The Light Heavyweight G.O.A.T. and the Baddest Woman on the Planet defend their respective titles this Saturday (July 6, 2019) when Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC 239. Jon Jones leads the way against the brutal knockout power of Thiago Santos, while Amanda Nunes looks to build off of her knockout of Cris Cyborg at the expense of Holly Holm.
Fans will also get to see a Welterweight grudge match between Ben Askren and Jorge Masvidal, as well as Luke Rockhold’s Light Heavyweight debut opposite Jan Blachowicz.
We’ve got six “Prelims” undercard bouts at the moment, split 3-3 between ESPN and Fight Pass. Let’s check out the first Fight Pass Prelims in some time:
185 lbs.: Jack Marshman vs. Edmen Shahbazyan
Jack Marshman (23-8) started strong in the Octagon with an upset stoppage of Magnus Cedenblad, earning “Performance of the Night” along the way, but went on to lose three of his next four bouts. Though he literally had to go AWOL to do it, he got back on track in March with a split decision over fellow Welshman John Phillips in London.
“Hammer” stands two inches shorter than Edmen Shahbazyan (9-0) at 6’0.”
Shahbazyan — representing Edmund Tarverdyan’s Glendale Fighting Club — punched his UFC ticket with a 40-second stoppage of Antonio Jones on “Contender Series.” He settled for a split decision over Darren Stewart in his UFC debut, but got back to his finishing ways by stopping Charles Byrd in 38 seconds.
Eight of his nine victories have come via first-round (technical) knockout.
In a pure striking battle, Marshman could likely outlast Shahbazyan and do some real damage once the GFC rep started to fade. Unfortunately for him, Shahbazyan showed against Stewart that he’s ready, willing, and able to lean on his wrestling if needed.
Tough as Marshman is, grit won’t compensate for the technical deficiencies in his takedown defense.
Shahbazyan will have to keep his wits about him for all 15 minutes against the iron-tough Welshman, but the ability to take it to the ground whenever things get hairy should keep him out of danger. Expect a few good exchanges on the feet before Shahbazyan acknowledges Marshman’s durability and cruises to victory from top position.
Prediction: Shahbazyan via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Ismail Naurdiev vs. Chance Rencountre
Ismail Naurdiev (18-2) entered the UFC with 13 wins in his previous 14 bouts, among them a body kick finish of UFC veteran Benny Alloway and a wheel kick knockout. “The Austrian Wonderboy” stepped up on short notice against Brazilian powerhouse Michel Prazeres, surviving “Trator’s” grappling onslaught to take home a unanimous decision.
The victory was his first decision win since his professional debut, as he’s knocked out 11 foes and submitted another five.
Shortly after avenging his lone Bellator loss, Chance Rencountre (13-3) stepped up on late notice to face Belal Muhammad last June, dropping a unanimous decision to “Remember the Name.” He entered his sophomore effort against Kyle Stewart as the underdog, only to choke out “Gunz Up” midway through the first round.
“Black Eagle” will have two inches of height and an inch of reach on Naurdiev.
Honestly, this just looks like a somewhat less challenging version of Naurdiev’s debut. Rencountre is taller and rangier than Prazeres, but lacks the Brazilian’s explosive boxing or suffocating top game. “Black Eagle” doesn’t have the technical wrestling to get through Naurdiev’s takedown defense and is far too hittable to survive against a power striker of this caliber.
Had this fight taken place before Naurdiev’s debut, I’d have likely picked Rencountre after seeing Naurdiev struggle against a basic pressure fighter in Ismael De Jesus. Now that I know “The Austrian Wonderboy” can handle quality wrestling, it’s hard to see him losing this. He clips Rencountre with a nasty flurry sometime in the first round.
Prediction: Naurdiev via first-round knockout
135 lbs.: Julia Avila vs. Pannie Kianzad
Julia Avila (6-1) defeated the likes of Marion Reneau and Nicco Montano en route to her Invicta debut, which saw her suffer a compound fracture in her finger while blocking a kick from future The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) competitor Marciea Allen. She’s since rebounded with a pair of knockouts, raising her career total to three.
She’ll have a three-inch reach advantage over “Banzai.”
Pannie Kianzad (11-4) ended her Invicta tenure on a winless (0-3) skid, but fought her way to the finals of TUF 28 as a Featherweight. Though she tapped to current top prospect Macy Chiasson, Kianzad returned to the win column in May with a decision over Iony Razafiarison in her native Sweden.
She steps in for the injured Melissa Gatto on two weeks’ notice.
Next to Chiasson, who’s just a beast, Avila is the most interesting addition to the women’s Bantamweight roster in some time. She’s a crazy-aggressive, swarming puncher with legitimate power and a downright nasty clinch assault. She’s already beaten two current members of the roster and only lost because her finger bone was literally sticking out of her skin.
Kianzad, though a strong striker in her own right, looks to be on the wrong end of the speed advantage and isn’t as crisp in close quarters. Her key weapon will likely be her wrestling, which is something I haven’t seen Avila have to deal with. As much of an unknown as that interaction is, considering Avila’s upside, the short notice, and Kianzad’s historical struggle with the Bantamweight limit, it’s hard to pick against the new girl. She swarms Kianzad for a late finish.
Prediction: Avila via second-round technical knockout
Three more UFC 239 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict, including the return of Gilbert Melendez and the latest from Song Yadong. Same time as always, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 239 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the pay-per-view (PPV) main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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