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UFC 259: Jan Blachowicz defeats Israel Adesanya to retain light heavyweight title

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Jan Blachowicz, left, celebrates after his victory over Israel Adesanya.
Jan Blachowicz, left, celebrates after his victory over Israel Adesanya after their light heavyweight championship fight at UFC 259 in Las Vegas on Saturday.
(Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Jan Blachowicz rallied in the fourth and fifth rounds to hand Israel Adesanya his first loss and retain the UFC light heavyweight title.

Light heavyweight title-holder Jan Blachowicz (28-8) defeated previously undefeated middleweight champion Israel Adesanya (20-1) by unanimous decision at UFC 259 in Las Vegas on Saturday.

In the other co-main event, Amanda Nunes (21-4) easily defended her featherweight crown by defeating Megan Anderson (11-5). Aljamain Sterling (20-3) won the bantamweight title after Petr Yan (15-2) lost by disqualification.

Here’s a recap of each pay-per-view fight at UFC 259.

Jan Blachowicz thwarts Israel Adesanya’s bid to be a simultaneous champion

Israel Adesanya, right, punches Jan Blachowicz during their light heavyweight championship fight at UFC 259.
Israel Adesanya, right, punches Jan Blachowicz during their light heavyweight championship fight at UFC 259 on Saturday. Blachowicz won by unanimous decision.
(Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS — Jan Blachowicz defended his UFC light heavyweight title with a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Israel Adesanya at UFC 259 on Saturday night, thwarting Adesanya’s bid to hold two championship belts simultaneously.

Aljamain Sterling also won the UFC’s bantamweight title when Petr Yan was disqualified for an illegal knee strike in the fourth round. Two-division champion Amanda Nunes then defended her featherweight belt with ease, beating Megan Anderson by submission 2:03 into the first round at the Apex facility on the UFC’s corporate campus.

The 38-year-old Blachowicz (28-8) made his first title defense after weathering an impressive start by Adesanya (20-1), the fearsome middleweight champion moving up for a shot at history. The Polish champion turned their fight with two huge takedowns and subsequent ground control in the fourth and fifth rounds.

Blachowicz ended the fight in full mount while raining down punches on Adesanya, who had never lost in a mixed martial arts career that began in 2012. Adesanya, the charismatic Nigerian-born New Zealander, failed to join Nunes, Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier and Henry Cejudo as the UFC’s only simultaneous two-belt champions.

Adesanya was the sharper, more aggressive striker in the early rounds, but Blachowicz survived the onslaught and eventually implemented his game plan. Blachowicz turned the fight in the fourth round with an impressive takedown and strong ground work, all but forcing the judges to give him the round.

He took down Adesanya again midway through the fifth before ending the fight in a dominant position. Blachowicz joyously celebrated the latest victory in a late-career surge for a fighter who won his title last September after six years in the UFC and 13 years as a pro.

The much-anticipated slate of three title fights at UFC 259 got off to a bizarre start when Yan’s inexplicable rules violation handed the 135-pound title to Sterling.

The fight was stopped with 31 seconds left in the fourth when Yan (15-2) drove his knee into the face of Sterling, who was kneeling on the canvas in front of him.

Mixed martial arts rules strictly prohibit such blows to a downed opponent, and the knee clearly hurt Sterling, who struggled and failed to get up for several minutes. The bout was called off by referee Mark Smith, who had verbally warned Yan not to throw such a strike a few seconds earlier.

Sterling (20-3) appeared disoriented and disappointed when the belt was wrapped around his waist after a fight he appeared to be losing. Sterling threw the belt onto the canvas before he left the octagon.

“Everything I worked for to this point, and to have the fight go like that,” a teary-eyed Sterling said afterward. “I thought the fight was very close. I thought I was down two rounds. That’s not the way I wanted to win. That’s not the way I envisioned this. I just took the belt off, man. I was trying to continue, but I was in bad shape.”

Nunes (21-4) handled her second featherweight title defense with her usual flair, making short work of her Australian challenger while extending her winning streak to 12 fights since 2014.

After peppering Anderson (11-5) with strikes, Nunes jumped on her off-balance challenger and worked her way into a triangle armbar, forcing Anderson to tap out quickly.

The fight was Nunes’ first since her wife, fellow UFC fighter Nina Ansaroff, gave birth to their first child. Nunes has been the UFC’s bantamweight champion since 2016, and she added the featherweight strap in late 2018.

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Jan Blachowicz defeats Israel Adesanya by unanimous decision

Jan Blachowicz, right, punches Israel Adesanya during their UFC light heavyweight championship fight Saturday.
(Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Jan Blachowicz (28-8) was awarded an upset unanimous decision victory over Israel Adesanya (20-1) after judges handed scores of 49-46, 49-45 and 49-45 in favor of the Polish champion, allowing Blachowicz to retain his UFC light heavyweight title.

Dominant fourth and fifth rounds were clearly what the doctor ordered for Blachowicz to disrupt Adesanya’s plans in becoming the UFC’s fifth active dual-division champion.

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Round 5: Jan Blachowicz comes alive late, but is it enough?

It’s become evident that Israel Adesanya does not have the power to stop Jan Blachowicz. On the other hand, Blachowicz’s ground efforts from round four have zapped his energy.

Blachowicz is breathing heavy, but musters off just enough to score another timely takedown at the 2:30 mark. Both fighters scramble to find their stance, but Blachowicz bulldozes his way into a dominant mounting position.

Adesanya is managing the damage at this point as the fight winds down.

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Round 4: Jan Blachowicz doing all he can to retain title

Jan Blachowicz might be blowing his opportunity for a career-defining performance.

Israel Adesanya appears confident and comfortable, until Blachowicz scores a timely takedown a couple of minutes into the round. The heavier champion is in complete control with his grappling efforts, but he’s not throwing anything of significance.

Blachowicz continues wrestling and tires Adesanya, sneaking in shots whenever he finds an opening. It’s his best moment of the fight. Blachowicz ends the last three minutes with great momentum into the final round. Can he close it out in a comeback? He might need a stoppage to retain his title.

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Round 3: Israel Adesanya doing just enough to stay ahead of Jan Blachowicz

Jan Blachowicz begins the round with a right hand and a high knee. Israel Adesanya counters with a shot of his own that gets the attention of Blachowicz.

Adesanya’s kickboxing skills are operating at peak levels midway through the match. Blachowicz momentarily recovers by pressing Adesanya to the cage and connecting with a couple of rights and lefts. Adesanya keeps kicking his way to a potential win by chopping at Blachowicz’s lead left leg whenever they are out of the clinch.

Blachowicz gathers himself together after engaging in a clinch in the last 45 seconds. It’s not a definitive and landslide performance, but the more active Adesanya is doing just enough to win the fight so far.

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Round 2: Israel Adesanya counters Jan Blachowicz to take the round, barely

Israel Adesanya appears comfortable by kicking off the round with leg strikes. He’s even increasingly feinting with his feet, but Jan Blachowicz blocks off the distraction with an overhand right hand and a hard left kick to the rib cage of Adesanya.

The Nigerian responds with low leg kicks and is met with counter left jabs. Adesanya kicks Blachowicz below the belt, but the Polish fighter fends off the illegal blow within a few seconds. Adesanya does just enough to pull away in the round.

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Round 1: Israel Adesanya and Jan Blachowicz taking it a bit slow

Israel Adesanya and Jan Blachowicz start the fight off by trying to identify what kind of range they could compete at.

It appears that they are taking COVID-19 protocol a bit too seriously, as there is excessive space and distancing between them. After three minutes of action, meaningful strikes are few and far between.

Blachowicz is pacing looking to land a powerful punch while Adesanya is keeping him at distance by fending him off with his kicks. The first round ends as a technical kickboxing match. Adesanya has a 75-5 kickboxing record, so it might just be the fight that he’s looking for.

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Round 1: Amanda Nunes quickly defeats Megan Anderson by submission

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 06: (R-L) Amanda Nunes of Brazil punches Megan Anderson.
Amanda Nunes, right, punches Megan Anderson during their UFC featherweight championship fight at UFC 259 on Saturday.
(Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Both Amanda Nunes and Megan Anderson started off the round feeling each other’s offense out, but Nunes immediately shows why she’s the best female fighter in the world by connecting with a vicious right hand that wobbles and stuns Anderson.

Another right hand connects to the temple, and the Australian is dropped.

Nunes topples her and easily scores an arm bar submission 2 minutes and 3 seconds into the fight to win her 12th consecutive fight in the UFC. Nunes celebrates the victory with her new-born child in the cage. Perhaps motherhood is a harder task than cage fighting at this stage of Nunes’ career.

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Round 4: Aljamain Sterling takes bantamweight title after Petr Yan is disqualified

Aljamain Sterling, right, punches Petr Yan during their UFC bantamweight championship fight at UFC 259 on Saturday.
(Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Almost following a script of some sort, Aljamain Sterling again gets dropped. Petr Yan is scoring with every takedown attempt, while Sterling can’t connect with any of his. Once Sterling stands, Yan connects with a crushing overhand right.

Sterling is clearly fatigued and showing bad body language, as there is nothing behind his punches anymore at this point. Yan is pressing and landing effectively.

However, in the final 30 seconds, Yan lands a devastating and very vicious illegal knee that rattles Sterling. The American, clearly hurt and concussed by the blow, is unfit to continue and the fight is called off.

The foul means Yan is disqualified, and Sterling is the new UFC bantamweight champion.

Sterling is disgusted with the way the fight ends and drops the belt on the mat after he’s awarded it. He barely leaves the cage under his own power. At the time of the stoppage, Sterling was down 29-28 on two cards and up 29-28 on the third.

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Round 3: Petr Yan trying to combat wrestling-minded Aljamain Sterling

Petr Yan starts off the round with high pressure. Both fighters exchange a series of kicks that don’t cause any serious damage.

Aljamain Sterling tries to unsuccessfully take down Yan to no avail. Yan shows what a successful attempt looks like seconds after, but lets Sterling stand back up after his efficient effort.

Yan has no interest in fighting with the wrestling-minded Sterling on the mat since he is dominating upright as he pleases. For good measure, before the round ends, Yan slams Sterling down again once more.

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Round 2: Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan putting up good fight

Aljamain Sterling starts off on his back shortly after the stanza begins. Petr Yan connects with vicious leg kicks before they are instructed to stand again.

As they resume upright, the pace of the action slows for a couple of minutes. In the final minute 60 seconds of the round, Sterling connects with an elbow that gets Yan’s attention. It was a difficult round to score.

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Round 1: Petr Yan takes the round after knocking down Aljamain Sterling

Aljamain Sterling started off strong, establishing pressure with his kicks. He backed up Petr Yan with a high right leg kick. A flying knee followed moments after. The fight started off at a feverish pace, and the No. 1 contender looks every bit ready for his crowning moment.

Yan counters with a devastating right hand that stuns and knocks down Sterling. He knocks him down again with a takedown. But for the second time, he waits and welcomes Sterling to get back to his feet. Yan recovers wonderfully to win the round after losing the first half.

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Islam Makhachev dominates Drew Dober for submission win

Islam Makhachev, top, works for a submission against Drew Dober during their lightweight fight at UFC 259 on Saturday.
(Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Islam Makhachev (19-1) dominated Drew Dober (23-10) in their lightweight bout and scored an arm triangle submission victory 1:37 into the third round.

The 155-pound fight was exclusively fought on the floor, a match of which Makhachev suffocated Dober from stem to stern.

Within a minute of the match, Makhachev landed a single-leg takedown. The high-level wrestling skills were too much for Dober to defend, and he couldn’t get back up on his feet to make it a fight. Makhachev was in complete control, and the Russian did more than enough from his dominant position to win the round.

Makhachev almost ended the round with an arm bar, but the 32-year-old’s Dober’s defense was just enough before the horn sounded.

The second round wasn’t any more successful for the Nebraska native, who promptly was positioned back on the mat as Makhachev scored with a workmanlike approach and great grappling. Makhachev’s clubbing left and right hands and crushing elbows were more than enough to win the round convincingly.

Dober entered the third round gassed and in survival mode. He came out wildly swinging, but was dropped again within 20 seconds. Shortly after, Makhachev ended the fight with the choke.

Makhachev is now riding a seven-fight winning streak dating back to 2016. Dober had his three-bout winning streak snapped.

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Aleksandar Rakic defeats Thiago Santos by unanimous decision in uneventful bout

Aleksandar Rakic, left, punches Thiago Santos in their light heavyweight fight during UFC 259 on Saturday.
(Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Aleksandar Rakic (14-2) scored a unanimous decision win over Thiago Santos (21-9) in an underwhelming light heavyweight fight bout at UFC 259.

Rakic was awarded scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 in a bout that was exclusively fought standing, but the No. 4-ranked Rakic was the more active fighter in what was otherwise a cautious and pedestrian performance by both combatants.

Neither fighter showed much interest in stepping up their strategy or taking a risk. The meeting was seemingly fought on cruise control for 15 minutes.

Whenever he was on his game, the 29-year-old Australian Rakic used his eight-year youth advantage and high leg kicks to stave off the Brazilian.

The former UFC light heavyweight title challenger Santos had a difficult time closing distance for much of the fight. Perhaps it was the two major knee surgeries that finally caught up with the No. 2-ranked contender at the age of 37.

Santos has now lost three straight fights, while Rakic improved his UFC record to 6-1.

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Dominick Cruz scores split decision win over Casey Kenney to land first win since 2016

Dominick Cruz, right, punches Casey Kenney in their bantamweight fight at UFC 259.
Dominick Cruz, right, punches Casey Kenney in their bantamweight fight at UFC 259 in Las Vegas on Saturday.
(Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Former UFC bantamweight champion and No. 11-ranked contender Dominick Cruz (23-3) landed a split decision victory over favorite Casey Kenney (16-3-1) in a closely contested and entertaining bout.

Cruz was awarded scores of 30-27 and 29-28 on the cards, while one judge had it 29-28 in favor of Kenney.

San Diego-based Cruz, 35, was winless since June 2016.

The fight was the featured preliminary bout on ESPN before the UFC 259 pay-per-view premiered Saturday at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas.

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More expert picks for the three UFC 259 title fights

Amanda Nunes poses on the scale during the UFC 259 weigh-in.
Amanda Nunes poses on the scale during the UFC 259 weigh-in on Friday in Las Vegas.
(Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

We reached out to some of the top MMA writers, reporters and editors around the world to see how they envision the three championship fights to unfold at UFC 259.

  • Adesanya by third-round TKO
  • Nunes by second-round TKO
  • Sterling by fourth-round submission

— Alan Dawson, combat sports correspondent for Business Insider

  • Błachowicz by third-round TKO
  • Nunes by second-round TKO
  • Yan by split decision

— Dave Doyle, freelance MMA reporter

  • Adesanya by unanimous decision
  • Nunes by second-round TKO
  • Yan by unanimous decision

— Mookie Alexander, associate editor for BloodyElbow.com

  • Adesanya by unanimous decision
  • Nunes by second-round TKO
  • Sterling by unanimous decision

— Dann Stupp, writer for PlayVirginia.com

  • Błachowicz by unanimous decision
  • Nunes by first-round knockout
  • Yan by split decision

— Josh Gross, editor-at-large for Sherdog.com

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UFC 259 expert picks and predictions for all three title fights

Jan Błachowicz, left, and Israel Adesanya face off during the UFC 259 press conference in Las Vegas on Thursday.
(Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

We reached out to some of the top MMA writers, reporters and editors around the world to see how they envision the three championship fights to unfold at UFC 259.

  • Błachowicz by fourth-round TKO
  • Nunes by second-round KO
  • Yan by second-round submission

— Eduard Cauich, LA Times en Español sports editor

  • Adesanya by unanimous decision
  • Nunes by fourth-round KO
  • Sterling by third-round KO

— Jad El Reda, LA Times en Español sports editor

  • Adesanya by decision
  • Nunes by fourth-round KO
  • Yan by third-round KO

— Kevin Iole, combat sports writer for Yahoo! Sports

  • Adesanya by third-round TKO
  • Nunes by second-round submission
  • Yan by split decision

— Brian Campbell, CBS Sports combat analyst

  • Adesanya by third-round TKO
  • Nunes by first-round submission
  • Yan by unanimous decision

— Marc Raimondi, combat sports reporter for ESPN

  • Adesanya by decision
  • Nunes by third-round TKO;
  • Sterling by fourth-round submission

— Adam Hill, sports reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal

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DraftKings partners with UFC with five-year, $350 million deal

UFC President Dana White speaks at a news conference.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

Ahead of UFC 259, DraftKings and UFC signed a reported five-year, $350 million groundbreaking deal Thursday that makes the sports betting operator the “official sportsbook and daily fantasy partner” for the MMA company in the United States and Canada.

The deal includes $100 million in money and $250 million in marketing for UFC.

An announcement outlining the partnership said the deal will offer “in-game promotions, activations, in-broadcast odds integrations and UFC branding across its daily fantasy and betting products and will possess rights to use official UFC marks and logos.”

DraftKings will also have its branding appear on the UFC Fight Clock, a new time-keeping system designed for fighters and fans.

“This [partnership] is a gamechanger for fans and for people who like to play daily fantasy games. They are going to have a ton of UFC betting information,” UFC president Dana White told The Times. “A big thing that happened during the pandemic was that betting on the UFC went through the roof … We think that [the partnership is] going to create a lot more engagement in the sport, not only with fans, but with people who have never watched the UFC before. It’s one of the most important deals we’ve ever done.”

The partnership perhaps offers a preview into what major sports leagues could pull off in the gambling space once sports betting becomes widely adopted by Americans and regulated across the 50 states.

The global sports betting industry ballooned to a market size of $203 billion in 2020, and it’s predicted to grow to $8 billion in the U.S. by 2025, according to Statista.

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Dana White sits down with The Times for an interview ahead of UFC 259

UFC president Dana White talks about UFC 259 and what’s ahead for 2021.

UFC president Dana White joined The Times to talk about a wide variety of topics ahead of UFC 259.

Check out the video below for the full 15-minute conversation, which discusses:

  • UFC 259 and the trio of championship fights headlined by the light heavyweight bout between Israel Adesanya and Jan Blachowicz, as well as the title defenses of Amanda Nunes and Petr Yan.
  • Adesanya’s legacy as the greatest of all time, and a potential super fight with Jon Jones at heavyweight.
  • The $350 million deal between DraftKings and UFC that was announced Thursday, and what that means for the future of sports gambling.
  • The reason UFC released popular heavyweight stars Alistair Overeem and Junior dos Santos this week.
  • UFC’s plans for investing in local MMA promotions in order to discover new talent.
  • A potential fight between Jake Paul and Conor McGregor.
  • White’s goals for the remainder of 2021.
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UFC 259 betting odds

Petr Yan, left, and Aljamain Sterling face off during the UFC 259 weigh-in Friday in Las Vegas.
(Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC vis Getty Images)

The following odds for the pay-per-view portion of the event are the figures listed on the UFC website. The odds will differ depending on which sportsbook you reference.

Israel Adesanya (-230) vs. Jan Błachowicz (+185) for the UFC light heavyweight title

Amanda Nunes (-1250) vs. Megan Anderson (+750) for the UFC women’s featherweight title

Petr Yan (-110) vs. Aljamain Sterling (-110) for the UFC bantamweight title

Islam Makjachev (-335) vs. Drew Dober (+250) in a lightweight bout

Thiago Santos (+138) vs. Aleksandar Rakic (-167) in a light heavyweight fight

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How to watch UFC 259

Looking at the fight card for UFC 259.

UFC 259 can be ordered exclusively through ESPN+.

That means viewers need to already be an ESPN+ subscriber in order to have the opportunity to purchase the event at $69.99. The five-fight pay-per-view portion of the event begins at 7 p.m. PST.

The main event between Israel Adesanya and Jan Błachowicz should start around 9:30 p.m. PST.

Preliminaries begin at 5 p.m PST on ESPN and ESPN+.

That portion of the program will be headlined by former UFC bantamweight champion and No. 11 ranked contender Dominick Cruz (22-3) when he takes on Casey Kenney (16-2-1)

Other fights include:

Song Yadong (16-4-1 1NC) vs. Kyler Phillips (8-1)

Joseph Benavidez (28-7) vs. Askar Askarov (12-0-1)

Rogerio Bontorin (16-2; 1NC) vs. Kai Kara-France (21-9; 1NC)

Separately, early prelims will begin at 3:15 p.m. PST on UFC Fight Pass.

That portion of the show will feature the following fights.

Timothy Elliott (17-11-1) vs. Jordan Espinosa (15-8 1NC)

Kennedy Nzechukwu (7-1) vs. Carlos Ulberg (5-0)

Sean Brady (13-0) vs. Jake Matthews (17-4)

Livinha Souza (12-4) vs. Amanda Lemos (8-1-1)

Uros Medic (6-0) vs. Aalon Cruz (8-3)

Mario Bautista (8-1) vs. Trevin Jones (12-6; 1NC)

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UFC 259 headlined by Adesanya vs. Błachowicz; Nunes, Yan also in title fights

Light heavyweight champion Israel Adesanya speaks during a news conference in Las Vegas on Thursday.
Light heavyweight champion Israel Adesanya speaks during a news conference in Las Vegas on Thursday ahead of UFC 259 on Saturday.
(Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

UFC 259 will feature a diverse dose of global flair when the top fighters in the sport converge in the cage for a trio of championship fights Saturday night at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas.

In the main event, undefeated middleweight champion and New Zealand-based Nigerian Israel Adesanya (20-0) looks to become the fifth UFC fighter to be an active dual-division champion and further stake a claim as the best MMA fighter in the world when he steps up to the light heavyweight division to take on titleholder and Polish powerhouse Jan Błachowicz (27-8).

Błachowicz will be defending his light heavyweight crown for the first time after scoring a second-round TKO over Dominick Reyes in September to win the belt vacated by former champion Jon Jones. Adesanya was the headlining act that night for UFC 253, besting Brazilian unbeaten Paulo Costa to defend his middleweight belt.

Adesanya will be making his light heavyweight debut with plenty of weight to spare. The division threshold is 205 pounds, but Adesanya came in at 200.5 pounds during weigh-ins Friday while holding a box of pizza.

Previewing the top fights scheduled for UFC 259 in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Adesanya is eyeing a mouthwatering meeting with Jones at heavyweight if he gets by Błachowicz.

“Saturday night is obviously the key to the whole thing,” UFC president Dana White told The Times. “Błachowicz is no joke. If Adesanya can come in and beat Błachowicz, there is a pretty good chance you’re going to see him and Jon Jones.”

In the co-main event, the best female fighter in the world will put her 145-pound featherweight crown on the line when Brazilian Amanda Nunes (20-4) takes on Australian No. 1 contender Megan Anderson (11-4). Nunes is also the UFC’s bantamweight champion and is on an 11-fight winning streak dating back to 2015, beating the likes of Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, Miesha Tate and Holly Holm along the way.

Amanda Nunes and Megan Anderson of Australia face off during the UFC 259 weigh-in in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Amanda Nunes, left, and Megan Anderson of Australia face off during the UFC 259 weigh-in in Las Vegas on Saturday.
(Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Preceding the woman’s bout is another championship fight when Russian Petr Yan (15-1) defends his 135-pound title for the first time against New York-based Jamaican and No. 1 contender Aljamain Sterling (19-3).

This will mark the seventh time in UFC history that three championship fights will be on the same card.

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