UFC on ESPN 3: Ngannou vs. Dos Santos Odds, Tickets, Predictions, Pre-Fight Hype

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2019

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 12:  (L-R) Francis Ngannou of Cameroon and Junior Dos Santos of Brazil Dos Santos face off during the UFC Seasonal Press Conference inside State Farm Arena on April 12, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

UFC on ESPN 3 is set to go down at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with a clash of titans in the main event when Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos close out the show Saturday. 

If history is any indication, this one might not last long. 

Ngannou has ended his two most recent fights in under a minute, while JDS has finished 15 of his 21 victories by way of knockout. The two will now square off in what is likely a bout to be the No. 1 contender in the division. 

Joining the heavyweight collision is an important fight in the flyweight division. Jussier Formiga and Joseph Benavidez, ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, are also likely engaged in a No. 1 contender fight. The winner should expect to challenge Henry Cejudo for the title when he comes back down to the 125-pound division. 

Here's a look at the complete slate of fights headed to Minnesota. 


Tickets: StubHub

Odds via MMABettingOdds.com

Main Card (ESPN at 9 p.m. ET)

  • Francis Ngannou (-240; $240 bet wins $100) vs. Junior dos Santos (+209; $100 bet wins $209)
  • Joseph Benavidez (-163) vs. Jussier Formiga (+150)
  • Demian Maia (-184) vs. Anthony Rocco Martin (+164)
  • Roosevelt Roberts (-249) vs. Vic Pinchel +228)
  • Drew Dober (-335) vs. Marco Polo Reyes (+296)
  • Paul Craig (+272) vs. Alonzo Menifield (-296)

Prelims (ESPN at 6 p.m. ET)

  • Journey Newson (+279) vs. Ricardo Ramos (-331)
  • Eryk Anders (-341) vs. Vinicius Castro (+288)
  • Vince Murdock (+318) vs. Jordan Griffin (-377)
  • Jared Gordon (-323) vs. Dan Moret (+269)
  • Dalcha Lungiambula (-211) vs. Dequan Townsend (+169)
  • Emily Whitmire (-165) vs. Amanda Ribas (+155)
  • Maurice Greene (-106) vs. Junior Albini (-105)


Dos Santos Not Afraid to Exchange with Ngannou

WICHITA, KS - MARCH 09:  (L-R) Junior Dos Santos of Brazil punches Derrick Lewis in their heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Intrust Bank Arena on March 9, 2019 in Wichita, Kansas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Imag
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Ngannou is among the most fearsome strikers in the UFC. 

The Predator isn't unbeatable, but beating him does involve making sure he doesn't take you out in the opening minutes of a fight. His one-punch power is a game-changer. His last six wins have come in the first round, as few have been able to exchange with him and live to tell the tale. 

The only two blemishes on his UFC record came from Stipe Miocic, who utilized a wrestling-heavy approach to wear out the Frenchman before standing with him, and a bizarre loss to Derrick Lewis that amounted to a staring contest in a cage. 

So it's no surprise Ngannou is dubious that JDS is going to be willing to stand with him. 

"I don't believe that Dos Santos jiu-jitsu black belt. I don't know where he's from, but I don't believe that. And I don't mind that at all," Ngannou said, per Mike Bohn and John Morgan of MMA Junkie. "But you never know what some fighter is going to come out with. I always keep thinking maybe he'll try some wrestling or a takedown, but it's not his comfort zone. I don't know. He might try everything."

However, Dos Santos has been adamant Ngannou's questioning won't keep him from trading with him. 

"I honestly don't know what's his strategy with saying something like that, but if he's trying to avoid getting punched in the face, that didn't work,” Dos Santos responded, per Guilherme Cruz of MMA Fighting. "And he came to that conclusion based on what? Come on."

JDS may have a black belt, but the fact is he rarely uses his jiu-jitsu background in the cage. He has just one submission win in his entire career and hasn't completed a takedown since December 2014, according to UFC Stats.

Don't let all the talk of ground game fool you. JDS is a boxer first and foremost, and Ngannou's power isn't likely to dissuade him from doing what he does best. 

That might be an ill-advised strategy, though. Cigano's last three losses have all come by way of knockout. His chin isn't what it used to be and trading with Ngannou is going to inevitably end with the big man connecting with something. 

If he somehow avoids that in the first round, this fight gets really interesting. However, the odds are that Ngannou finds his chin early and the Brazilian won't like what happens next. 

Prediction: Ngannou via first-round TKO


Formiga Looking to Show Growth in Rematch with Benavidez

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - SEPTEMBER 04:  (R-L) Joseph Benavidez punches Jussier Formiga in the flyweight fight during the UFC on FOX Sports 1 event at Mineirinho Arena on September 4, 2013 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LL
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

All the way back in September 2013, Jussier Formiga was knocked out by Joseph Benavidez in the first round. A lot has happened since then. 

Formiga was in just his third fight in the UFC, while Benavidez had already challenged for a UFC title. 

Now, the Brazilian has become one of the clear-cut top contenders in the division. He has four straight wins to his name and trains at American Top Team which he believes will be the difference this time around. 

"This is not going to be a rematch. It's going to be a different fight," Formiga said, per Damon Martin of UFC.com. "It's going to be a new fight. The combination of being at American Top Team, with all the coaches, the strategy and the training, everything has a part in that. It's definitely going to be a different Jussier showing up on June 29."

Formiga is a grappler first and foremost, but his striking has come a long way. His defense got him in trouble in the first fight against Benavidez, but those vulnerabilities seem to have been addressed and he's been much more competitive in the stand-up department. 

Formiga didn't get an opportunity to get Benavidez to the ground in the first fight. This time, his defense should be good enough to extend the bout and work his takedowns. 

This is going to be a close fight. It's reflected in the odds, their rankings and results against similar competition. 

Benavidez has long been one of the best in the division, but Formiga can introduce himself to those ranks with a win here. 

Prediction: Formiga via decision