A heavyweight matchup of epic proportions will feature as the main event of UFC on ESPN 3 in Minneapolis this Saturday, June 29.
Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos were initially scheduled to compete at the upcoming UFC 239 pay-per-view card in Las Vegas, Nevada, but injury issues had plagued this card in Minneapolis, leaving it without a headline bout. Ngannou and Dos Santos were asked to slide into the headline slot, replacing Tyron Woodley vs. Robbie Lawler and this fight has been brought one week forward as a result.
Surprisingly, this fight card isn’t stacked with the types of talent that we had expected the UFC to deliver in these “big ESPN” events. The main event is a good one, but the majority of the main card and preliminary bouts aren’t ones to get overly excited about.
We’ll bring you the best odds and bets for this event, as well as our in-depth breakdown and analysis of the main event matchup.
Francis Ngannou vs. Junior dos Santos
Now that Stipe Miocic is challenging Daniel Cormier for the UFC Heavyweight Championship that he only recently lost, it leaves Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos in a position to compete for #1 contender status. The winner of this main event will almost certainly emerge as the next in line to face the winner of that title fight.
It’s nothing short of incredible how Francis Ngannou has managed to turn his career around in just a couple of fights. Ngannou was thrown into the spotlight after tearing his way through the heavyweight roster in the UFC. His efforts led to him earning a title shot against Stipe Miocic in January last year, but Ngannou was dominated by the champion over five rounds.
Ngannou then returned against Derrick Lewis only to nervous and apprehensive; Ngannou’s old ways of slinging bombs seemed to be no more.
However, in the two fights following, Ngannou has since managed to knock out Curtis Blaydes in just 45 seconds and then Cain Velasquez in only 26 seconds. Ngannou has righted the ship and is now in range of another shot at UFC gold.
Junior dos Santos
A former UFC champion and a longtime staple of the heavyweight division, Dos Santos has now put together his best winning streak since 2012. He returned to the Octagon after a 14-month layoff in July last year to defeat Blagoy Ivanov before then handling Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis.
Dos Santos looks as dangerous as ever and is certainly worth consideration at the generous odds listed below.
Francis Ngannou vs. Junior dos Santos Odds
Francis Ngannou vs. Junior Dos Santos Breakdown
These two giants will likely stand across from each other and trade bombs.
We have Ngannou in one corner. He isn’t a decent boxer by any means but packs extraordinary power in his punches. And then there’s dos Santos who is a great boxer by MMA standards and also has knockout power.
You’ll find that Ngannou occasionally paws with his left lead hand to try and distract his opponent before eventually throwing his right. The most dangerous aspect of his right-hand punch is that it isn’t a typical boxing technique. This strike can be thrown from down near the hips or very wide. The punch he knocked Alistair Overeem out with was somewhat of a shovel-hook/uppercut. It’s worth noting that although these techniques aren’t recommended to students of boxing or mixed martial arts, they’re extremely dangerous because of the simple fact that his opponents aren’t expecting these strikes.
For example, in this fight, dos Santos may have great success with pummeling the jab right down the middle and busting up the center of Ngannou’s face with speed. The jab is marginally quicker than a hook and certainly faster than any type of weird shovel-hook, so dos Santos may have the speed advantages if he keeps his strikes simple. But if he gets drawn into a slugfest with Ngannou, he’s likely to end up on the canvas.
And it’s likely that Ngannou will land these heavy punches against dos Santos. Over the course of his career, dos Santos has shown time and time again that he doesn’t have the ability to defend himself appropriately when moving. When backed to the cage against Miocic, he decided to retreat with his hands down and chin up rather than merely throwing out jabs to try and stop Miocic’s forward movement.
Dos Santos is superb, but he’s just too vulnerable while standing to get past the ridiculously (almost unfair) heavy-hitting strikes of Ngannou.
Bet on Francis Ngannou to win: -217 at BetDSI
Jussier Formiga vs. Joseph Benavidez
The small guys are making a comeback in the UFC right now. With Henry Cejudo rising to the top of the flyweight division and then proceeding to defeat TJ Dillashaw and Marlon Moraes this year at bantamweight, fans around the world are finally starting to pay more attention to the 125-pound fighters of the UFC.
This co-main event is a battle between the two top flyweight contenders and will undoubtedly result in the winner proceeding to be the next flyweight to face Henry Cejudo for the title.
For that reason, Jussier Formiga vs. Joseph Benavidez is a rematch with incredibly high stakes for both fighters.
When Formiga met Benavidez back in 2013, Formiga lost by first-round knockout. He’s since battled many of the best in the flyweight division and now risen to the top of the rankings after a four-fight winning streak.
In Formiga’s most recent bout, he handed Deiveson Figueiredo his first-ever defeat as a mixed martial artist by defeating him via unanimous decision. Before then, he had defeated Sergio Pettis, Ben Nguyen, and Ulka Sasaki all in impressive style.
For as long as the UFC’s flyweight division has been around, Benavidez has been a top contender. He’s mixed it up with the greatest of the division many times over the years and has only ever dropped fights to Demetrious Johnson, Dominick Cruz, and Sergio Pettis.
After losing to Pettis by split decision last year, Benavidez has bounced back with consecutive wins over Alex Perez and Dustin Ortiz.
Jussier Formiga vs. Joseph Benavidez Odds
Jussier Formiga vs. Joseph Benavidez Breakdown
We had anticipated the odds for Jussier Formiga and Joseph Benavidez to be tighter and here’s why:
- Benavidez is declining
Joseph Benavidez’s ability appears to be declining now in recent years. While his scrambling ability remains intact and a key consideration heading into this fight, he has seemingly lost a step when it comes to reactive speed and striking offense. For a fighter who has never really committal with his striking beforehand, he’s now close to losing that edge against fighters that he otherwise would have possessed clear advantages against.
- Formiga’s grappling is an X-factor
Formiga’s wrestling and submission grappling is a level above Benavidez. His back-takes are excellent and the threat of a submission win is always there when Formiga is competing.
However, Benavidez does have great takedown defense and scrambling ability. There’s a reasonable chance that he’ll be able to keep this one upright and avoid the dangers of grappling with Formiga.
- Formiga can keep it competitive on the feet
But even if Benavidez can keep this one standing, he’ll be constantly defending takedown attempts. Even the consideration of the takedown attempt makes this one much more competitive on the feet than it may seem at first.
We wouldn’t argue with odds that showed Formiga is a slight favorite and for that reason, we’ll happily take the generous underdog odds heading into UFC on ESPN 3.
Bet on Jussier Formiga to win: +140 at Bet365
Best UFC Minneapolis Bets
- Francis Ngannou to win: -217 at BetDSI
- Jussier Formiga to win: +140 at Bet365