UFC on ESPN 3: Ngannou vs. dos Santos odds, previews, and picks

The UFC is putting on one of its best Fight Night cards of the year on Saturday from the Twin Cities, headlined by a heavyweight bout between former champion Junior dos Santos and top contender Francis Ngannou, with Ngannou a solid favorite on the latest MMA Odds. Here’s a look at the UFC on ESPN 3 headliner, plus the flyweight co-main event bout between Jussier Formiga and Joseph Benavidez.

UFC Fight Night Ngannou vs Dos Santos Odds, Preview & Picks

  • When: Saturday, 9 PM ET (main card)
  • Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
  • TV: ESPN
  • Live Stream: UFC Fight Pass

Main Card (ESPN)

  • Francis Ngannou vs Junior dos Santos (Heavyweight)
  • Jussier Formiga vs Joseph Benavidez (Flyweight)
  • Demian Maia vs Rocco Martin (Welterweight)
  • Roosevelt Roberts vs Vinc Pichel (Lightweight)
  • Drew Dober vs Marco Polo Reyes (Lightweight)
  • Alonzo Menifield vs Paul Craig (Light Heavyweight)

Preliminary Card (ESPN)

  • Ricardo Ramos vs Journey Newson (Bantamweight)
  • Eryk Anders vs Vinicius Moreira (Light Heavyweight)
  • Jordan Griffin vs Vince Murdock (Featherweight)
  • Jared Gordon vs Dan Moret (Lightweight)
  • Dalcha Lungiambula vs Dequan Townsend (Light Heavyweight)
  • Emily Whitmire vs Amanda Ribas (Women’s Strawweight)
  • Maurice Greene vs Junior Albini (Heavyweight)

Francis Ngannou (13-3) vs. Junior dos Santos (21-5)

The heavyweight champion is Daniel Cormier, with Stipe Miocic ranked No. 1, Ngannou No. 2 and dos Santos No. 3. The winner here could emerge as the next No. 1 contender for Cormier.

Ngannou has rattled off back-to-back victories since his back-to-back losses to Miocic and then Derrick Lewis. Ngannou in 2018 went from being a terrifying young contender to an overrated fighter. But his subsequent rebirth has been interesting to watch ahead of his showdown with dos Santos. Although he has fought 10 times under the UFC banner since 2015, we still have not seen enough of Ngannou to know what he is capable of becoming. All eight of his wins have been finishes — seven by knockout one by submission — and six of those wins came in the first round. The only time we have seen him go to a decision were his losses to Miocic and Lewis.

Ngannou last in the Octagon in February when he beat former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez by first-round knockout in just 26 seconds. Ngannou dropped Velasquez with a short right uppercut. Velasquez’s knee buckled and he said it was that injury that led to him falling to the ground and Ngannou finishing him off.

“No, because the knee buckled after an uppercut on his chin,” Ngannou said of Velasquez claiming an injury was the reason he lost. “You can look at the video about it, so you can find out and you will see the uppercut. That might be why his knee buckled because he got disconnected.”

Widely regarded as one of the best heavyweights of all time, Velasquez (14-3) never had a chance to show what he has left in the tank at age 36. Ngannou, who fights out of Cameroon and France, finished him off with a single flurry. It was the ninth first-round stoppage of Ngannou’s career.

Dos Santos won the heavyweight title back in 2011 with a win over Velasquez and defended once with a win over Frank Mir before losing it in a rematch with Velasquez in December 2012. Dos Santos is on a three-fight winning streak currently since a loss to Miocic in May 2017 in another title fight.

Dos Santos was last in the Octagon in March and knocked out Lewis in the second round. Near the end of the first, dos Santos landed a spinning kick to the mid-section that had Lewis hunched over in pain and the effects of that strike appeared to carry over into the second round. The stoppage came courtesy of a jab-cross combination by dos Santos. He is now 3-0 since returning from a drug suspension in 2017, which was ultimately traced to a legal, contaminated supplement he’d ingested.

Jussier Formiga (23-5) vs. Joseph Benavidez (27-5)

The flyweight champion is Henry Cejudo, with Formiga ranked first and Benavidez second. Seems logical that the winner here would fight Cejudo, although he recently had shoulder surgery that will keep him out the rest of 2019. In the meantime, more flyweight and bantamweight contenders will emerge, leaving Cejudo with a big choice to make when he returns. He’s also the bantamweight king. Benavidez believes Cejudo’s decision should be easy.

“He’s kind of all over the place with that but at the end of the day, he’s the 125-pound champion,” Benavidez said. “He fought at 135 last, I think it would make sense to fight at 125 again. I’m the only person of the contenders that he could fight. I’m the only one with history with him. I have a win over him so you figure he’d want to do that, the company would want to do that.”

Benavidez already beat Cejudo in December 2016 in the “Ultimate Fighter 24” Finale by split decision.

“You look at the number one guy at bantamweight, which would be Aljamain Sterling. And you look at the number one guy in flyweight, which would be me and Formiga. And having me come out of that, I make more sense than anybody right now,” Benavidez said.

Benavidez has won his past two since a loss to Sergio Pettis – his only loss since December 2013. Benavidez last fought in January and beat Dustin Ortiz by unanimous decision. The Brazilian Formiga also fought Cejudo and lost by narrow split decision in late 2015. Formiga has often been one win away, or perhaps deserving of a title shot, but things simply have not lined up the right way at the right time.

Last year, there were reports that the UFC was getting rid of the 125-pound division. Though there has been no official announcement, the promotion has slowly released more and more flyweights. As of now, there are only 13 flyweights in the official UFC rankings.

Formiga is on a four-fight winning streak, last beating Deiveson Figueiredo by unanimous decision in March. However, Formiga lost to Benavidez in September 2013 by first-round TKO (knee to the body and punches). Formiga is averaging 1.37 significant strikes per minute with an accuracy percentage of 40 percent. Formiga is averaging 1.97 takedowns with an accuracy percentage of 40 percent. He is an athletic fighter who has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Judo, so his takedown ability and ground game is top notch.

Expert Picks

Ngannou by KO/TKO and Benavidez by decision.

(Written by Jordan Walters)