time.

Are Yan and Sterling set to have the fight of the night?

Petr Yan has been incredible in this current 10-fight win streak, which has included winning the bantamweight championship. But if anyone in the division is going to beat Yan (15-1), it is Aljamain Sterling. An important factor in this bout is experience, as Sterling (19-3) has overcome so many uphill battles in fights. His pace and style also differ from Yan’s recent opponents, so this has the makings of a very interesting fight.

Yan is one of the best strikers in the world, so shifting to wrestling may work in Sterling’s favor. But that is yet another example why this fight is so difficult to call—Yan out-grappled Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo in his last two bouts. This will likely be the potential to be the most competitive fight of the night.

Dominick Cruz is fighting on the prelims?

UFC 259 marks the return of Dominick Cruz, who headlines the prelims in a bout against Casey Kenney.

This is simulcast in ESPN and ESPN+, so it is a great spot for Cruz (22-3). He has also dropped two in a row—before that, he had never even lost two fights in his entire career—so he desperately needs this win to remain relevant in the current bantamweight division.

Cruz is seeking to prove that he still competes at an elite level at the age of 35. We should see Cruz re-enter the win column against Kenney (16-2-1), but if he loses, this is the end of Cruz in upper-echelon fights.

Will a win for Santos get him a title shot? And is Makhachev the real deal?

Thiago Santos against Aleksander Rakic is a light heavyweight bout with lots of implications. Santos (21-8) is coming off back-to-back losses against Jon Jones and Glover Teixeira, but he is still second in the rankings. If he defeats Rakic (13-2) in impressive fashion, then he is right back on track in his pursuit of the Light Heavyweight Championship–especially if Blachowicz retains, as Santos was the last fighter to beat him. Rakic has always been extremely entertaining to watch fight, so this is another reason why 259 is such a dynamic card.

And in terms of emerging fighters, this card also includes a lightweight bout pitting Makhachev against Drew Dober. Makhachev (18-1), who is ranked fourteenth, is the future of this division, believes he is the future of the division, and a win here will help prove that. Dober (23-9, 1 NC) is fun to watch and puts on a great show, but this has the potential to be a star-making performance for Makhachev.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.