The Ultimate Fighting Championship will return to T-Mobile Center in Las Vegas on July 6 to cap International Fight Week. The promotion announced the headliners for the UFC 239 card on March 29, booking a pair of title fights.
In the main event, Jon “Bones” Jones will put his light-heavyweight strap on the line against Thiago Santos, who is unbeaten in three fights since moving up from middleweight to the 205-pound division. The 35-year-old Brazilian is 4-0 since last August, including knockout wins over Eryk Anders, Jimi Manuwa and Jan Blachowicz.
Anders, who had taken the fight against Santos on one week of notice, collapsed trying to walk back to his corner after Round 3. In a hilarious tweet the next day, the former Alabama linebacker who goes by the moniker of “Ya Boi” said, “Ain’t gonna lie, haven’t been that tired since the end of my wedding night.”
Anders and Santos both took home an extra $50,000 for Fight of the Night honors. Santos won Performance of the Night bonuses for his knockouts of Manuwa (early in Round 2) and Blachowicz (early Round 3).
Jones will be fighting for the third time in about six months after he graced the octagon only four times in a stretch of more than five years due to various transgressions on his part. Jones beat Alexander Gustafsson by third-round KO on Dec. 29, 2018, to get his belt back. He retained his title in early March by coasting to an easy decision win over Anthony Smith.
5Dimes.eu opened Jones as an enormous -850 favorite, leaving Santos as a +520 underdog. By April 3, the offshore shop had reduced Jones’s odds to -600, with Santos now a +450 underdog (risk $100 to win $450).
Santos owns an 8-1 record since Feb. 19, 2017. Hi only defeat came in a first-round KO loss to David Branch last April.
Santos defeated Smith with a body kick and subsequent punches in February 2018. Smith has also been booked for another headlining bout, as he’ll face Gustafsson this summer in Sweden.
The UFC 239 co-main event will feature double-champ Amanda Nunes defending her women’s bantamweight belt against Holly Holm, the former champ in the 135-pound division. Nunes went up to the featherweight division and scored a first-round KO of Cyborg Santos her last time out, hooking up her betting backers as a +200 underdog (paid $200 on $100 wagers).
Nunes, who is 8-0 since getting knocked out by ‘Alpha’ Cat Zingano at UFC 178 back in 2014, has beaten all the legends of the sport in the past five years. Nunes’s victims have included Valentina Shevchenko (twice, albeit in a pair of super-close decisions), Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate and Cyborg.
Nunes opened as a -355 chalk at 5Dimes, while Holm was +265 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $265). Nunes was down to -325 on April 3.
Holm has lost four of six fights since shocking Rousey to win the belt at UFC 193. However, there was no shame in any of the defeats.
Holm was up 3-1 on the judges’ cards in her first title defense before being submitted by Tate in the fifth round at UFC 196. She went the distance with Shevchenko and Cyborg, and then dropped a controversial decision loss to Germaine de Randamie in her featherweight debut for the inaugural 145-pound championship.
“The Preacher’s Daughter” squeezed in a third-round head-kick KO over Bethe Correia in Singapore back in 2017 and in her last fight, Holm won a unanimous decision over Megan Anderson.
Luke Rockhold will make his light heavyweight debut at UFC 239 when he takes on Blachowicz. If Rockhold can prevail in impressive fashion, the former middleweight kingpin could be in line for the next shot at Jones, assuming “Bones” gets past Santos.
In other news, former welterweight champs Tyron Woodley and Robbie Lawler will run it back in the UFC on ESPN4 headliner. Woodley took the 170-pound belt from Lawler with a first-round KO win back at UFC 201 in Atlanta at Philips Arena. Woodley kept the belt until losing to Kamaru Usman last month by unanimous decision. He was an even-money underdog when he defeated Lawler, who is off a controversial loss to Ben Askren last month.