Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is set to invade Target Center TONIGHT (Sat., June 29, 2019) as UFC on ESPN 3 — featuring Francis Ngannou taking on Junior dos Santos — goes down in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Co-headlining the event is a Flyweight showdown between Joseph Benavidez and Jussier Formiga. But, that’s not all, let’s dive in to see what this card has to offer.
At the start of 2020 (if not sooner), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will have a new Heavyweight champion not named Daniel Cormier. That’s because “DC” is set to rematch Stipe Miocic at UFC 241 on Aug. 17, 2019, giving Miocic the chance to reclaim the title by avenging his last loss. But, even if Cormier goes 2-0 against Miocic, he will likely retire shortly thereafter, leaving the belt up for grabs. That means dos Santos (ranked No. 3) and Francis (No. 2) have something major on the line Saturday night, as the victor here will likely get the next shot at the title.
Because as we all know, Brock Lesnar is not walking through that door.
dos Santos has returned to his old form as of late, scoring three straight wins including back-to-back knockout victories over Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa, winning four of his last five since 2016. His loss came to the aforementioned Miocic. And just like Donald Cerrone, dos Santos recently welcomed his first son into the world, which just so happened to be when their respective runs began.
Kids are the secret!
Getting consecutive win number four, however, will be a monumental task as Ngannou has also turned it around as of late. Indeed, after dropping two straight, “The Predator” quickly found his groove and went on to score back-to-back lightning quick knockout wins over Curtis Blaydes (44 seconds) and Cain Velasquez (26 seconds) in the span of just four months. Like dos Santos, Francis has knockout power to end the fight in the blink of an eye, some would go as far as to say he hits just a tad bit harder.
That means while fight fans are eager for this bout, it could end rather quickly, as this fight will be played out on the feet and the chances of it ever hitting the ground are slim-to-none. I’m thinking a first round knockout for someone here. But, that’s why we pay to see the big men throw down; not for decisions or submissions, we want to see those big fists flying and these two men are more than happy to oblige.
Is it just me, or are the ESPN cards not getting a lot of love from the network when it comes to the promotional side of things? We’ve had two big events on ESPN since the start of the year, and while they have been entertaining, I’m just not seeing a ton of promotion. It seems Professional Fighter’s League (PFL) at times gets more shine from ESPN.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
This card was originally set to feature a Welterweight matchup between Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley, but “The Chosen One” suffered an injury and was forced out of the fight. In turn, the promotion pulled “Ruthless” from the event and yanked Ngannou and dos Santos off UFC 239 to headline this card. Sergio Pettis was to face Ricardo Ramos, but “The Phenom” pulled out of the fight for undisclosed reason and was replaced by Journey Newson. Also, Eryk Anders stepped in to face Vinicius Moreira after Roman Dolidze was forced to withdraw from the event for an undisclosed reason.
Aside from the mishaps mentioned above, Chas Skelly was forced to bow out of his scheduled fight against Jordan Griffin after he sustained an undisclosed injury. On short notice, Vince Murdock accepted the chance to step in to face Griffin in what would have been his UFC debut. But, just a few days from the event, Murdock was informed by doctors that he would not be medically cleared to fight.
Journey Newson — who boasts a 9-1 record on the regional circuit — got the call up to make his Octagon debut against Ricardo Ramos after Sergio Pettis bowed out. While there isn’t a lot of tape on the relatively unknown Newson, he does have a mixture of wins, which includes three knockouts, four via decision and two submission wins.
Dalcha Lungiambula will also bring his 9-1 record to the Octagon. Dalcha may not be well-known either, but he does have some skills as he was the former EFC — a promotion in South Africa – Light Heavyweight champion, and most recently won the Heavyweight strap before getting the call up. To hear our very own Patrick L. Stumberg tell it, one can liken him to former Bellator and UFC star Hector Lombard, as Dalcha possesses top-notch judo skills along with heavy hands. Speaking of which, if you want to get a better, more detailed look at both Journey and Dalcha, I highly suggest you click here to read “New Blood.”
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Eryk Anders will look to end his three-fight skid when he faces Vinicius Moreira at Light Heavyweight, while Jared Gordon looks to put a stop to his two-fight skid when he takes on Dan Moret. Once-promising heavyweight, Junior Albini, will also look to put an end to the bleeding of losing three in a row when he faces off against Maurice Green.
There really isn’t much to get overly-excited about here, sadly. That said, most on the undercard, it seems, are in desperate need of a win to avoid falling further down the ladder, which could lead to some exciting fights.
To get a better look at the “Prelims” click here and here.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Anders stormed his way into the Octagon with eight straight wins before impressing in his Octagon debut against Rafael Natal, scoring a first round knockout to put everyone on notice. Soon thereafter, he picked up a win over Markus Perez after 15 minutes of action, proving that he was more than just a powerful puncher.
Since then, however, things have gone downhill for the former football standout, losing four of his last five including his last three straight. Among his losses was a technical knockout defeat to current Light Heavyweight title contender, Thiago Santos, and close defeats to Elias Theodorou and Khalil Rountree. He did have a monstrous knockout win over Tim Williams in there, but the fact remains losing four straight will not be a good look for Anders when it comes time to thin the herd.
Interest Level: 6.5 out of 10
It’s actually a pretty decent card. Big men throwing down is always a treat, and watching two of the best in the world today vying for a potential title shot will surely get people glued to the television set.
But, the co-main event is just as intriguing. Benavidez recently stated that despite Henry Cejudo’s recent run, which includes wins over Demetrious Johnson, T.J. Dillashaw and Marlon Moraes, he is still better than the champ-champ. And he has the victory over him to brag about. Being the last man to defeat “The Messenger” is good bait to entice Henry to drop back down to defend his 125–pound strap, first. Of course, Jussier Formiga is ready to play spoiler.
Winner of four straight, it seems Formiga has constantly been the forgotten Flyweight. He has won five of seven overall, losing a close split-decision to Cejudo in 2015. Sure, he already has a loss to Benavidez way back in 2013, but just like Benavidez, Jussier has improved drastically since. If he can get some sweet revenge on Benavidez, it will also likely grant him the chance to get one back on Cejudo and score his first-ever world title, in the process.
Demian Maia will look to score his first back-to-back wins since 2016-207 after breaking his three fight skid with his submission win over Lyman Good in his previous outing. While it seemed Maia was on his way out, he is still trucking along and has a huge test in front of him in the form Anthony Rocco Martin.
While Martin may not have the biggest name out there, he is as dangerous as they come, winning four in a row, which includes wins over Ryan LaFlare and Sergio Moraes, among others. If Rocco can score a win over a longtime vet such as Maia it will raise his stock and get him in the mix of a very talented and crowded division.
Enjoy the fights!
Full Fight Card:
UFC on ESPN 3 Main Event:
265 lbs.: Francis Ngannou vs. Junior dos Santos
UFC on ESPN 3 Main Card (9 p.m. ET):
125 lbs.: Joseph Benavidez vs. Jussier Formiga
170 lbs.: Demian Maia vs. Anthony Rocco Martin
155 lbs.: Roosevelt Robert vs. Vic Pinchel
155 lbs.: Drew Dober vs. Marco Polo Reyes
205 lbs.: Paul Craig vs. Alonzo Menifield
UFC on ESPN 3 Prelims (6 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Journey Newson vs. Ricardo Ramos
205 lbs.: Eryk Anders vs. Vinicius Castro
145 lbs.: Vince Murdock vs. Jordan Griffin
155 lbs.: Jared Gordon vs. Dan Moret
205 lbs.: Dalcha Lungiambula vs. Dequan Townsend
115 lbs.: Emily Whitmire vs. Amanda Ribas
265 lbs.: Maurice Greene vs. Junior Albini
*Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to change.
For more upcoming UFC events click here.