The UFC has an absolutely stacked pay-per-view event on deck from its APEX facility in Las Vegas on March 6. There are three championships at stake and four champions competing on the night, with middleweight king Israel Adesanya’s quest to dethrone light heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz topping this mega-card. In the co-main event, two-division women’s champion and MMA icon Amanda Nunes puts her featherweight belt on the line against Megan Anderson. Starting off the tripleheader of title action is men’s bantamweight champ Petr Yan making his first title defense against New York standout Aljamain Sterling.
You know this is a strong lineup when Dominick Cruz and Joseph Benavidez are on the prelims in separate bouts. We always have to be wary about last-minute cancellations (especially during these times), but it’d take a lot for this show to lose its top to bottom quality. Before fight night arrives, let’s look at some of the fighters on UFC 259 who are poised to deliver high scores for your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups as winter draws to a close.
DraftKings is hosting a big UFC 259 fantasy MMA tournament that pays out $1 million in guaranteed prizes, including $200,000 to first place. The fantasy MMA contest locks at 5:15 p.m. ET on Saturday. Set your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups here: MMA $1M 259 Special [$200K to 1st].
Amanda Nunes ($9,600) vs. Megan Anderson ($6,600) - Women’s Featherweights
There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Amanda Nunes’ greatness. ‘The Lioness’ holds the women’s 135 and 145-pound belts and boasts knockouts over Cris Cyborg, Ronda Rousey, and Holly Holm, not to mention two decision wins over Valentina Shevchenko. Her last two title defenses have seen her go the distance against Felicia Spencer and Germaine de Randamie. Anderson is a former Invicta FC featherweight champion whose UFC career did not get off to the best of starts. The Australian was dominated by Holly Holm at UFC 225, then after a freak eye injury win over Cat Zingano, Anderson was submitted by Felicia Spencer in the first round. She has bounced back impressively with a triangle choke finish of Zarah Fairn dos Santos and a KO of Norma Dumont.
It would take a monumental effort from Anderson to win this fight. She does possess power in her striking but Nunes’ stand-up is so much sharper and faster, and she’s obviously quite powerful herself. The glaring weakness for Anderson is her bottom position grappling, in which case Nunes could take her down at will and dominate her on the ground. Nunes will notch another victory to add to her historic reign as double champion.
Number of Note: 14. Nunes has completed 14 takedowns over her last two fights. Anderson’s career UFC takedown defense is an underwhelming 53%.
Petr Yan ($8,300) vs. Aljamain Sterling ($7,900) - Men’s Bantamweights
Yan has taken the UFC bantamweight division by storm. The Russian got his shot at the title off of a head kick KO of the legendary Urijah Faber, then he won the vacant belt with a fifth-round TKO of Jose Aldo. He also dropped Jimmie Rivera twice on his way to a decision win back in 2019. Sterling has worked tirelessly to get his title shot. Things looked bleak after a brutal KO against Marlon Moraes, but he hasn’t looked back since then. Five straight wins for the Long Islander, including decisions over Jimmie Rivera and Pedro Munhoz and a brilliant rear-naked choke finish of Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250 last June.
This is a fascinating clash of styles. Yan does his best work with his high-volume combination striking from either stance, whereas Sterling is a great wrestler and grappler who is a serious submission threat on the mat. You do not want Sterling in a dominant position, especially when he gets your back. Aljamain has also become a steadily more confident and effective striker, and he’ll have the reach advantage against Yan. With that said, Yan has proficient takedown defense and if he can pressure effectively and force Sterling to move backwards, then it’s going to make life tough for Aljamain. I believe Sterling has a really good chance to win but Yan’s offensive potency and accuracy will see him retain the title.
Number of Note: 8. Petr Yan has already amassed 8 knockdowns in just seven UFC fights. The all-time record in UFC bantamweight history is TJ Dillashaw’s 9. Sterling has been dropped three times, but none occurred during his current winning streak.
Song Yadong ($8,800) vs. Kyler Phillips ($7,400) - Men’s Bantamweights
Very quietly, China’s Song Yadong is undefeated in the UFC and one of the top prospects in a loaded 135-pound division. The 23-year-old Team Alpha Male member is coming off a decision win over Marlon Vera, and his career highlight to date was a right hand KO of veteran Alejandro Perez back in 2019. Phillips is a bright prospect in his own right. Fighting out of the famed MMA Lab in Arizona, Phillips debuted in the UFC last year and notched a decision victory over Gabriel Silva. In his next outing, he dominated and stopped Cameron Else by second-round TKO.
I love these prospect vs. prospect matchups. There are some concerns about Song’s cardio given he faded a bit late against Vera, but his overall game is very well-rounded. Phillips is also well-rounded, aggressive, and a lot of his striking is based off of his kicks. He comes from a jiu jitsu background and will likely look to get this to the ground. I’d say that Song is more defensively responsible which tips the scales in his favor. Expect fireworks out of this one and for Song to get his hand raised once again.
Number of Note: 101. Song Yadong is coming off a UFC career-best 101 significant strikes landed in his last bout vs. Marlon Vera. Don’t discount his power either, as he’s knocked down three of his six opponents inside the Octagon.
Joseph Benavidez ($7,900) vs. Askar Askarov ($8,300) - Men’s Flyweights
Askarov is undefeated in his 13-fight career, with a draw against Brandon Moreno as his only “blemish” of sorts. A former ACB flyweight champion in his native Russia, Askarov prevailed by decision in his last two outings against former title challenger Tim Elliott and perennial contender Alexandre Pantoja. As he takes one step closer to a title shot, this is essentially Benavidez’s last stand as a flyweight contender. Having lost twice to Deiveson Figueiredo — the first one was non-title after Figueiredo missed weight — the 36-year-old is on the downside of his career but still figures to be a formidable opponent. Preceding his Figueiredo defeats were wins over Alex Perez, Dustin Ortiz, and Jussier Formiga.
Historically speaking, Benavidez has beaten plenty of fighters who fit Askarov’s style of primarily wrestling and grappling with not a lot of powerful striking. Of course that’s not meant to last forever and it is evident that Benavidez is not in his prime. Askarov can fight at a ridiculous pace and he’s more than capable of scrambling out of bad spots on the ground, but I don’t think the torch is ready to be passed just yet. Benavidez has been in this rodeo too many times and I believe that Askarov doesn’t possess enough of a threat on the feet for him to get the victory. I’m going with Benavidez for the minor upset.
Number of Note: 18. Askar Askarov’s takedown defense may be a solid 64%, but his takedown offense through three UFC fights is just 6 of 33, or roughly 18%.
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