The UFC returns to the fight capital of the world, Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC 239 and international fight week. International fight week promises to be an exciting one for UFC fans. Including a quality card.
In the main event, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones defends against hard-hitting Brazillian Thiago Santos. The co-main event features the ‘Champ, Champ’ Amanda Nunes, who defends her bantamweight belt against fan favorite, Holly Holm.
Although the UFC brings a thoroughly stacked card to international fight week, here is a look at fights that are going under the radar at UFC 239.
Former Ultimate Fighter Winners Face Off
Diego Sanchez returns at UFC 239 in what is sure to be an exciting bout. Sanchez is in the midst of a resurgence after being brutally knocked out by Matt Brown. Riding a two-fight winning streak for the first time since 2010, The Ultimate Fighter season one winner looks to continue this streak.
It won’t be an easy task however as he takes on TUF 15 winner, Michael Chiesa. Chiesa made his welterweight debut at UFC 232. At the event, he put on one of the best performances of his career. Chiesa submitted former interim champion Carlos Condit in stunning fashion with a one-armed kimura.
This fight is certainly one to look out for. Between these men sit nine, ‘Fight of the Night’ and four ‘Performance of the Night’ bonuses. The clash of styles is also something that should keep fans intrigued.
In his last outing, Sanchez dominated prospect Mickey Gall, stopping him in the second round. This strong performance for Sanchez highlighted that there are ‘levels to this game’. He predominantly utilised a wrestling game in his past two bouts, overwhelming his opponents. This may not be the best plan against Chiesa however, who holds an impressive 11 submission victories in 15 wins, although he is an accomplished grappler in his own right.
Will we see a largely stand up battle between two men who have impressive jiu-jitsu games?
Sanchez has recently left his longtime team Jackson-Wink, telling MMAJunkie it was a ‘crucial decision’. How will this change his game and will it affect his performance against Chiesa?
One thing we can guarantee, this fight will be fast paced. Sanchez has cardio for days and with the move up in weight, we can expect Chiesa’s cardio to be better too.
American debut against a legend of the game
The featured preliminary headline of the ESPN card features the American debut of England’s own Arnold Allen. One of the brightest prospects on the UK MMA scene, Allen holds an impressive 14-1 record (5-0 UFC). His most recent performance came at UFC Fight Night 147, where he out-pointed Jordan Rinaldi over three rounds.
After this performance, we did question whether Allen was ‘too technical for his own good’ in his UFC career. The Tri-star man is one of the better technical fighters in the featherweight division, but rarely takes risks. It often comes across as if he’s cruising to victory and not getting out of first gear. This is Allen’s American debut, however, having fought in Europe for his previous five UFC fights. Allen should impress, showing the American fans what he has to offer.
Allen’s opponent at UFC 239, former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. One of the most experienced fighters on the card, Melendez is a WEC, Strikeforce, Pride and UFC veteran with a record of 22-7. Without a win in his last four, Melendez last tasted victory at UFC 166, defeating Diego Sanchez. ‘El Nino’ will be looking to lean on his experience to overcome the talented Brit and pick up his first win in almost six years. It’s undeniable that Melendez has only faced the best there is, with fights against, Anthony Pettis, Eddie Alvarez, Edson Barboza and Jeremy Stephens in his last four outings.
With both men having a well-rounded skill set, this match-up could take place anywhere. Expect the younger, more active Allen to have the speed advantage over Melendez. Melendez does, however, hold a big experience advantage over Allen, having competed 22 times before Allen made his professional debut.
Previously booked for November last year, these men have been preparing for each other for a long time. Expect a well thought out a game plan from both.
The Golden Boy welcomes the Welshman
Another fight which happens to be flying under the radar at UFC 239 is between ‘The Golden Boy’ Edmen Shahbazyan and Welshman, Jack Marshman. MMASucka’s own Ed Gallo highlights just how good Shahbazyan is in his prospect evaluation. It’s clear to see Shahbazyan is one to watch, with an undefeated professional record of 9-0, including two victories in the UFC.
A product of DWTNCS, ‘The Golden Boy’ impressed in both of his UFC outings. In his debut he took on the experienced Brit Darren Stewart, edging out a split decision victory. His second outing was more impressive, knocking out Charles Byrd at UFC 235. Shaybazyan was unlucky not to pick up a ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus, in what was a flawless display.
Marshman certainly holds the experience edge over Shahbazyan. The Welshman holds a record of 23-8, including holding multiple different belts in multiple different promotions. He also has an impressive 18 victories via finishes, including both knockouts and submissions. The hard hitter was last in action in March at UFC Fight Night 147, edging out a razor close decision against John Phillips. Marshman did miss weight for this fight however and will need to rectify this at UFC 239.
The heavy hands of the Welshman could play a big part in this fight as Shahbazyan’s defense hasn’t looked the sharpest. In his article, Ed Gallo picks up how a well-rounded fighter could cause Shahbazyan problems both on the feet and could push his cardio. Will we see this at UFC 239? Or will the exciting prospect again rise to the occasion and outperform the Welshman?
Who else to look out for at UFC 239
- ‘The Austrian Wonderboy’ Ismail Naurdiev returns to face Chance Rencountre. At 18-2, Naurdiev is certainly a prospect to keep an eye on.
- Luke Rockhold makes his long-awaited light heavyweight debut, facing longtime contender Jan Blachowicz. The move comes after the former middleweight champion’s constant struggle to make 185lbs. Stay tuned on MMASucka.com for UFC 239 content, including main-card previews, betting previews and post-event recaps!